720-913-5000 auditor@denvergov.org

See other recent news coverage at the end of the press release.

Today Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, released an audit of the Denver Police Department’s community policing activities.  In order to ensure that certain police activities are conducted effectively and equitably, the Auditor’s Office recommended that demographic data be collected and analyzed at least annually for officer-initiated pedestrian and traffic stops.  In order to monitor compliance with the Department’s own Biased-Policing Policy, the audit team recommended collecting data such as gender, race/ethnicity, reason for contact, outcome, and officer identification information for these contacts.

“Without collecting such demographic data, DPD cannot determine whether the Class 2 actions – officer-initiated stops – are being conducted in compliance with the Department’s Biased-Policing Policy,” said Auditor O’Brien.  “Our recommendations are based upon guidance already put forth by the Department of Justice.”

The Department disagreed with two of the audit recommendations.  Executive Director of Safety Stephanie O’Malley wrote that collecting demographic data was not necessarily the best way to assess the Department’s compliance with its Biased-Policing Policy.  DPD already maintains and monitors a couple of systems to identify performance deficiencies of personnel, and also captures complaints of biased policing, discrimination, harassment and retaliation, she said.  O’Malley expressed concern that the data collection recommended by the Auditor’s Office could turn positive non-enforcement police contacts into negative interactions and was not an efficient use of resources.

A third recommendation from the audit team was agreed to by the Department of Safety: communicating with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services for options on how to utilize the Community Policing Self-Assessment Tool (CP-SAT), a DOJ product to evaluate the effectiveness of community policing efforts over time.

“We’re on the same page with DPD in looking for ways to use data to improve performance, and I’m glad to see that the Department is willing to explore the CP-SAT or a comparable tool,” O’Brien commented. “In addition, I hope that DPD will start gathering demographic data on pedestrian and traffic stops.”

The audit also referenced the new body camera initiative as another step in documenting interactions with the public and improving community policing.  The body cameras are scheduled to be rolled out between now and October 2016.

“The whole country is concerned about racial profiling.  I believe that DPD is doing its best to initiate contact in an equitable manner.  Wouldn’t it be useful to be able to prove that through the collection of relevant data?” O’Brien pointed out.

The full audit report can be found here.  The Denver Post published a story on the audit findings and Denver’s Channel 7 interviewed Auditor O’Brien regarding the recommendations. Colorado Public Radio reported the audit committee discussion.  The Colorado Independent followed up with an analysis by Lisa Calderon.

The DOJ issued a report titled “Resource Guide on Racial Profiling Data Collection Systems, Promising Practices and Lessons Learned”.

Chapter 3 (pg. 13) of the 2000 DOJ report notes the following:

  •          “In response to allegations of racial profiling, some communities have begun to track the race, ethnicity, and gender of those who are stopped and/or searched by police officers.”
  •          “Why would a law enforcement entity begin to collect data about the demographics of its stops? Reasons vary. The most obvious one is that in the long run the systematic collection of statistics and information regarding law enforcement activities support community policing by building trust and respect for the police in the community. The only way to move the discussion about racial profiling from rhetoric and accusation to a more rational dialogue about appropriate enforcement strategies is to collect the information that will either allay community concerns about the activities of the police or help communities ascertain the scope and magnitude of the problem. When police begin to collect information about the racial and ethnic demographics of their stops, they demonstrate that they have nothing to hide and retain their credibility. Once data are collected, they become catalysts for an informed community-police discussion about the appropriate allocation of police resources. Such a process promises to promote neighborhood policing. Implementing a data collection system also sends a clear message to the entire police community, as well as to the larger community, that racial profiling is inconsistent with effective policing and equal protection. When implemented properly, this system helps to shape and develop a training program to educate officers about the conscious and subconscious use of racial and ethnic stereotypes and to promote courteous and respectful police-citizen encounters.”

 

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