Colorado makes funding available to bolster police, public safety
Lindsey Toomer/Colorado Newsline
New public safety grants that came from this year’s session of the Colorado Legislature are now available for law enforcement agencies to bolster their workforce and community-based organizations aiming to make their community feel safer.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 22-145 — Resources to Increase Community Safety — into law earlier this year creating three grant programs intended to boost training, recruitment, retention and resources to increase community safety in the state.
Two of the grant programs are related to the law enforcement workforce: one for recruitment, training and retention, and another for the state’s mission for assistance in recruitment and training, or SMART, program for peace officers and other officers representative of their communities. The third grant program is a multidisciplinary crime prevention and crisis intervention grant program.
“To achieve our goal of making Colorado one of the ten safest states over the next five years, we need more and better policing,” Polis said in a news release. “This important new support for police recruitment, retention, and training is one our state is stepping up to make Colorado communities safer.”
Each of the law enforcement workforce related grant programs has $7.3 million in funding, while the crime prevention and intervention grant fund has $14.5 million. At least $5 million of the prevention funding must be awarded to local law enforcement or government agencies, and another minimum of $5 million must be awarded to community-based organizations.
“SB22-145 is a huge step forward in providing Colorado law enforcement agencies with the tools, equipment, and training that are so desperately needed,” Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Department of Public Safety, said in a news release. “In addition, this legislation allows law enforcement agencies to hire a more representative workforce to better serve and engage with Colorado’s communities.”
Applications for the workforce recruitment, retention and training grant program are due Sept. 15. Applications for the SMART grant program are due Sept. 16, and applications for the multidisciplinary crime prevention and crisis intervention grant program are due Sept. 20.
State Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat, said it’s important to ensure the right people are being recruited into law enforcement. Herod is a strong advocate for police reform and spearheaded Colorado’s 2020 law on enhancing law enforcement integrity. She said that with well supported and trained officers, communities see less use of excessive force as well as less under-policing, which she said is a “huge concern right now in communities.”
“I think it’s hugely important that our law enforcement in the state of Colorado is the best law enforcement in the country, and so we must attract and recruit the best and brightest and train the best and brightest so that we can have the best outcomes,” Herod said. “We cannot cut corners here, because that’s when people get hurt — innocent people get hurt.”
Herod said the grant program is one of multiple tools the state can take advantage of to ensure it has “the best and the brightest” working in law enforcement.
“It’s also important that we hold those officers accountable should they act outside of their badge,” Herod said. “So these are tools that we have created through the General Assembly to address all of those needs, but they cannot be looked at in isolation.”
Taylor Pendergrass, director of advocacy at the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said in an email to Newsline that more police won’t make Colorado communities safer.
“We should be asking our police departments to take their already ample budgets and focus on serious threats to safety,” Pendergrass said in the email. “Taxpayer dollars should be funding more diverse and more effective anti-violence strategies that address the root causes of harm and crime while also creating more resilient communities.”
Crime prevention and crisis intervention
Christie Donner, founder and executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, said her organization advocated for more funding to go toward the prevention and intervention grant program as opposed to law enforcement. She said the coalition’s experience and advocacy relating to this and similar bills was to ensure communities most impacted by crime learned about the opportunity to apply for the prevention grants.
The governor’s office hasn’t done enough outreach to ensure the community groups eligible for the grant program have ample time to apply, Donner said. Applications opened last week and are due Sept. 20.
“We’re paying attention to this, deeply paying attention to this, and we didn’t know,” Donner said about the application period opening. “If you hadn’t called me, I wouldn’t know.”
Donner said she is disappointed that at least $5 million of the prevention and intervention money is reserved for law enforcement or local government because of how much from the other programs in the bill are designated for law enforcement. She wanted “more of a balance” with community-based programs and strategies, because “community is actually your first responder.”
“The data and research shows and has shown for decade over decade that law enforcement’s role in promoting public safety is actually quite limited, for the simple fact that most crime never gets reported to law enforcement,” Donner said. “The idea of funding more police as a strategy to promote public safety is limited, so why not use these dollars where they can be the most effective, which is really drilling these dollars down deep into community.”
Donner said she appreciates the value in diversifying law enforcement, but she would have liked to see the community prioritized more. She said it’s “completely out of balance,” and she hopes the money dedicated to community-based organizations go to those most impacted by crime and the legal system.
“Actually intervening and finding out what’s going on in people’s lives is not the job of law enforcement,” Donner said. “Getting them mental health treatment, or substance abuse treatment, or helping them stabilize by finding a job — none of that is their responsibility.”