As many public agencies across the country are reexamining their relationships with local police departments, one Regional Transportation District board member is calling for the transportation district to end its contracts with off-duty police and private security officers and replace them with social workers and mental health specialists.
Board member Shontel Lewis first introduced the measure Tuesday, June 9, and brought it up again Tuesday, June 16, at RTD board meetings. She tells CBS4 she’s working to gain more support from other board members, and hopes the measure will be put up for a vote in the coming weeks.
“Essentially, it’s an ask of staff to hire more mental health professionals that can respond to mental health crises for individuals that are on our platforms or on our services,” Lewis said. “Our staff receives calls from the general public saying this person is in crises, and so our system wouldn’t necessarily change, what would change is the person who responds to it.”
Lewis said her proposal does not include cutting any funding for the RTD Police force, because RTD can oversee how those officers are trained.
Lewis also said one catalyst for her proposal was a 2018 incident, in which a local artist, Raverro Stinnett, was beaten by RTD-contracted private security guards in a bathroom at Union Station.
“He suffered a number of brain injuries that have really derailed his art career. He was a full ride scholarship to the college of Rocky Mountain Art and design, but he wasn’t able to keep up with his coursework after that, he’s had to withdraw,” said Stinnett’s attorney, Felipe Bohnet-Gomez.