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Activists’ Win: Denver Police to Begin Collecting Race Data During Stops

© AFP 2021 / ROBYN BECKMen holding signs reading "Black Lives Matter" march in the 30th annual Kingdom Day Parade in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Men holding signs reading Black Lives Matter march in the 30th annual Kingdom Day Parade in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - Sputnik International
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Amid recent protests calling for institutional accountability to counter racial profiling, Denver police officers will begin gathering race information on people they come in contact with. Officials are saying this move is an attempt to study racial bias among officers.

"Officers need to know and citizens need to know how everyone’s actions are going to be held accountable," said police Chief Robert White. "Without it, we can’t prove anything one way or the other. That does not benefit the transparency or the credibility of the department." 

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Denver Police have said in the past that such an effort would be too expensive and labor intensive to be effective. Activists disagree. Lisa Calderone, co-chair of the Denver chapter of the Colorado Latino Forum said, "If DPD was willing to collect demographic data all along, why was there a litany of voices from community groups, legislators, the Denver auditor and independent monitor all pushing for them to collect it? Because DPD refused to collect it."

Stephanie O’Malley, executive director of Denver’s safety department, formerly considered this form of data collection unfeasible, but has since changed her mind. "There has been outreach from members of the community to collaborate with us on the collection of data concerning law enforcement contacts and we are not adverse to having that happen," she said in a statement. "We will explore ways to meet expectations while considering the impact of acquiring personal information from residents during their interactions with police officers."

The Colorado Latino Forum is one of several organizations that have called for the data to be gathered, along with the the Denver Justice Project, Black Lives Matter 5280, the NAACP Denver chapter, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and the ACLU of Colorado. Social justice groups, and many others in business and the media have claimed that Latinos, blacks and Native Americans are disproportionately stopped and searched by Denver police. 

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"It’s important to take some steps toward transparency and keeping police officers accountable for their actions when engaging the community," Sasha McGhee, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter 5280, said. 

It was revealed in a 2015 state legislative committee meeting that large police departments in Colorado did not record the ethnic or racial background of community members with whom they come in contact. This included the Aurora and Colorado Springs departments. The 2014 Denver police annual report stated that, out of some 1350 sworn personnel, over 850 are white.   

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