Po­lice will launch pro­gram to col­lect racial data at stops

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Noelle Phillips

On July 15, the Denver Po­lice Depart­ment will roll out a pi­lot project for col­lect­ing racial and eth­nic data on peo­ple its of­fi­cers de­cide to stop.

The pi­lot project, which has been two years in the mak­ing, will take place in District 2, which covers the north­east side of the city. Of­fi­cers will be re­quired to fill out elec­tronic forms that will de­scribe the rea­son they stopped a per­son, what race or eth­nic­ity they be­lieved the per­son to be, how long the stop lasted and other in­for­ma­tion, said Lisa Calderon, co-chair of the Colorado Latino Fo­rum’s Denver chap­ter.

“What we’re look­ing to mea­sure is an of­fi­cer’s per­cep­tion in ini­ti­at­ing a con­tact,” Calderon said. “What’s in the of­fi­cer’s mind?”

City of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity ac­tivists who worked on the project in­tro­duced it Tues­day night dur­ing a com­mu­nity meet­ing in Park Hill, one neigh­bor­hood where the project will be tested. The pi­lot pro­gram will last three months, and then of­fi­cials will eval­u­ate how it went and make changes they be­lieve are nec­es­sary, said Nick Mitchell, Denver’s in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tor. The racial data col­lec­tion will be­come manda­tory for every of­fi­cer on Denver’s po­lice force who makes de­ci­sions on whether to stop some­one — whether in traf­fic or af­ter see­ing them walk down the street.

The data col­lec­tion is im­por­tant be­cause so many of the city’s black, Latino and Amer­i­can In­dian res­i­dents com­plain about un­fair treat­ment from po­lice of­fi­cers.

It is one of the most fre­quent com­plaints his of­fice re­ceives, said Mitchell, who serves as a po­lice watch­dog. But there is no data to de­ter­mine whether those perceptions are true.

The city is work­ing with the Cen­ter for Polic­ing Eq­uity, an in­de­pen­dent re­search group that an­a­lyzes racial data from po­lice de­part­ments to help them im­prove com­mu­nity re­la­tions. The cen­ter will pro­duce reg­u­lar re­ports on its find­ings, and Mitchell said re­searchers in his of­fice also will an­a­lyze data to mea­sure how Denver’s po­lice of­fi­cers bi­ases and help them im­prove their response to peo­ple they serve. All re­ports will be pub­lic.

Denver will be­come the first ma­jor po­lice depart­ment in Colorado to col­lect racial and eth­nic data on its of­fi­cers’ stops. The city con­ducted a sim­i­lar pro­gram about 15 years ago, but of­fi­cials de­ter­mined there were no is­sues among the po­lice force and ended it.

The lat­est project has been in the works for years, and the Denver Po­lice Depart­ment hasn’t al­ways been re­cep­tive to the idea. When the Colorado Gen­eral As­sem­bly in 2015 con­sid­ered a bill that would have made racial data col­lec­tion manda­tory for law en­force­ment statewide, Deputy Chief Matt Mur­ray tes­ti­fied against it.

The city’s Depart­ment of Safety also has bris­tled at crit­i­cism from the city au­di­tor, who has rec­om­mended the data col­lec­tion to im­prove trans­parency and get in line with na­tional best prac­tices for po­lice.

Chief Robert White ul­ti­mately de­cided the data col­lec­tion was the right thing to do, and he agreed to in­clude com­mu­nity ac­tivists who de­manded a seat at the ta­ble.

On Tues­day, White, Mur­ray and Stephanie O’Mal­ley, the for­mer safety direc­tor who ini­ti­ated the project, em­braced the data col­lec­tion. They said the depart­ment had co­op­er­ated with its crit­ics to de­velop a pro­gram that best suits the city’s res­i­dents and its of­fi­cers.

The project won’t be used to pun­ish of­fi­cers but will be a tool for im­prov­ing their in­ter­ac­tion with res­i­dents, said O’Mal­ley, who has con­tin­ued work­ing on the project even though she no longer is safety direc­tor.

“The one thing we all agreed upon was this was not go­ing to be a gotcha mo­ment,” she said. “We all want to learn from this.”

Mur­ray and other com­man­ders had been con­cerned about how much time of­fi­cers would spend filling out forms af­ter stops be­cause it would take them out of ser­vice for an­swer­ing other calls. But the lead­ers be­lieve the elec­tronic data forms, with 34 fields, will not be too time con­sum­ing.

“We’re fully ex­pect­ing we’ll learn some things,” Mur­ray said. “We’re com­mit­ted. We’re lis­ten­ing. We’re nim­ble.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.