Denver promises DNC transparency, delivers a rant

Amid mounting local and national media criticism for unwarranted secrecy surrounding their security preparations for the Democratic National Convention in August, Denver officials fired back this week with a defensive news release aimed at touting the city’s commitment to transparency — all while releasing no specific information about convention plans.

 
The city’s communique arrived in press in-boxes on Wednesday with the following headline:


DENVER PROVIDES BUDGET OVERVIEW FOR SECURITY EQUIPMENT

FOR DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION


Transparency Reaffirms Denver’s Commitment to Free Speech & Public Safety


But what followed was more of a jab at critics, most notably the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. Rather than disclosing any details about the city’s police equipment budget, including what items they are purchasing with some $18 million in federal funds, the release revealed no specific information about what weapons cops may be purchasing for the convention. The ACLU has filed several lawsuits against the city related to First Amendment-related issues, including a refusal to disclose key details involving planned parade routes, protest areas and the equipment purchased with federal tax dollars. In its non-transparent release, the city did specify two things it wasn’t going to buy, notably any slime or goo guns.

Contrary to conspiracy theories that caused concern for the American Civil Liberties Union, City officials made it clear that none of the equipment purchases include – or were ever intended to include – non-lethal weapons that discharge “slime” or “goo” to immobilize persons or vehicles or that use microwaves or sonic waves to induce pain or discomfort in targets.

The press statement then shifts course to defend the city’s police training and arrest practices for the convention, again leaving out specifics, including how police in and out of Denver are being trained and where those who are arrested will be locked up and processed.

Denver police officers already undergo extensive training in a variety of areas on an ongoing basis. As part of federally-funded preparations for the Democratic National Convention, officers are undergoing 30 hours of additional mission-specific training programs where appropriate.


Then, out of the blue, the city inexplicably highlighted that cops are not required to automatically arrest people.


The Denver Police Department does not have a “mandatory arrest” policy for violations during the Democratic National Convention or any other time. Unless required by law – such as in the case of domestic violence – a Denver police officer has the discretion to ask for voluntary compliance, deliver a warning, issue a citation or make an arrest based on the totality of circumstances … In the context of the peaceful demonstrations that involve violations of the law, arrests are a last option – used when all other options have been exhausted or imminent safety concerns are involved.


Long on defensive posturing and short on specifics on matters related to the convention, the Wednesday press release appears to be in response to growing critical media coverage of the city’s convention planning.


On Monday USA Today’s editorial board published an op-ed critical of the city’s broken promises regarding how close activists will be to the convention site, stating simply that “Denver’s plans will keep protesters out of sight and out of earshot” of convention delegates.


The editorial is a recent example of the growing media coverage that has found problems with Denver’s civil rights preparations and lack of transparency with security plans.


On Friday the Rocky Mountain News weighed in on Denver’s "reaffirmation" of transparency, pointing out that the city’s press release promising transparency was hardly an act of transparency.

 

The one-page-plus-two-lines document resembles an entry in an essay contest requiring responses in 25 rods or less, not a reasonable accounting of how the city will spend the public’s money.

 
Colorado Independent Editor Cara DeGette contributed to this piece.
 

 

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@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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