Governor Polis, State Lawmakers, Law Enforcement, Community Leaders, Unveil Comprehensive Public Safety Plan of Action

Thursday, February 10, 2022

DENVER - Today, Governor Jared Polis joined Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera, legislators, cabinet members, members of law enforcement, and community leaders to unveil a data-driven public safety plan of action to deliver real results in reducing crime and improving public safety. Acting on the Governor’s commitment to make Colorado among the ten safest states in the nation, the evidence-based plan provides transformative strategies for the future to keep Colorado communities and kids safe.

“Improving public safety is a top priority for my administration because every Coloradan deserves the opportunity to live, work, and raise their families in safe and healthy communities,” said Governor Polis. “The pandemic has caused a national rise in crime and sadly Colorado has not been immune, so we must rise to this challenge. We are serious about investing in recruiting and training the very best law enforcement officers and about preventing crimes from happening in the first place through early interventions.   More must be done at a local level to protect our citizens and the state is providing the resources to do it and supporting local flexibility because the needs in Fort Morgan aren’t always the same as Colorado Springs.”

With a clear focus on preventing crime from happening, the data-driven plan prioritizes workforce improvements, reducing recidivism, community safety, and behavioral health. 

The broad coalition representing legislators, law enforcement, and community organizations in attendance voiced support for the community-based public safety plan. 

Governor Polis and Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera were joined today by lawmakers including State Senator Janet Buckner, State Representative Tony Exum, State Senator Chris Kolker, and State Representative Alex Valdez. Also in attendance were Sheriffs Jaime FitzSimons - Summit County, and Joe Pelle - Boulder County. Colorado Department of Public Safety Executive Director Stan Hilkey, Behavioral Health Commissioner Dr. Morgan Medlock, and Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Dean Williams joined the event along with District Attorneys Brian Mason - 17th Judicial District, and Michael Dougherty - 20th Judicial District.  Also in attendance were representatives from the ACLU, Behavioral Health Administration, Colorado Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, Gang Rescue and Support Project (GRASP), Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, and Servicios de La Raza.

State legislators discussed key pieces of legislation they plan to introduce. 

“Every Colorado family deserves to feel safe in their community, but as crime continues rising across the country, far too many of our neighbors have lost their sense of security,” said State Senator Janet Buckner, D-Aurora. “That’s why I am proud to champion this legislation to improve public safety as part of our robust plan to use evidence-based solutions to tackle crime head-on and prevent crime before it happens. Working together, we can find meaningful solutions to these challenges and I look forward to getting these bills across the finish line and to creating a safer Colorado for us all.”

“Everyone should feel safe in their community, which is why our public safety package focuses on proven strategies to prevent crime before it happens,” said State Representative Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs. “We’re directing record levels of support to address the root causes of crime, such as a lack of access to affordable housing, behavioral health care and treatment for substance use disorder, while making smart investments to break up crime rings. We know the tough on crime policies of the past have wasted taxpayer dollars and failed to make our communities safer. This package of bills will reduce recidivism, prevent crime and build safer communities.”

“This package is a targeted approach that aims to prevent crime in the places where it’s rising the most,” said State Representative Alex Valdez, D-Denver. “It will provide our law enforcement with the tools and resources they need to keep our communities safe, while holding law enforcement officers to the highest standards and training. We’re taking a data-driven approach to prevent violence in our communities and revitalize our shared spaces, like downtown Denver in my district, that contribute to Colorado’s unique quality of life.”

“These funds will make an impact on the problems that plague communities of color,” said Bishop Jerry Demmer, Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance. “Only a genuine partnership can solve the problems of violence and crime. As one voice of many in communities of color, we are excited to see funds targeted towards programs that will make a real difference."

“In Pitkin County the co-responder program is one of the most effective ways to help those with behavioral health needs in our community. Clinicians responding with peace officers is the most direct route to identify behavioral issues that peace officers are not trained to recognize. Peace officers get to know this population and their needs which has reduced incarceration rates and recidivism in our community. Recruiting peace officers in this post Covid era has been challenging. A peace officer should represent the community they police, and should live in the community they police. Simply, this builds connection and trust between the peace officer and the community they help keep safe. Local employee housing, tuition assistance and ongoing education will help renew interest in this rewarding profession,” said SheriffJoe DiSalvo, Pitkin County.

“Across the nation, crime has increased significantly during the pandemic.  Here in Colorado, we are doing something about it.  I strongly support this public safety package.  It is a robust and diverse package that will help improve community safety and well-being.  I urge legislators to recognize the serious impact that crime is having on our communities.  For the people of this great state, the Governor’s public safety package is imperative,” said Michael Dougherty, district attorney in the 20th Judicial District.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Governor’s Office for the integration of community-based organizations, like Boys & Girls Clubs, in public safety initiatives and programs.  Incorporating trusted community organizations to share innovative ideas on how we help our youth and provide valuable intervention and diversion from the criminal juvenile system is how we put a stop to school-to-prison pipelines.  This is important and necessary work to ensure every young person in Colorado regardless of circumstances has every opportunity to realize great futures,” said Danielle Felder, executive director of the Colorado Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs.

“At the core of law enforcement is the safety and wellbeing of the people we represent. To achieve that goal, we must be responsive to the people, we must be believable, and we must be trusted to perform our duty with uniform fairness and justice to all. Co-responder programs like our SMART Team help to achieve this,” said Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, Summit County. 

"Since 1972, Servicios de La Raza has been committed to, and involved in, addressing behavioral health issues. Mental health and substance misuse issues are rooted in trauma and can result in negative behaviors that lead to crime. Which is why the plan announced today will provide needed funding to genuine culturally responsive community based providers and will lead to better results, productive outcomes and impact for people and community. We need to work deeply within our communities and neighborhoods and apply effort upstream to prevent crime and to intervene in a manner that just does not punish, but truly reforms and restores so we support this plan,” said Rudy Gonzales, executive director of Servicios de La Raza.

The Thornton Police Department is appreciative of the governor's inclusive approach to providing resources for police officers, their departments, and the communities they serve,” said Chief of Police Terrance Gordon, Thornton, Colorado. “After what has been a challenging time for our state and the country, filled with division over seemingly intractable issues, true collaboration guided by shared values, such as service, integrity, and respect for all people, will provide a framework and a road map to future success. While it won't be easy, the challenges are not insurmountable.”  

“I support Governor Polis’s collaborative efforts to work with law enforcement officials in the state to provide funding for and bolster our recruiting, hiring, retention programs, and peace officer mental health support systems.  I further support funding to continue and increase the excellent partnerships with mental health providers to provide robust mental health co-responder programs and mental health and substance abuse treatment services in our communities.  I also support increasing the capacity of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to assist in investigating major crimes in Colorado communities with limited resources.  Overall, I am in support of the public safety bill package put forth, and I believe it will benefit our law enforcement officers and Colorado communities in crime reduction moving forward,”  said Chief of Police Blaine Hall, City of Montrose, Colorado.

“This package is a multi-faceted strategy aimed at putting resources in the hands of local law enforcement and local communities. And as well as addressing the needs of law enforcement, it also addresses broader community needs and puts Colorado on a path to becoming one of the safest states in the country” said Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety. 

“The Governor’s public safety package includes critical funding to keep people out of the criminal justice system. By funding criminal justice redirection programs and infrastructure, we will have important, needed tools to support at-risk individuals and help reduce crime. Our nation’s mental health crisis disproportionately impacts the criminal justice system. 37% percent of state and federal prisoners and 44% of jail inmates report having a mental health disorder. This public safety package devotes important resources to help tackle this fast-growing problem,” said Brian S. Mason, district attorney in the 17th Judicial District. 

“The behavioral health component of this public safety plan is critical to addressing the needs of Coloradans who are best served in a treatment context, rather than the criminal-legal system. We are looking forward to developing strategies to provide timely access to services that divert from justice settings,” said Dr. Morgan Medlock, executive director of the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration. 

“It is imperative that we take a holistic approach in public safety and providing services to our community. This bill will provide resources to community organizations who are working with our most underserved populations,” said Omar Montgomery. “Mental health support, addiction services, workforce initiatives, and enhancing wrap-around services for our youth are major components to having safe and healthy communities. Thank you State Senator Janet Buckner and Governor Polis for leading this effort.”

“One of the most critical things that we can do to ensure good policing and public safety in the future is to recruit, and retain a new, diverse, and well trained workforce as our future peace officers.  Recruiting and retaining peace officers these last couple of years has been a tremendous challenge, both here in Colorado and across the country,” said Sheriff Joe Pelle, Boulder County. “The governor’s proposal includes grants and aid to help with recruiting efforts, and to potentially help pay for community college police academy training for recruits who otherwise may not be able to afford it.  The sheriffs and chiefs who the governor met with to develop this strategy are very supportive and appreciative of this effort.”

"ACLU of Colorado supports public health community safety approaches that address the root causes of harm. We are happy to see many proven, evidence-based approaches in the Governor's public safety plan. We look forward to learning more about the crucial details and working with the Governor and legislature to prioritize community-based investments and rigorous accountability," said Deborah Richardson, executive director of ACLU of Colorado. 

Taking clear steps to build a safer Colorado, the data-driven public safety plan empowers communities to make locally-driven, evidence-based decisions on programs that work through funding for community grants. Historic investments in the Department of Corrections, Department of Youth Services, and Behavioral Health information sharing between jails deliver real results in reducing recidivism. 

“Colorado has the nation’s highest rate of adult mental health illness with the lowest rate of access to mental health care. Many of these affected people wrongly end up in the criminal justice system. We are excited that the Governor is committed to providing  increased behavioral health services for these Coloradans and their families,” said Megan Ring, Colorado State Public Defender and Maureen Cain, director of legislative policy and external communications at the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender. 

“The Governor reached out to the leadership of the statewide district attorneys organization (CDAC) to discuss his public safety package. The district attorneys from the counties of Mesa and Weld along with Boulder and Jefferson met with him and his staff to assist in identifying priority areas to improve public safety. Most of our suggestions made the final proposal, and all of the components are improvements to our current public safety problems,” said Dan Rubenstein, district attorney in the 21st Judicial District. 

“We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to providing much needed funding to Colorado’s community-based anti-domestic violence and anti-sexual assault organizations. COVID-19 has made this especially urgent, as incidents of violence have escalated during the pandemic,” said the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN).

“As a chief law enforcement officer who has been involved in the legislative process for my entire career, I’m proud that the investments proposed in this public safety plan represent an even deeper investment in our local communities and seek the best outcomes for our state. I thank Governor Polis and state leaders for leading the way and recognizing the need to continue engaging in essential discussions this session and look forward to strengthening these real workable solutions towards safer communities,” said Sheriff Sean Smith, LaPlata County. 

"Law Enforcement has never seen a more difficult time in recruiting and retaining officers. It is our responsibility to set the stage for the future of law enforcement. The Governor’s proposal helps all Colorado law enforcement agencies with these grants and aid in training, hiring, and retaining quality law enforcement officers. So many communities across Colorado are struggling to find ways to help their own citizens who want to become public servants. These grants and aid will help those communities.  We need to find ways to help those who want to be in this very rewording profession. Doing so will make Colorado a safer place to live, do business and raise your family," said Sheriff Tony Spurlock, Douglas County.

“Colorado has significant crime and public safety challenges, and while this legislative package won’t solve many of the challenges we face, it’s a step in the right direction. The pendulum needs to swing back to much greater emphasis on the safety and security of our citizens,” said Mayor John Suthers, Colorado Springs. 

“Colorado-CURE supports the Public Safety package, as there is a tremendous need for behavioral and mental health treatment programs,” said Dianne Tramutola-Lawson, Chair of Colorado - CURE. “In addition, the community needs to become more involved in working with these many issues and not just expect law enforcement to be the only entity. Criminal justice reform in Colorado needs to be addressed as well.”

“At the Department of Corrections, we know that prison reform is not only a moral imperative, but it also enhances safety both inside and outside of prisons, and can significantly reduce costs for taxpayers. We look forward to continuing to cooperate with our fellow law enforcement agencies, policy makers, and community stakeholders to implement evidence-based best practices that help reduce recidivism and provide opportunities for individuals leaving incarceration to become contributing members of our community,” said Dean Williams, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. 

“I am proud to stand with this coalition and reinstate hope in our communities and for our youth. This plan helps to begin the healing process to validate, educate, and motivate our youth to realize the change we so desperately need,” said Johnnie Williams, executive director of Denver Youth Program: GRASP (Gang Rescue and Support Project) and Metro Denver Partners. 

Watch today's press conference.