Black voices discuss legislation, reform for Denver

Noah Pasley

Many people in the Colorado community attended a virtual discussion on race and social reform for the Denver area Wednesday, June 3.

The event, titled “Racial Crisis in America: What is the Next Move?” was hosted by the Colorado Black Round Table and featured several Black speakers, including Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

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What we need to do is more than just cut ties by way of a contract — we need to restructure and redefine what public safety is. It’s not enough for us to write that resolution. What you will see from us is making our budget match those values.” -Jennifer Bacon, Denver Public Schools Board of Education Vice President 

Juston Cooper, deputy director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, spoke on the importance of using budgets to support Black Lives Matter and human rights as well as how systemic racism has “weaponized” the criminal legal system to oppress people of color. 

“Budgets are a moral doctrine,” Cooper said. “We continuously invest in a criminal legal system to provide a dominant response. We’re cutting social programs that actually lift us out of oppression, and we’re prioritizing prison budgets and jail budgets and legal system budgets. The solution is this: We need to reinvest in community. Communities actually have solutions … and the reinvestment matters.”

Denver Public Schools Board of Education Vice President Jennifer Bacon said during the discussion that DPS is talking about divesting from the Denver Police Department with a press conference scheduled for Friday.

Bacon said there is a need to change the structural racism being experienced, as divesting is not enough, and look at the role schools play with creating discourse. 

“What we need to do is more than just cut ties by way of a contract — we need to restructure and redefine what public safety is,” Bacon said. “It’s not enough for us to write that resolution. What you will see from us is making our budget match those values.” 

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser also spoke on possibilities to use Great Outdoors Colorado funds to invest in criminal justice reform.

One idea Weiser spoke on was investing in diversion programs that provide alternatives to incarceration. Weiser added that he wants to be creative about what sources of money Colorado can use to support criminal justice reform.

“It pains me, it’s gotta pain more of us,” Weiser said. “It’s all gonna pay for itself 10 times over. But, unfortunately, you gotta invest in those re-entry programs up front.”

Weiser also spoke on the difficulties of holding police officers accountable, adding that there are two separate “levers.” Weiser said that the levers are getting a police officer removed from the force when they threaten public safety and being willing and able to prosecute them for committing a crime. 

“We had to see police killings in Colorado and we had forums on this topic, we had solutions we developed,” Weiser said. “We weren’t poised to see them become law. We are now.”

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Noah Pasley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.