We’ve been through a lot as a community over the last few years. In Denver and across the nation, we have seen the problems with the old approach to policing. As the daughter of a law enforcement officer, Leslie understands the need to support our officers and first responders. She has fought for transparency, integrity, and accountability in policing which are essential to true community safety. We have an opportunity to create a true community policing program that works for everyone in our community, prioritizes safety, and empowers officers to have the tools and resources they need to protect and serve. We must train officers and first responders with de-escalation techniques, increase the number of investigators tracking down people who commit crimes, and work to recruit and retain top talent. All while holding police accountable-- reminding us that nobody, including police officers, is above the law.
Let’s face it, jailing is an overused tool in Denver. Our jails are over capacity and our Sheriffs are overworked. Jailing nonviolent people with mental health or addiction issues is expensive, doesn’t actually solve the problem, and is often simply unethical. At the same time, it often isn’t safe for individuals who need support to be on the streets. We can create alternatives to jail that get people the help they need without unduly violating their civil liberties. The Caring for Denver Foundation (which Leslie founded) funded some of these organizations and alternatives, like The Dream Center, Servicios de la Raza, Tribe Recovery Homes, ParadigmOne, Second Chance Center, The Other Side Academy, Salvation Army as well as jailbased medically assisted treatment continuation and induction. Denver can do more--and the next Mayor will be in a position to make bold changes to how our criminal justice system works to keep our streets safe while caring about the people that need help.
We have a moral obligation, as a society, to look out for our youth. In a time when there are a record number of weapons found in Denver Public Schools, Leslie believes curbing youth violence is fundamental to the safety and wellness of our city. Creating opportunities and investing in our youth is fundamental to the safety and wellness of Denver--and it is what a caring community does. We must focus on youth violence prevention by creating collaborations between the city and business community to get kids summer jobs and internships, and double the number of after-school programs for kids. At the same time, we need to prioritize restorative justice for youth to end the school to prison pipeline. We can and will do better for our youth, because they are the future.
The time to take action on gun violence is now and common sense gun violence prevention measures are far overdue. We are capable of making real progress and our community has suffered too much and for too long. Leslie supported passage of extreme risk protection orders (ERPO or “red flag laws”) and, as Mayor, she will ensure strict enforcement. Law enforcement and community leaders must work together to get guns off our streets to help reduce gun related crimes. And, we have to impose waiting periods for firearm purchases to limit the ability for mass murderers to get weapons and act quickly.
It is time to rethink how we address living space for our unhoused neighbors--the current situation is not working for them or for the city. We know that helping people get back on their feet requires stable housing, but the very first step is getting people inside to safe places--ones where they feel comfortable and secure. In addition, we will expand street outreach, addiction treatment, and harm reduction to ensure that people facing a crisis are aware of these new solutions. Bold action is required to change the trajectory of the city and we can develop solutions that are both safe AND caring.
Mental healthcare is healthcare, and it has been stigmatized and overlooked for far too long. The Denver of the future needs to prioritize mental health care for all of its citizens, from affluent suburbs to people facing homelessness, and the city’s services must be aligned with this value. That means ensuring that all law enforcement, first responders, and even firefighters and park rangers are trained in crisis management and emergency mental health response. It also means expanding and supporting programs like STAR that send out appropriate responses in mental health emergencies, freeing up law enforcement to do the work they are trained and equipped to do. We all know someone experiencing a mental health challenge, and it is time we come together as a community and make mental health a priority.
Out here in the mountain west, we value community, diversity, and inclusion. Hate crimes have no place in our city and the victims are often people that have difficulty seeking help due to cultural or language barriers. We must promote a culture of inclusion and tolerance in Denver so that every person is safe. Denver is ready for a Mayor who will lead by example and step up for every community across the city, to show that hate crimes will not be tolerated and the city’s resources, including law enforcement, will have increased focus on ending hate crimes so that everyone feels safe. Specifically, we must create dedicated hotlines for reporting hate crimes or potential threats, expand law enforcement training to recognize and react to hate crimes and establish community liaisons to conduct outreach and education and to provide support for impacted communities.
From people stealing packages off of front porches to vandalizing small businesses and stealing cars, theft and vandalism are violations that hurt our community, make people feel less safe, and negatively impact our economy. Car thefts are on the rise in Colorado and outpace the rest of the country. Denver has the second highest rate of car theft in the nation. We need to work with law enforcement, small businesses, neighborhood associations, and the media for a multi-faceted response to theft of any kind. Strategies like victim help-lines, warning signs, increased media coverage and public education, strategic law enforcement coverage, and environmental changes have been shown to cut theft significantly. Through partnerships and collaboration, we must implement these changes and more.
Addressing base-level economic, health, and housing insecurities to provide preventative structures and opportunities can have lasting, meaningful impacts on community safety. Leslie has led reform efforts on this issue through the STAR Program. We must prioritize evidence-based practices to improve community safety by examining and addressing the core causes of crime.
Criminalizing addiction is a failed policy and needs to end. Addiction is a health issue, and must be treated as such. Denver can do better with our response to addiction and we need systemic changes to make it happen.