Boulder Approves Ordinance to Create Police Oversight Committee

Boulder City Council approved an ordinance last night that helps establish a police oversight panel. The panel is supposed to help fix transparency and accountability, but as KGNU’s Roz Brown reports, not everyone thinks it will improve relations between police and the community.

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A reformed police oversight committee was initiated after a 2019 incident between a Black Naropa University student and a police officer. The incident drew national attention and outraged many local residents who felt it was an example of racial profiling.  Since then, a community group worked for more than a year to design an ordinance and encouraged the hiring of the city’s first independent police monitor. Councilmember Aaron Brocket weighed-in at last night’s virtual city council meeting, calling it a new day for policing in Boulder.

“I’ll just note that the monitor and this oversight committee are independent of the police department and will function as a separate entity, so it’s a good set of checks and balances,” said Brockett.

But not everyone agrees with Brockett. During the public hearing, Misha Toor argued that the committee is not a progressive solution.

“You’re allowing the cops to investigate themselves and decide how to reform themselves,” said Toor.  “I hope you see the irony here – at best this committee will be useless, at worst it paints a anti-racist veneer over a deeply racist, violent occupying force.”

Marcos Ospina noted that Boulder’s Chief of Police would have the final say on any disciplinary action following a citizen complaint.

“If the city council gets the final say on who serves on this panel, then the panel’s legitimacy is a stillbirth,” argued Ospina. “Boulder City Council has repeatedly sided with the police department on issues of covert and overt violence, especially against the un-housed community through sweeps.”

In the case of the Naropa student, Boulder determined the officer violated department policy, but an independent review found no evidence of racial profiling and the officer was allowed to resign with a city severance package.