DENVER, Colorado (KDVR) — Denver’s police chief said he’s “disappointed” that Denver South High School showed a video to its students instructing them to avoid calling police when witnessing certain crimes.
In a letter to parents, principal Rachel Goss wrote that showing the video, titled “Don’t be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks,” was meant “to provide empowerment for people who may witness these types of attacks.”
However, a spokesman for Denver Public Schools confirmed that the video was not fully vetted before being shown to the student body during an assembly Tuesday morning. DPS also said the district does not subscribe to some of the narratives within the material.
One of the six tips is to “avoid the police” because “police have been trained to see people of color, gender non-conforming folks and Muslims as criminals, they often treat victims as perpetrators of violence.”
“That training doesn’t exist. That training doesn’t exist in this department. It doesn’t exist in any police training that I’m aware of in this state or this country,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said.
The video was produced by a group of academics and activists in New York at the Barnard Center for Research on Women. It is unclear what audience it is intended for or if the center is aware its material is being shown to public school students.
Pazen said the “rhetoric” in the video does not reflect the realities in Denver.
“We’ve gone out of our way, above and beyond to really address the harm that is created by bias-motivated incidents. And to have all of that thrown out the window with a video produced by a group that is self-described abolitionists makes no sense to me,” he said.
The Denver Police Department maintains a specialized group of personnel within its bias-motivated crimes unit, including civilians tasked with community engagement. The department also falls under the Office of the Independent Monitor, which holds it and its officers accountable to fair policing practices.
“We can’t tolerate bias-motivated crimes and how we address them, how we prevent them, is to hold individuals accountable that engage in bias-motivated crimes,” Pazen said. “Victims of crimes deserve to have their cases fully investigated and deserve to be supported with all of the resources available to them.”
Pazen suggests that if a student witnesses a bias-motivated crime but does not feel comfortable calling police, the student should talk to a trusted adult or report the incident anonymously to Colorado’s Safe2Tell program.