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Broken Windows or Broken Justice?

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Between the hiring of 400 new police officers and the institution of the “broken windows” policing strategy, Denver’s county courts are a mess.

Last year, misdemeanor prosecutions, involving things such as violations of protection orders, drunken driving cases and traffic violations, rose to a record high of 18,334. Detective Nick Rogers, vice president of the union representing Denver police officers, said a big hiring push has filled depleted police ranks and an energized police force is emboldened by a new “broken windows” policing philosophy that emphasizes punishing quality-of-life crimes, such as public drinking. “More cops equals more arrests,” Rogers said. “And some of the programs such as broken windows has definitely made an impact across the city in regards to crime. The idea is that you let the cops go out and do their job and find the criminals and put them in jail.”

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The overload is so bad the police building at 13th & Cherokee could no longer handle all the arrests. Even the move to a larger courtroom in the City and County Building isn’t working. Judges are complaining they don’t have the time to evaluate each case before making decisions and defendants are forced to stand in the hall waiting their turn for hours — including those with physical disabilities. I have opined several times here that “broken windows” policing is not a good fit for Denver. Let’s find alternatives to mass arrests.

My view: Denver is not New York or Los Angeles. At a time when our county jail is overflowing and proposals are being considered to put many of them on home detention rather than in jail to relieve the overcrowding, arresting more minor offenders does not seem to be the answer

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