Gazette Editorial: A police chief speaks out on crime…
“Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong” Ella Jane Fitzgerald, American jazz vocalist
In an extensive and frank interview with The Gazette editorial board on Wednesday, Pazen made clear his frustration with a growing disconnect between those who make, prosecute and adjudicate Colorado’s laws — and the cops whose duty it is to stop criminals.
Misguided lawmakers, lax prosecutors and oblivious judges have slapped the cuffs on Colorado’s cops. And Coloradans are reaping the result. It’s an epic crime wave, the likes of which the state hasn’t seen before.
Violent crime is soaring; homicides have doubled in Denver over the norm. Property crime is skyrocketing; Colorado is No. 1 in the nation for auto thefts.
It’s truly a war, and Paul Pazen, Denver’s chief of police since 2018, has been on the front line. A career cop on Denver’s police force — and a native son of the city where he has spent his entire life except for a hitch in the Marines — Pazen is dedicated to the crime fight. If only Colorado’s policymakers would unshackle him. Instead, they have tried to disarm him.
Those are our words, of course, not the chief ’s. But in an extensive and frank interview with The Gazette editorial board on Wednesday, Pazen made clear his frustration with a growing disconnect between those who make, prosecute and adjudicate Colorado’s laws — and the cops whose duty it is to stop criminals.
Here are some of the highlights from an enlightening conversation — relevant to the crime fight in every corner of our state:
• Catch-and-release justice: Suspects — many facing serious charges and having lengthy criminal records — too often are released on “personal recognizance” bonds. Meaning, they don’t have to put up cash. It’s a familiar pattern, said Pazen, adding, “We arrested one person six times for auto theft in 2021.” In some cases, it’s the prosecutors who are responsible; other times it’s the judges. Observed the chief: “Most people would agree violent and repeat offenders should not be immediately released from jail.”
• A revolving door for illegal guns: Firearms in the hands of felons and minors are prohibited by law. Denver police seized 2,095 such guns last year — and that was just in the state’s largest city. Yet, the number of illegal guns discovered by the police keeps rising year after year even as the suspects in those cases typically are arrested. Pazen points to “ineffective prosecution, ineffective adjudication.” Of the 732 times a felon was arrested for possessing a firearm last year, 38% were released without having to post bail.
• “Defelonizing” crimes: Curbing illegal firearms is only going to get tougher after last year’s Senate Bill 271 takes effect this spring. The “misdemeanor reform” measure bars a number of serious offenses from being used to charge someone with felony possession of a firearm if they were previously convicted of one of those other offense. . • Lack of judicial transparency: When Pazen recently sought data from the courts on suspects who were being released, and on who was releasing them, he hit a wall. Police had to pore over records, “name by name.” Pazen contrasted his department’s transparency with the judiciary: “If you want to find out what a judge is doing, good luck.”
• A flood of deadly drugs: Manufactured in China, packaged in Mexico and smuggled into the U.S., lethal fentanyl is killing Colorado youths, and a super-potent variety of meth is inducing psychosis and violence. Police trying to stem the flow were dealt a big blow by 2019 legislation that radically downgraded possession of up to 4 grams to a misdemeanor.
It comes down to going soft on crime.
“This is about a lack of accountability and consequences … I’m baffled that people didn’t see this coming a mile away,” Pazen told us.
“The criminal justice system doesn’t exist to get people out of jail, the criminal justice system exists to keep people safe.”
The Denver Gazette
27 Jan 2022
THE GAZETTE EDITORIAL BOARD
Reprinted from https://daily.denvergazette.com/article/281874416794156