I don’t have to tell you that crime has increased over the past three years in Denver. In fact, that’s one of the primary reasons why we formed UpDoNA in the first place. UpDoNA’s Safety and Quality of Life Committee (S&QOLC) focuses a great deal of effort on this issue and the reasons for it. We have found that there are many contributing causes and change is required on many fronts to solve the problem.
DPD’s authorized strength is insufficient
One of the main factors is the size of our police force. In 2009, the authorized strength of the Denver Police Department (DPD) was 1,526. At that time the city’s population was significantly lower and we had one officer per 386 residents. Mayor Hancock recently funded an increase in the authorized strength from 1,596 to 1,639 officers which will take effect by the end of this year.
But it is significant to note that the DPD is well under the authorized strength due to quits and retirements, and currently has an “effective strength” of only 1,449. With a 2022 population of about 720,000 people, that amounts to about one officer per 500 residents. That means that we actually only have one officer per 500 residents. This is about a 30% addition to the workload of every officer, and is a significant departure from the 2009 numbers. The size of our DPD is not keeping up with the population growth.
Reasons why Denver can’t hire enough officers
The reason is simple – Denver, like all other areas of the country, is having difficulty retaining our current officers and attracting new recruits. The sad fact is that law enforcement is no longer seen as a desirable profession.
Media emphasis is on the wrong thing
Recent incidents such as George Floyd and others showed that there unfortunately are some police officers who have exceeded their authority, sometimes in an extraordinary manner. There is no minimizing that, but you’ll find a few bad people in any profession. The BLM movement has drawn attention to that problem, and the news media has covered that movement as it should have. However, while the media has focused attention on these cases, it has often failed to point out that these are isolated incidents.
The news media by its very nature prefers sensationalism over information. Coverage of the few cops that do the wrong thing is more sensational than coverage of the majority that do the right thing. That tendency has resulted in a negative public perception of police in general. The fact is that the vast majority of police officers around the country are honest hard-working men and women who are dedicated to protecting the public and who put their lives on the line every day in the performance of their job.
What can we do?
Because of the negative attention, police today often feel unappreciated and dissatisfied. This has unfortunately led to significant numbers leaving the profession. We need to fill the ranks of the DPD with qualified officers and retain the ones we have.
Life in downtown Denver without police is unimaginable to me, and without them, chaos would reign. They deserve our appreciation, and they deserve to know they have it. Personally, every time I see a uniformed officer, I walk up to him or her, shake hands and thank them. If I see one in a restaurant, I buy their meal. It is amazing to see the positive response I get and it is gratifying to see the smile it brings to their faces. I urge you to do the same. You will provide satisfaction to an underappreciated group of hard-working people, and you’ll be doing your part to help retain our officers.
Try it. You’ll like the result.
Photo attribution: DPD shield: Denver Police Museum
Thank you image: Thank a Cop FB page