Armando Saldate is Denver’s top public safety official after the City Council voted 12-1 Tuesday night to approve his nomination to the post.
Already the city’s acting director of public safety, Saldate now officially succeeds Murphy Robinson in that role. He will be immediately faced with the challenge of mending relationships with police reform advocates that he has personally been accused of damaging.
“No problems get solved when people are in their corners,” Saldate said at Tuesday’s meeting when asked about his willingness to work with the community-led Reimagine Policing and Public Safety Task Force. “We have to come to the middle. We have to be able to talk to each other with respect (and) with courage. We have to have the courage to have those tough conversations.”
Saldate was previously Robinson’s representative to that task force. But Robinson pulled all public safety department staff out of the group last year after a disagreement. Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca laid the blame for Robinson’s decision on Saldate, who she says has made false allegations about people in her office in other situations that colored the broader perception of the task force.
He has “failed to show the integrity that we should expect from someone at this level of government,” CdeBaca said. “I have not witnessed his ability to act courageously in a public setting.”
CdeBaca was the lone no vote against Saldate’s nomination.
But the newly minted director of public safety said he has already reached out to Dr. Robert Davis, who is coordinating the task force project. He is committed to starting a productive dialogue, he assured council members.
Councilwoman Jamie Torres asked Saldate if he was also committed to removing toxic employees from Denver’s public safety agencies. After 20 years with the Phoenix Police Department, Saldate broke into the public safety realm in Denver by taking a job doing internal affairs investigations with the Denver Sheriff Department.
He noted that public safety workers are human beings that make mistakes and should be given second chances in some circumstances, but he told Torres he is committed to removing bad actors.
“I have arrested uniformed cops,” Saldate said. “Accountability is something that has always been important to me and I’m not afraid to hold that accountability to our officers.”
Saldate joined Mayor Michael Hancock’s cabinet at a time when the mayor is promising to address rising crime as his final term in office nears its end next spring.
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