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Latinx and LGBTQ youth absent from planned conversation with DPD

Talks focused on enforcement and social justice
Posted at 10:00 AM, Dec 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-03 11:16:25-05

DENVER – The 2015 shooting death of 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez sparked community outrage and policy changes within the Denver Police Department.

Saturday though, Hernandez’s death also prompted a serious conversation that was meant to be shared between DPD, Latinx and LGBTQ youth.

The Hernandez family was part of Saturday's crowd.

"One of the biggest problems today -- that we experience with law enforcement and the community is not having a connection, not having communication, not having open dialogue," Rachel Esters said.

She was one of several people hoping to bridge the gap between officers, LGBTQ teens and young adults.

"I was born male and I didn't transition until late in life -- 53-years-old at the Larimer County Sheriff's Office," she added.

Esters said the open forum would've started that difficult dialogue between the vulnerable groups.

"It's critical to the safety of the community and it's also critical to the safety of the individual officers," Esters added.

The planned conversation was part of the $1 million settlement over Hernandez’s death.

"We didn't want to just check a box," Anthony Aragon told Denver7. He's the Senior Advisor of Community Affairs with the City's Human Rights and Community Partnerships.

In January 2015, investigators said the teen drove a stolen car toward officers in an alley near 25th Avenue and Newport Street.

That’s when officers shot at the car, ultimately killing Hernandez.

The Denver District Attorney’s Office cleared the two officers involved.

However, because of the community outrage, the department saw swift policy chance. Specifically, officers were then directed not to shoot at moving vehicles.

"It's not about blame, but it's about dialogue," Aragon added.

Saturday’s talk at Morey Middle School was expected to focus on a better understanding of enforcement and social justice issues.

Groups were expected to discuss youth rights and responsibilities, and sit through a presentation regarding adolescent development and de-escalation techniques.

The talk would have been only part of the settlement’s additional non-monetary stipulations.

A release described the discussion as tailored for those between 13 and 25-years-old.

Denver7 has reached out to several LGBTQ and youth community groups about the absences -- we will update this web story to reflect their responses.

UPDATE: Rudy Gonzalez, executive director of Servicios de la Raza, told Denver7 that while he appreciates Denver Police trying to organize a talk, he feels the department "needs to do a better job of involving themselves with the community more than once."