Protests against racism and police brutality are changing policy and names in Denver. We’ll track those changes here.

Think of it like editing a Word document except the Word document is society.

200606 Civic Center GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS

Protesters stand in unison at Civic Center Park on June 6, 2020, to fight racism and police brutality. (Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)

staff photos

As masses of people march for change to law enforcement systems that disproportionately affect people of color, reforms that advocates have demanded for years are resurfacing.

Local and national unrest over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody has propelled long-desired policy changes and seeded new ones in Denver. We’ll follow those changes here.

💡 =  the idea is floating around out there

➡ = decision-makers are moving forward on the idea

✅ = the policy has changed

❌ = the policy change failed

Know of efforts in the works that should be included? Email us or @ us on Twitter.


❌ Defunding and/or dismantling the police department

A short-lived bill aimed at dissolving the Denver Police Department and replacing it with a “peacekeeping” alternative failed August 17 during Denver City Council’s weekly meeting.

Members voted 11 to 1 to kill the proposal, which would have asked voters to delete DPD from the city charter and replace it with a “peacekeeping office” aimed at ending police violence, especially against people of color, and preventing violent crime by addressing its root causes, including mental and behavioral health, job insecurity, hunger and homelessness.

Candi CdeBaca, the bill’s sole sponsor, was the sole yes vote. Every other council member voted against the measure except Chris Hinds, who abstained because he said he had not realized the final bill language was posted online and had not read it.

Most of CdeBaca’s colleagues said they felt blindsided by her process, which did not include committee hearings or conversations with her fellow councilmembers.

➡️ A “criminal justice transformation”

While the commitment is a bit vague, Murphy Robinson, Denver’s top safety official, has verbally committed to a transformation of how Denver polices its residents.

Robinson did not commit to details on a new-look law enforcement structure. But according to a presentation by his department based on a “listening tour” he conducted after the first night of protests, people don’t want a “tweaking” of an oppressive system. “Re-imaging public safety should be the goal,” the presentation stated.

The first of several expected meetings led by one segment of advocates for criminal justice reform took place on June 30. Organizers, including the Citizen Oversight Board, a group of politically appointed watchdogs, aim to create a task force to recommend concrete policy changes to law enforcement officials.

✅ Removing police from Denver Public School buildings

Padres & Jóvenes Unidos and others have spent more than a decade trying to remove Denver police officers (known as school resource officers) from Denver Public Schools. On June 5, some Denver Board of Education members started the process to end the district’s agreement with police.

On June 11, the school board unanimously voted to remove police officers from public school buildings.

The quick-and-dirty: Proponents of police officers in schools say they help keep kids safe and prevent would-be violence. Opponents say the practice is one of the first stops on a “school-to-prison pipeline.”

DPD currently has 18 officers monitoring the halls of various schools. More than 4,500 students have been arrested or ticketed by Denver police officers on school property since 2014. Most were people of color.

✅ Banning Denver police from using chokeholds

On June 7, the Denver Police Department banned chokeholds of any kind in any situation by changing the language in its use of force policy. Previously, officers were allowed to use “carotid compression techniques,” which can stop blood from flowing to the head or neck, in lethal situations.

Members of an advisory committee recommended banning these tactics in 2017 and 2018 when DPD was revising its policy, but that recommendation was ultimately rejected.

✅ Requiring Denver SWAT police to wear body cameras

On June 7, the Denver Police Department began requiring any officer deployed for its special weapons and tactics force to wear video cameras on their body to record uses of force and other incidents.

Members of an advisory committee recommended banning these tactics in 2017 and 2018 when DPD was revising its policy, but that recommendation was ultimately rejected.

✅ Requiring Denver police officers to inform their supervisors after pointing a weapon at someone

On June 7, the Denver Police Department changed its use-of-force policy to require officers to file a report with their supervisor if they point a weapon at someone. In a statement, DPD said “a report will be created to improve data collection and evaluation of these incidents.”

Members of an advisory committee recommended banning these tactics in 2017 and 2018 when DPD was revising its policy, but that recommendation was ultimately rejected.

✅ Changing the name of Stapleton, the Denver neighborhood named after a KKK member and former mayor

Don’t call it “Stapleton” anymore. The northeast Denver neighborhood is now officially Central Park.

The executive board responsible for neighborhood operations on Wednesday unanimously approved changing the neighborhood’s name to Central Park, weeks after residents there voted for the new name.

The vote means the Master Community Association has given its blessing for the new name. It will now ask the neighborhood’s developer, Brookfield Properties Development, to officially change the name to Central Park. Brookfield has said it would support the name change.

Ben Stapleton, the neighborhood’s namesake and a mayor of Denver in the 1920s, was also a Ku Klux Klan member.

The decision to change the name came 10 months after some property owners in the neighborhood voted to keep the name — and just one day after Denver school board member Tay Anderson threatened to march protesters through the northeast streets if the name remained intact.

– Esteban Hernandez

➡️ Changing the name of Columbus Park to La Raza Park

A park named after colonizer Christopher Columbus, known for decades colloquially as “La Raza” (The Race) Park, could get an official name change. The park was central to the city’s Chicano movement in the 1970s.

Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval is working on changing the name.

✅ Imposing (temporary) restrictions on Denver police when using chemical weapons and projectiles

On June 5, a federal judge issued a restraining order against the Denver Police Department after reviewing clashes between officers and protesters.

Under the ruling, police are allowed to use chemical weapons or projectiles only with an on-scene supervisor’s authorization. The supervisor must personally witness acts of violence or destruction of property before making the call. Non-lethal force can’t be used indiscriminately in a crowd, and all officers must wear functioning body cameras.

But that order has since expired.

✅ Raising the bar on when officers can use deadly force

A sweeping police reform bill that legislators approved June 12 would allow officers to kill someone if they are facing an “imminent threat.” Currently, police can use deadly force if they “reasonably” fear for their lives. Investigators will look into whether the threat was imminent or not, which supporters say will create a more objective system, the Colorado Sun reports.

✅ Removing the “fleeing felon” statute

The bill also gets rid of the “fleeing felon” statute, which allows police officers to shoot someone who is running away — if they are suspected of committing a felony and are armed.

✅ Stricter statewide rules on body cameras

The bill at the legislature requires police departments across Colorado to wear body cameras. (Denver officers wear body cameras for the most part, but they require the officer to press a button to record incidents.)

Police departments would have to release footage to the public within 14 days of an incident or at least document why they cannot.

✅  Making it easier to sue officers of the law

On behalf of its police and sheriff departments, the city of Denver has settled multiple cases involving the death of residents while in custody or the death of residents during other interactions law enforcement.

The reform bill makes suing individual police officers easier, relieving taxpayers who tend to foot the bill in excessive force settlements.

✅ Restricting tear gas and less-than-lethal weapons at protests

The bill bans the use of tear gas without warning. The bill also prohibits officers from firing less-than-lethal weapons like pepper balls and foam bullets at people’s heads, pelvises or backs.

✅ Statues relating to racist events toppled or removed

Since the protests began May 28, the city has seen two statues torn down — “In Honor of Christopher Columbus” and a Civil War monument honoring Colorado Union soldiers who fought against the South — and also took part in the Sand Creek Massacre.

In light of the unsanctioned removal of statues, the city’s Parks and Rec department “proactively” took down a statue of Kit Carson.

All of the symbols were in the area of Civic Center Park and the Colorado Capitol.

Shrinking RTD’s transit security budget and adding mental health services for passengers

The Regional Transportation District board on Tuesday voted down a measure that would have redirected the tens of millions of dollars the agency pays every year for armed security to outreach workers instead.

The resolution failed by a 14-1 vote. But many members of the board signaled they were open to continued conversation about significant changes to RTD’s security system, which mostly relies on private contractors and off-duty police officers.

“I think there’s some good elements in this resolution, and I think it’s well-intended, but I have some concerns with the details,” said Peggy Catlin, who represents Jefferson County.

Those details, written by board member Shontel Lewis of northeast Denver, include ending RTD’s contract with Allied Universal and metro-area police departments. That money — $27.3 million a year — would instead go toward mental health, behavioral health, homeless outreach, and other support services.

– Nathaniel Minor

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