“It’s so important that we feel we’re belonging, because most of the people we talk to they don’t have anything.”
Dan Benavidez is one of the founders of El Comite in Longmont which was founded in the early 1980s in response to the fatal shooting of two Latino youth by police officers. He went on to become the first Latino to be elected to the Longmont City Council (at large) and as Mayor Pro Tem. “Even through all of this journey, I never felt I belonged.”
In July 2014 Longmont police chief Mike Butler invited Benavidez to join him walking through communities in Longmont , particularly through some of the highest crime neighborhoods and disenfranchised parts of the City of Longmont in an effort to connect “public” and “safety”. The walks, which have happened practically every Sunday morning for the past 12 months, are an extension of the city’s progressive Restorative Justice Program, a program that works to resolve criminal behavior before it enters the traditional justice system. Benavidez says helping people feel like they belong is one of the critical missing ingredients whenever problems flare up,”it’s so important that we feel we’re belonging, because most of the people we talk to they don’t have anything.”
Members of Longmont’s city council and Boulder County Commissioners have now started to accompany Benavidez and chief Butler in their weekly walks. Benavidez says there has been an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the communities in Longmont and he says the experience has had a profound impact on him personally, “I’m starting to feel that I belong now.”
Dan Benavidez and police chief Mike Butler will speak about their community walks on Wednesday June 24th from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the First Congregational Church 1128 Pine Street in Boulder.
Dan Benavidez will join police chief Mike Butler on July 10th in Washington DC for a gathering of police chiefs from all over the country to share their model of walking in the community