Reddit AMA with the Denver Police: SWAT, LoDo let-out and more
Yesterday, in a post about a Twitter debate about plagiarism and social media between the Denver Police Department and media members, we noted that DPD chief of staff Lieutenant Matt Murray would be taking part last night in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session. The chat went off as planned, with topics running the gamut from militarization and surveillance to favorite movies and pot -- lotsa pot questions. We've collected and photo-illustrated highlights of the wide-ranging conversation, which provides plenty of insight into the department. Check it out below.MILITARIZATION
AMA question: Have you ever visited /r/bad_cop_no_donut? How do you respond to those who believe that the police force has become militarized and corrupt to the point where it is no longer able to function as a law enforcement agency? Please note that this is not my view, but I see that argument being advanced more and more, and I've always been interested to hear how a police officer would respond to those charges.
DPD: I came on the job in 1991. We are much LESS militarized than we were then.
AMA question: You claimed "We are much LESS militarized than we were then." I was just seeking clarification about what you meant, whether it be equipment, tactics, attitude, or whatnot. How has the police force become less militarized?
DPD: Attitude, structure, culture....
1. Attitude -- goes to what Chief White says, treat everyone with respect 2. Structure -- create a department poised to PREVENT crime 3. Culture -- officers have to change the way they perceive their responsibilities to the public.
AMA question: How has it been adjusting to marijuana being legal? Does your department support the law? What problems has it solved/created?
DPD: We don't have a position. Our job is to follow and enforce the law. It is certainly more complicated. We are also seeing, contrary to the pro-marijuana lobby, more marijuana in possession of youth.
AMA question: Would you take that as people being more open (even if they are minors) with their marijuana use/ being stupid about it, or there being an increase in use among minors?
DPD: Not going top make a value judgement. We will stick to facts. We are seeing more juveniles using and possessing marijuana than before it was legal.
AMA question: Are there numbers to back that up?
AMA question: What is the DPD being asked to implement by Homeland Security?
DPD: We work with them, but they don't "ask us to do" anything.
AMA question: So they have not requested any increases in civilian surveillance?
AMA question: If I was filming you doing your job in public, what would your response be?
DPD: "Hi, I'm Matt, what's your name?"
AMA question: Is it against policy for members of the police force to use marijuana even though it is legal? Also, if you're a "donuts and coffee" kid of cop, what is your favorite donut?
DPD: The Constitutional Amendment allows for employers to prohibit the use of marijuana. The city has done so. Also, remember that using Marijuana is till illegal Federally. Everyone should KEEP THAT IN MIND when crossing state borders.
Not a big fan of donuts -- sorry.
AMA question: Mr. Murray, first, thank you and your department for your service. With that said, how accurately do you feel that your type of position is portrayed on TV in movies and dramas? "Law and Order" and "Continuum" would be some examples I could cite...
DPD: There are not many realistic police shows. I was very impressed by "Seven" (Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt). Although, the homicide detectives don't chase the bad guys.
Also, a great series is THE WIRE on HBO.
AMA question: If you could make one (large) change in regulation on how the police functions in Denver and in the rest of the US, what would you change?
DPD: Treat everyone, regardless of their station in life, with respect. We HAVE to enforce the law, but it should be done respectfully.
AMA question: Can you please do something about jaywalking on Colfax? Every day I see people casually walking in the middle of the road causing traffic and endangering lives. It's very frustrating. The problem is especially bad at nighttime, I'm terrified ill hit someone.
DPD: We are. We are working on a public relations campaign (Heads up). Here are some videos we produced.
DPD: I stop people at Colfax and Broadway EVERY DAY. It will require a culture change -- not a slew of tickets.
Lieutenant Matt Murray.
AMA question: Has there see been an instance that had you so frustrated and angry that you considered other career options? The law is not black and white, so there has to be some situation that was frustrating.
DPD: Sure, but I love my job.
I get very frustrated when people break the law and then blame me.
Denver Police Chief Robert White at a peace march last year.
AMA question: Thank you for taking the time to answer questions, Mr. Murray. Across the nation as a whole, there seems to be a growing sense of distrust and unease towards police departments. From the perspective of a law enforcement officer, do you feel that there are trust issues between law enforcement and the public? If so, do you have any insight on how to rebuild the trust the public should have in the police?
DPD: YES! Chief White speaks about this often. In fact, he recently did a "TedTalk" about the issue. We will post it when we get a copy.
He believes that we are on the verge of a revolution in law enforcement and that respect is at the heart of the trust issue. If officers and departments treat everyone with respect - trust will come and crime will go down. Pretty simple.
CRIME IN LODO
AMA question: I live in Denver and have been concerned about some of the recent shootings outside the bars in downtown, what can I do to ensure my safety?
DPD: Some rules to LIVE by:
1. Stay in pairs 2. Don't go into alleys to pee, etc. 3. Don't go looking for trouble (it may find you) 4. Leave well before bars close
AMA question: Has James Holmes changed the criminal climate in Colorado?
DPD: I think that James Holmes, the Boston bombings, Sandy Hook, Columbine etc have changed the way Americans look at safety. Unfortunately, this trend seems to be getting worse -- not better.
POLICE AND POT
AMA question: How has police work in Colorado changed since the recent cannabis legislation? Did you support or oppose the change before it happened, and has your opinion changed since then?
DPD: It has gotten more complicated. There is a great deal of confusion by the public. The only real change is that it is legal to possess marijuana. Currently, it is still ILLEGAL to: 1. Publically consume marijuana: 2. Possess marijuana concentrate: 3. Buy or sell marijuana.
Too many marijuana users believe everything to do with marijuana is legal.
More from our Tech archive: "Denver police Twitter account riles up media with plagiarism question."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.