DENVER - The Denver Police Department admits - it is not responding to certain calls as fast as they would like. The simple truth is: the city doesn't have enough officers. The question is: how many officers does Denver need?
In 2008 Denver was the host of the Democratic National Convention. The Denver Police Department was at the height of staffing, with1550 officers.
Several months before the DNC - the recession hit. As a result, Denver police canceled recruiting classes in 2008 and haven't had an academy until this year.
As of August 2013, retirement and attrition left DPD with 1350 officers, which is 200 fewer officers than five years ago.
"This recession that we as a city are coming out of is one that since our grandparents dealt with the Great Depression, we've not seen in this country," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said. "And for a city of our size to say we're not hiring officers or fire fighters for five consecutive years is absolutely unheard of - and at the same time you have attrition still occurring, where people are leaving because retirement or injury. We're catching up, we can't forget that we're catching up after a five year deficit."
Denver police say they don't have enough officers. Emergency calls take one minute longer to respond to now than they did the same time last year, which was almost 15 minutes.
According to DPD, from January to July of 2012, critical incidents, emergencies and urgent calls took 13.6 minutes to respond. From January to July of 2013 it took an officer 14.9 minutes to get to the call from the time a 911 dispatcher receives it.
DPD says it would like their response to be closer to six minutes and that would likely take more police officers.
"We will never be satisfied until we are able to get to where we need to be for the people of Denver when they want us," Hancock said. "That's why we're doing a more thorough review of what it's going to take to make sure that we properly staff our police department."
9NEWS asked Mayor Hancock what that number is. Keeping in mind, during the DNC we had 1550 and DPD is authorized to have 1426. Do we need more?
"My gut instinct tells me that we are going to continue to face a growing city in popularity in people to live here. We're already seeing in a lot of other age demographics, indeed we're going to have to find a way to put more officers on the street beyond 1426," Hancock said. "Until I can justify what that number is, we don't know what that number is."
And that's the sticky wicket, as the saying goes, what is the right number for Denver and how do we arrive there?
Councilman Albus Brooks represents Downtown's District 8 and heads the committee that deals in part with police issues.
"Everyone on the city council is very concerned about the staffing levels and the response times," Brooks said. "This is a deeply complex issue. I think people want to just know, 'I want this many officers in a city of 630,000 and we're growing.' We're the fastest growing city in the west. People need to come to the meeting. People need to be a part of the discussion to understand how complex it is."
The Denver Police Chief will present his staffing request to the city council at the end of the month.
DPD estimates it will be at its authorized strength of 1426 sometime in 2015.
Looking forward, the department assessment the mayor talked about - that perfect number for the growing city, may be available some time in 2014.
"We're going to stay committed to putting more officers on the street until we get to a number at least we feel comfortable with," Hancock said. "It's a journey, it's not a sprint. We got to make sure we have qualified well prepared officers on our street."
Taxpayers will have to decide whether they want to pay for more officers. The city council meetings are open to the public.
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