You won’t catch Colorado Governor Jared Polis shouting “Defund the Police,” but his actions perfectly align with the movement. Polis is soft on crime, lowering penalties for fentanyl and car theft for example. Polis has reduced police effectiveness, signing laws that put more and more burdens on officers, effectively reducing their ability to do their job. And in perfect step with the “Defund the Police” movement, when his policies cause crime to spike, Polis’ answer is useless leftist programs that seek to coddle criminals instead of punish them.
When Polis announced a 113 million dollar public safety legislative package, instead of joining him on the steps of the capitol, the County Sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police sent a letter to the Governor asking that he “recognize how recent legislation and policy changes have directly contributed to rising crime rates and struggles to recruit and retain officers.”
You would think a public safety package would be focused on helping get more officers on the street. But you would be wrong. The package followed Polis’ well-established philosophy: lower penalties, fewer cops, more social workers, more benefits for criminals.
Polis believes if you just send 4-year-olds to pre-school or do a better job of collecting trash, criminals will choose a different path. This is not hyperbole. Let’s look at his history.
Polis in Congress
In 2009, as a member of Congress, Polis was one of the few representatives to vote against an amendment to fund 200 additional Border Patrol agents. Polis railed on the house floor against the 287 (g) program, where local law enforcement works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to enforce immigration law.
In 2010, Polis literally argued that sending kids to preschool will prevent them from committing crimes in adulthood. Ever since he has pushed preschool as a cost saving measure under the insane theory the 4-year-olds won’t wind up in jail in their 40s. Also in 2010, he was one of only four U.S. representatives to vote against a resolution to fight Mexican drug cartels growing marijuana inside the U.S. on federal lands (the vote was 400-4).
In 2017, Polis voted against stopping federal grants going to sanctuary cities. Polis also voted against Kate’s Law, which increases criminal penalties for undocumented immigrants reentering the United States after being deported once already.
In May of 2018, Polis was one of a few Democrats to vote against a bill that defined an intentional crime against law enforcement officers as a hate crime, even though Polis supports using federal hate crime laws against other groups. That year, he also voted against a bill which authorizes the death penalty in the case of the murder or attempted murder of a police officer or other first responder.
According to the National Association of Police Organizations, Polis was in the bottom 15% of all U.S. representatives and senators regarding support for police officers during his last stint as a Congressman for Colorado.
Polis as Governor
During the last gubernatorial debate in 2018, Polis said the key to fighting crime is to “do a better job making sure that we address substance abuse and mental health issues,” and referred to criminals as patients when he said, “we can do better by having better coordination between healthcare and the corrections system to make sure that we’re having better patient outcomes at a lower cost to taxpayers.”
As Governor, Polis turned Colorado into a sanctuary state on May 28, 2019, when he signed into law House Bill 1124. The new law prohibited state and local law enforcement from honoring immigration detainers or requests by ICE to hold a criminal alien already in custody for up to 48 hours. That May, he also authorized voting rights for paroled felons and signed a law making it illegal for employers to ask if someone had a criminal record on job applications. Every step of the way Polis seeks to minimize the repercussions that criminals face.
Perhaps Polis’ worst decision was in May 2019 was when he signed a bill that downgraded possession of up to 4 grams of fentanyl to a misdemeanor. Meaning possessing enough fentanyl to kill 13,000 people would warrant a ticket.
In the wake of the George Floyd riots of 2020, Polis signed a bill on police accountability, Senate Bill 217. The law did require body cameras and was approved in a bipartisan fashion, but it also required a tremendous amount of reporting without any funding to provide such reporting. This effectively reduced the number of police that could be on the street without doing so explicitly by reducing officer’s time available for being in the field.
Moreover, the law removed qualified immunity, but only from local police officers. Meanwhile, state troopers and other state level personnel retained qualified immunity (including the University of Colorado police department), which is a clear indication the removal was a politically expedient move and not based on some higher principle. Without qualified immunity, it is harder for local police departments to recruit and maintain personnel. The personnel that remain may be overly cautious, as they worry about their own family if they make a good faith mistake. It’s another example of Polis pushing law enforcement away from energetically pursuing criminals.
In his 2021 State of the State address, Polis again expressed his desire to lighten penalties for criminals and divert funds from the criminal justice system to pet projects when he stated he wanted to invest “more in school counselors and less in overly harsh punishments.” In November 2021, Polis spent over a million dollars trying to bribe employers to hire ex-cons.
In February of this year, with great fanfare, Polis announced the $113 million public safety legislative package previously mentioned. The package mirrors Polis’ distorted idea of public safety in that, according to a Senate Republicans spokesman, less than 10% of the funds go to recruiting and retaining police officers.
The rest of the funds are basically designated for left-wing causes or left-wing groups under a very weak claim that they address public safety concerns in a more efficient manner than traditional policing. Money is slated to go to community organizations for activities such as “violence interruption programs”, “restorative justice services” and “co-responder programs”. Money is also slated for high crime areas, which would likely be Democrat-dominated cities, to make them safer through items such as “better lighting” and “improved trash collection”. I guess the theory is the sight of too much trash pushes people to commit crimes?
There’s $3.5 million of the “public safety” package designated to go to “health needs of persons in criminal justice system.” Apparently, Polis believes an appropriate response to exploding crime in Colorado is spend money addressing the health needs of criminals. There’s also $7 million designated for law enforcement professionals and public safety employees, but not necessarily for additional personnel as the money is designated exclusively to increase diversity.
The public safety bill package is a result of Polis distorted philosophy that social workers can replace cops. Polis seems to believe being nice to criminals and giving them stuff will “prevent crime before it occurs.”
Polis listens to left leaning groups like the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition which declared, “law enforcement’s role in promoting public safety is actually quite limited.” Polis ignores veteran police officers such as Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen who has stated, “A city can be safe if we just flood it with cops.”
Catch and release
When a criminal justice system is soft on crime, police quickly become overwhelmed. When Denver police arrest one person 9 times in 5 years (including weapons charges), or arrest the same person 6 times in one year for stealing cars, that’s a tremendous amount of police manpower that could be performing other tasks if these criminals were meaningfully incarcerated.
In their letter to Polis, the police groups added, “The inability to arrest and hold offenders results in offenders continuing to commit criminal acts, often escalating the severity of their crimes, and putting victims in fear of becoming revictimized.” This is an understatement. Examples are numerous:
Polis used Covid fears as a reason to release nearly 200 prisoners. At least two of them were quickly arrested for allegedly committing violent crimes soon after their release.
Christopher Vecchiarelli was accused of strangling a woman days after his Covid release and was quickly on the streets again after posting bond. His public defender argued that Polis had called on the Colorado Department of Corrections to release inmates early to alleviate Covid concerns.
Cornelius Haney was also Covid released by Polis. According to police, just days after release he murdered 21-year-old Heather Perry. Polis, avoiding any responsibility, coldly noted, “They couldn’t have held that person much longer than they did.”
Nicholas Tumblin had 22 felony charges in Colorado since 2009. The charges included aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, and a slew of drug distribution and possession offenses. He was jailed for a parole violation in September 2021. He was released 11 days later and 3 days after that, while out on parole, he shot and killed a man in Pueblo.
Kenneth Lee was convicted of sexually violent crimes and was sentenced to at least 23 years in prison in 2014. Yet he was paroled in April 2020 and in December 2021 he was charged with sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in Aurora.
These stories are just a few examples that made the news. Denver’s police chief has said that a third of the people arrested for homicide in 2020 were out on parole at the time and most of them were convicted felons. Denver alone has released thousands of defendants in felony cases without having to post bond. In March 2020, Stephanie Martinez was arraigned for an assault, released on a personal recognizance, or PR bond, and was arrested a few weeks later for beating an 80-year-old man to death.
An explosion of crime
Ultimately, the evidence for the futility of Polis’ pro-social worker and anti-police approach to crime is on our streets. Under Polis Colorado went from the 29th safest state in 2017 to the 34th safest state in 2021. Under Polis, Colorado has also led the nation in car theft and bank robberies. In the time Polis has been governor, Colorado’s rate of drug overdose deaths has nearly doubled.
Laughably, during the recent gubernatorial debate in Pueblo, Polis tried to paint the Republican candidate Heidi Ganahl (she was raised by a police officer) as wanting to defund the police. This literally drew laughter from the crowd.
Polis’ history of being soft on crime and diverting funds away from police and toward useless social programs is exactly in line with “Defund the Police” and has caused crime to spike in Colorado during his first term. At the debate, Polis claimed his policies can, “prevent crime before it happens,” but in truth, his policies have only served to embolden criminals who face little or no repercussions for their crimes.
As perfectly summarized by Heidi Ganahl, “Mr. Polis wants you to reelect him to fix the problems that he created.” However, Polis’ latest proposals to fight crime are the same ideas that allowed crime to explode in Colorado. They are the same ideas that, if Polis is reelected, will accelerate Colorado’s freefall into chaos.
Karl Dierenbach is an engineer, attorney and writer living in Centennial. Follow him on twitter at @dierenbach.
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