DENVER — Rising crime rates and the growing number of homeless encampments are two of the major issues Denver is facing. They're also the two priorities that the city’s nominee for executive director of safety aims to tackle.
“Ultimately, I was drawn to this job because I could help,” Armando Saldate III said. “I understand the magnitude of this job and the responsibilities of this job.”
Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced the nomination in early January. If approved by Denver City Council, Saldate will be responsible for oversight and direction for the city’s police, fire and sheriff’s departments. Currently, he serves as the Department of Safety's assistant deputy executive director.
“My No. 1 priority right now — and it’s pretty clear it’s the No.1 priority across the country — is crime, the disorder the pandemic brought us. … All the trauma we all faced,” Saldate said.
Saldate said, like the entire country, the tensions he witnessed during protests across the United States have had an impact on how he views the future.
“We had the civil unrest, the rioting. ... Particularly (as) a man of color that’s in law enforcement, it caused me to reflect on what are our priorities?” Saldate said. “How do we administer criminal justice without producing disparities in the application of criminal justice on our communities of color?”
Saldate said he also recognizes the growing tensions around managing the city’s population of people experiencing homelessness.
“I have been to a number of encampments. I’ve been involved in engagements,” he said. “I’ve heard from folks on all sides of the issue. From folks that don’t want the sweeps to take place, they don’t want any enforcement.”
But on the other side he said there are people who are “fed up.”
“They are fed up with the encampment that’s outside of their home,” he said. “They’re fed up with walking across needles and they’re calling for enforcement.”
Saldate added that interventions need to take place earlier in the process.
“By the time police get involved, typically it’s too late,” he said. “When we’re making an arrest, that’s really not when we need to be making the intervention. It should be earlier when we are dealing with a public health issue.”