Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca wants to place a measure on the city’s November ballot asking voters to abolish the Denver Police Department and create a “peace force” in its place.
The actual language of the measure that CdeBaca wants to place on the ballot has not yet been published, but the councilwoman filed a placeholder to the City Council’s Monday agenda that bypassed the normal committee process. Her lack of a specific ballot question or communication with fellow council members may spell problems with getting the council support needed to put the measure before voters in November.
Calls to defund the Denver Police Department have permeated throughout the city almost since the George Floyd protests began. Mayor Michael Hancock and Public Safety Director Murphy Robinson have promised changes to the Denver police and sheriff’s departments, but have not discussed defunding either of them.
Councilman Chris Hinds frequently backs CdeBaca’s more progressive stances but said he said he was caught off guard by the proposal.
“I’m interested in moving our money to addiction and mental health services, social worker professions,” Hinds said. “But I don’t know what that looks like, and we haven’t had an actual conversation with specifics.”
Denver’s public safety department amounts to about 46% of the city’s total budget, Hinds said. And the Aug. 31 deadline for placing a measure on the city’s November ballot means there’s very little time for such a substantial discussion.
“We don’t have time to have a reasonable discussion about half our budget between now and two Mondays from now, particularly since we don’t have anything tangible to discuss,” Hinds said.
In addition to her peace force proposal, CdeBaca added two more ballot measures to Monday’s packed council agenda. The first would ask voters for permission to create a commission that would present nominees for city attorney to the mayor. Currently the mayor appoints whomever they choose for the position.
The second would shift appointing power for the independent monitor from the mayor’s office to council. The monitor provides citizen oversight for Denver’s law enforcement agencies.
CdeBaca could not immediately be reached for comment on her three proposals, nor could representatives of the Denver Police Department or Hancock’s office.
A short document accompanying CdeBaca’s peace force proposal states that people of color in Denver face “disproportionate policing and violence.”
At the same time there are too little resources aimed at underlying causes of violence and crime in Denver like “job insecurity, transience, homelessness, food insecurity” and more, the document states.
So a department of peacekeeping services is necessary, the document continues. That department would be responsible for preventing conflict and reducing violence with a “holistic, anti-racist, public health-oriented approach.”
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