During the first half of 2020, Denver police officers responded to hundreds of thousands of calls: Officers helped suicidal people and enforced evictions, reported the Denver Post.. They arrived for shootings and car thefts, worked security at university events and directed traffic.
Though violent crime generates the most headlines,
Denver’s patrol officers spent more than 80% of their time dealing with other
less serious complaints and a wide array of community tasks.
As Denver debates police funding in the wake of
massive protests and a budget crisis caused by the ongoing coronavirus
pandemic, The Denver Post asked the Denver Police Department to analyze how its
officers spend their time. The data show that for every rape, shooting or armed
robbery, there are seven times as many calls for other community needs, ranging
from domestic disputes and noise complaints to EMS assists.
The nation is reckoning with law enforcement’s role
in society, leading police to defending their roles as first responders who
answer calls for crises 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Meanwhile, a growing
body of reform-minded politicians, activists and other police experts say the
data show the need for a new approach to policing.
In Denver, a proposal to abolish the police
department in favor of a “peace force” failed. But the city has announced cuts
to its policing budget, largely because of the economic crisis, and now the
police union contract is up for debate as council decides whether officers
should get raises when other city employees are not. In other cities, police
department budgets have been slashed; in Austin, Texas, the police budget was
cut by a third and about $150 million was moved into social services and
alternative public safety programs.
Denver police division chief Ron Thomas said a
budget cut of Austin’s magnitude would cripple Denver.
“The talk of defunding police is kinda tantamount to defunding the city,” he said. “People will not live and work and play in a city they don’t feel safe in.”
Between Jan. 1 and June 30, police responded to
367,550 calls. Violent crime accounted for 52,428 of them, or 14%, according to
department data. Those calls included assaults, child abuse and neglect,
kidnapping, robberies, shootings, stabbings, riots, threats and domestic
violence — which accounted for nearly 35% of all violent crimes.
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