Getting The Facts On Crime In Denver

Yesterday, Lou Kilzer with the Rocky Mountain News published an article about the city of Denver’s new policing strategy. The report detailed efforts by the city to bring down crime and increase declining arrest rates. What the report did not detail however, were important points regarding Denver’s new program.

In fact, one omission was who actually paid for it.From the article:

In December, Hickenlooper hired criminologist George Kelling to help shake up the department.

Partially True: Actually, the city hired three consultants from the Hanover Justice Group-one of which was Kelling. The city did not pay for these consultants though, as a non-profit called the Denver Police Foundation agreed to take the bill. According to the contract, Kelling was paid $290 per hour, and his two co-workers were paid less at $225 and $145 per hour. (See contract paper here.)

Kelling says that the increase in traffic enforcement is exactly what he had in mind by introducing “broken windows” approach to the Denver department.

In broken windows, officers aggressively police not only the 911 calls, but minor offenses as well. Police say the concept has been embraced by the rank-and-file.

What You Don’t Know: While Kelling is claiming to have introduced “broken windows” to Denver, the city says that’s not the reason he was hired.

In a July 28th article that appeared in the Confidential (also written by this author) Jeremy Bronson, Special Assistant to the Mayor, was quoted saying that the city “didn’t hire George Kelling and the Hanover Justice Group  specifically to come implement broken windows in Denver…we hired this consulting organization because the work that they’ve done on a very consistent basis makes police departments more effective….”

Since then, the chief has responded quickly after police use-of-force incidents.

In November, after a police altercation left Thomas Armstrong clinging to life, Whitman did not wait for a district attorney’s report.

He said almost immediately, “I don’t have any reason to believe the officers did anything wrong.”

In May, after police shot and killed Roberto Gonzalez Jr., Whitman spoke up the next day, saying that officers thought a fake gun was real.

“It looks like a real gun,” Whitman told reporters. “There’s no doubt that it could’ve been perceived as a real weapon.”

What You Don’t Know: Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman, who is quoted in the article, is connected to the Denver Police Foundation-the group that bankrolled the consultants from the beginning. 

In another Confidential article (also written by this author) it was reported that available IRS records (PDF) showed Whitman as the chairman of the Foundation not only in 2004, but in 2003 and 2002.

This fact went unreported in the Rocky Mountain News article.

The most recent police shootings and altercations didn’t stir the kind of emotion and public alarm as did those involving Paul Childs, a developmentally disabled teenager, or Frank Lobato, an invalid who was shot in bed when an officer mistook a pop can for a weapon, said Metro State’s Sandoval.

What You Don’t Know: In the case of Frank Lobato, Denver Manager of Safety Al LaCabe found discrepancies with the officer’s report that Lobato was holding a soda can and physical evidence. Forensics found that the can in question had no finger prints on it, or saliva.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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