(The Center Square) – Denver police arrests dropped 64% over 14 years and traffic violations have plummeted 66% over 12 years.
City budget documents lay out a trend of fewer arrests and traffic violations that mirror what is going on across the U.S. in other police departments.
Police made 75,312 arrests in 2007 – the most in 16 years – and that number dropped to 26,982 in 2021. Arrests in Denver were steady from 2012 through 2018 before a significant decline started in 2019. The city’s number of arrests went from 50,747 in 2018 to 44,145 in 2019, 30,174 in 2020, and 26,982 in 2021.
Traffic violations have dropped from 144,370 in 2010 to 48,576 in 2021.
City documents show that the budgeted number of positions in the police department has increased over the years.
Denver had 1,447 budgeted uniform police positions in 2007 when it peaked with 75,312 arrests. There were 1,446 budgeted uniform police positions in 2010 when they had 144,370 traffic violations, the most going back to at least 2005.
But budgeted positions aren’t always precise. Budget documents show the Denver police were in a constant state of transition in terms of uniformed positions during the pandemic. In April 2020, the department had 1,612 uniformed officers. It lost about 34 officers through attrition by November 2020 and then hired new recruits to boost the uniformed number to 1,587 by November 2021.
The drop in enforcement comes at a time when the city’s police are under public scrutiny over recent shootings.
The Denver district attorney stated on Aug. 16 she will open a grand jury investigation into a July 17 incident where three Denver police officers shot a suspect and injured six other bystanders.
District Attorney Beth McCann said she would ask a grand jury to review the incident.
A 2021 task force convened after the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis in June 2020 offered recommendations to the police department in a report.
The Reimagining Policing And Public Safety task force recommendations included decriminalizing petty infractions such as drug use and public intoxication and decriminalizing traffic offenses “often used for pretextual stops.”
The task force also recommended removing police from routine traffic stops and eliminating the need for traffic enforcement by promoting “safe travel behavior.”
The public safety budget consumed 44% of all general fund expenditures for the city in 2021.
The Denver mayor’s office referred questions to the police department. The police department acknowledged an email seeking comment but did not respond to questions about arrest trends.
Denver City Council members Christopher Herndon and Candi CdeBaca didn’t return emails seeking comment.
Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance and the Denver Police Department Protection Association didn’t respond to emails seeking comment. The Denver Police Foundation declined to comment.