Lisa Pope and Rob Squire of UpDoNA’s Safety & Quality of Life Committee met with Commander Aaron Sanchez and several of his lieutenants on January 26, 2022.
The main purpose of the meeting was to establish a relationship with the DPD, and to discuss several topics with them.
Denver Police Department (DPD) Staffing
In conversations with several Denver police officers, we have been told that the DPD is operating at less than full strength due to resignations and retirements. Commander Sanchez confirmed that fact, indicating that the overall DPD is down by about 200 officers, some of which are in District 6 (our district). District 6 has an authorized strength of 183 officers, and they are currently down by 16 plus another 6 due to injuries. That means that our district is operating at about 88% of full strength. The same story is occurring all over the country, and Denver is competing with every other police force for new recruits. Commander Sanchez said that Denver is at a disadvantage because our cost of housing is so high, and people are applying to departments in other areas with lower housing costs instead of here. He said that higher wages and possible offers of housing assistance would help attract new officers. This is a subject we will address with Evan Dreyer of Mayor Hancock’s office when we meet with him.
Homelessness – related problems
Lt Sean Faris is responsible for homelessness-related problems downtown. It is illegal to camp on the streets in Denver, and anyone camping on public streets can be made to move after providing offers of housing and other assistance. Large encampments have a different set of rules. When a large encampment forms, a 7-day notice must be given prior to any attempt to move them. The city comes in at that time to ensure they move, and provides offers of relocation to homeless shelters, drug addiction and mental health assistance and other needed services.
Lt Aaron Rebeterano works drug crimes. In 2019, the Colorado state legislature changed the law, and it is no longer a felony to possess up to four grams of Schedule I and II drugs. That includes heroin, opium, fentanyl and cocaine. That is making enforcement difficult for the police, and they generally disagree with the law as it was changed. Drug dealers are protecting themselves by keeping small amounts on them until they are sold, and then return with another 4 grams. Open drug use can and should still be reported via 911. The police will come and if they witness the act, can still arrest the person for previous warrants, possession of drug paraphernalia, and other things.
New methods of production of synthetic drugs are making drugs cheaper and cheaper, causing a significant increase in addition. Their experience is that drug addiction and mental health problems are pervasive in the homeless population that chooses to live on the streets.
We will continue to meet with Commander Sanchez and his lieutenants in the future.
Safety & Quality of Life Committee