Headlines June 10, 2020

Headlines June 10, 2020

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The city of Boulder is grappling with police reform following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Critics say police tactics have become militarized and Boulder’s new police chief Maris Herold says it’s because training for police officers has been the same for decades.

“We tell and trains cops that if someone escalates, they escalate,” said Herold. “If the subject escalates again, we tell police to further escalate. And the only way to come back down is if the subject de-escalates – and it’s been devastating in policing for 30 years,” she said.

Since Floyd’s death, it’s been revealed that the officers involved had numerous complaints against them and even questionable credentials prior to joining the Minneapolis police force. Councilmember Junie Joseph asked Herold if she could guarantee that would not happen in Boulder.

“I would like some assurance that it’s possible for us not to hire a police officer who has been fired or had serious disciplinary misconduct,” said Joseph.

Herold responded that she would not hire a person with serious background issues.

Boulder has overhauled its police oversight policies in the past year to include hiring a full-time Independent Police Monitor to review investigations of misconduct and research policies that need reform.

Early in the meeting, the city manager advised council that economic damage to the city’s budget from COVID-19 would make it difficult to change police department funding for 2020, and recommended council take that up in 2021.

The City of Denver is dealing with its own issues around police reform. City Council members this week proposed a ballot measure that would give council the ability to block key hires like the chief of police.

Currently, Denver mayors have the sole power to appoint department directors of 14 key positions within the city government, those include the police chief, sheriff and fire chief.

The Denverite reports that on Tuesday, council members Amanda Sawyer and Candi CdeBaca proposed a ballot measure that would allow council to approve or block the mayor’s appointments with a majority vote.

Sawyer and CdeBaca came up with the measure last October, but have now brought it to the forefront because of the recent protests over systemic racism and police brutality.

Later this month the city’s full legislative body will vote on whether to send the measure to Denver voters. Voters would then have to approve the charter change in November.

The Tattered Cover in Denver is coming under fire for a statement it made about the Black Lives Matter protests. Over the weekend the owners of the store Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan, wrote that the bookstore was sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement, but they were essentially choosing to remain neutral and said that the store had a  “nearly fifty-year policy of not engaging in public debate.”

The statement went on to cite examples like not taking a position on Denver’s handling of homelessness.

The statement drew swift response on social media. . Several authors weighed in calling out the store for trying to stay neutral on the issue of racism.

In response to the criticism the bookstore issued an apology to customers and staff which is posted on its website.

The statement said “the Tattered Cover will no longer stand by while human rights are being violated. To be silent is to be complicit, to be neutral in the face of injustice is an act of injustice itself.”

Several authors canceled virtual events at the store including Brit Bennett, an African American writer who was scheduled to speak on June 8th about her latest book the Vanishing Half.

 

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Last night a vigil was held in Denver’s Civic Center Park honoring George Floyd, the man who was killed by police in Minneapolis about two weeks ago.

Floyd was laid to rest in his hometown of Houston yesterday. His death has sparked protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world.

The Denverite reports that the vigil began with a guided meditation which set the tone to be introspective and to release frustration and anger.

And while the vigil was for Floyd, those who addressed the crowd also eulogized Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered while jogging in Georgia and Breonna Taylor who was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky

Those attending the vigil in Denver lighted candles as the sunset and were silent for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time that a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck on May 25.

On Tuesday the Aurora Police Department changed policies in response to ongoing protests in the city and across the country.  Officers in Aurora officers are now banned from holds that pressure the carotid arteries in a person’s neck.

The Denver Post Reports that other changes include the requirement that police have a duty to intervene when another officer is violating department policy. And officers involved in a violent conflict will be replaced with those who are fresh – and should be less emotionally involved and able to de-escalate the situation.

An additional policy change arises directly from police conduct during their encounter with Elijah McClain in which they used a chokehold on him.  He died afterward.  A caller had reported him as acting suspiciously after he was seen walking down the street while wearing a mask.

Now, officers will need to stand back and observe a person and then make the judgment call whether further engagement is warranted, according to interim police chief Vanessa Wilson.

The new directives in Aurora take effect immediately and follow new policies announced Sunday by the Denver Police in the wake of mass community protests.

In related news, a panel of Aurora city lawmakers sent a letter yesterday to City Manager Jim Twombly asking for an independent third-party investigation into the death of Elijah Mclain.

The Sentinel reports that the three council members who wrote the letter said that they have watched the events over the last several days, and it has become clear that public trust has eroded.  They said it is their responsibility to take the first step to see that it is restored, and that they want more than the investigation that is already underway, because it is being conducted by a person who has decades-long relationship with law enforcement.

It is not clear whether the city manager will honor the request for a different investigator.

District Attorney Dave Young who initially reviewed the investigation into the death of Elijah McClain said he will not reopen the matter despite hundreds of thousands of signatures on a petition asking just for that.

He told KDVR that his office doesn’t base filing decisions on signatures, but only on evidence and what they can prove.

The Fire Chief in Lyons has resigned after posting inflammatory comments about racial justice protesters in Denver.

The NAACP began an investigation last Friday into a post made Chief J.J. Hoffman in May in response to someone’s remark about protesters. That post said that Denver police should have the fire department use a 2 and a half-inch line to wash all the human trash into the gutter.

Hoffman responded with a remark saying, quote, “ha ha if I was down there I definitely would open up our high-pressure bumper turret and have some fun.”

The NAACP said in a release that State Representative Jonathan Singer, a member of the Boulder County Branch, filed a formal complaint asking that it launch an investigation into Hoffman’s remarks.

Hoffman served as Lyon’s fire chief for the past 11 years. An announcement of his resignation was made on the Lyons Fire Protection District website.

Lawmakers in the Colorado Senate have given final approval to a measure that would expand access to more affordable health insurance options for thousands of families in the state, at a time when many Colorado families are struggling.

According to a release from Healthier Colorado, Senate Bill 215 would continue Colorado’s successful reinsurance program as well as expand access to more affordable health insurance for thousands of Coloradans who purchase their insurance on the individual marketplace.

The proposal would continue a federal fee on insurance companies at the state level that is set to expire. It would not cost the state any money.

Healthier Colorado says that the reinsurance program has lowered premiums on the individual markets. Also, the bill would reduce insurance premiums for lower-income Coloradans that receive federal subsidies under the ACA.

The bill was approved on a vote of 19 to 15 and will now move to the Colorado House for consideration and is expected to be heard today in committee.

Yesterday, leaders of the Boulder Valley School District committed to having a broader conversation about police in schools. However, the Daily Camera reports they did not agree to a call by community leaders to eliminate the school resource officer program.

The NAACP is leading a local effort to remove police from Boulder Valley’s schools, similar to an effort underway in the Denver Public Schools, amid nationwide protests and outcry over police brutality and killings of black people.

Boulder Valley Superintendent Rob Anderson urged the board to “begin a thoughtful conversation with our community” on the issue of police in schools, saying students, parents, teachers and school administrators need to be included. He plans to present a process and timeline to the school board at its June 23 meeting.