The Denver City Council confirmed Tuesday the appointment of Armando Saldate as director of public safety, but the vote was not unanimous.
City Council member Candi CdeBaca voted against Mayor Michael Hancock's nomination. She said her constituents do not want Saldate promoted. Saldate has worked eight years with Denver police, currently serving as assistant deputy executive director. His duties have ranged from senior investigator to supervisor in the data science department.
CdeBaca said Saldate has been slow to promote police reforms suggested by the Task Force to Reimagine Policing. She said he developed programs that criminalize homelessness, such as SET or the street enforcement team. The six-member SET team patrols areas around encampments. Officers can write tickets for 20 city code violations, including trespassing, sidewalk obstruction, public urination, and urban camping.
"Here we are elevating him at one of the most challenging parts of our history," CdeBaca said before the vote. "I cannot in good conscience support this nomination."
She urged Saldate to speak against injustice and act to remedy it.
Council member Paul Kashmann asked Saldate what he means by "public safety through public health," one of his favorite catchphrases. Saldate explained that public health issues, such as addiction and mental illness, significantly affect policing.
Reimagine policing task force respected
Saldate said he takes the recommendations of the Task Force to Reimagine Policing seriously. But he will continue to disagree with some suggestions.
Saldate said after the mayor nominated him, he called Dr. Robert Davis first. Davis oversees the Task Force to Reimagine Policing. "We have to make ourselves available to have these hard conversations," Saldate said.
Council President Pro Tem Jamie Torres asked Saldate how things would be different under his leadership. Saldate said he'd provide more accessibility by "being out and being seen." His staff also will spend more time in the community.
He doesn't plan any "big agendas or big initiatives but will make "substantive change on this matter." He said that includes holding police officers accountable for misconduct.
"Accountability is something that has always been important to me," Saldate told the council. "Officers are not robots. They make mistakes."