Headlines December 8, 2020

Headlines December 8, 2020

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Denver’s Independent Police Monitor Slams DPD response to George Floyd Protests

A new report slams the Denver Police Department for its handling of racial justice protests last summer. The report says the department ignored its own policies, put people in danger, and failed to keep records on much of its protest-related activity. The report was released Monday by the Office of the Independent Monitor, the city agency that acts as a watchdog on the police and sheriffs departments. Several days of protests took place in late May and early June after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

The report says Denver police shot protestors with pepper balls and pepper spray even though they were not engaged in physical resistance to police. The pepper balls and other projectiles were sometimes fired at people’s heads, faces, and groins which makes the so-called non-lethal weapons much more dangerous. Writing in the report, Independent Monitor Nick Mitchell calls the use-of-force “extremely troubling.”

Among the other findings in the report: Police body cameras were sometimes turned off when they should’ve been on, officers failed to identify themselves, required use-of-force reports were often not filed and the use of munitions were not properly tracked. The report says the lack of documentation makes it harder to fully analyze and evaluate police response and claims of misconduct.

The report also details how, after the first night of protests, the police ran out of rubber ball grenades, pepper balls, tear gas, and other crowd-control weapons. So they sent a Colorado State Patrol airplane up to a manufacturer in Wyoming so they could re-stock these items.

The report recommends over a dozen specific reforms. These include a ban on rubber ball grenades, limits on the use of pepper balls, and specific tracking of use-of-force and use of weapons.

Boulder County Reports More Deaths from COVID-19

Boulder County Public Health spokesperson Chana Goussetis said that the two who died Friday and the three who died on Saturday were ages 60 to 80. Two of the five were residents of long-term care facilities.

The Daily Camera reports that to date, this brings the county total to over 12,000 cases and 140 deaths.

The county is in a downturn as Monday recorded the lowest hospitalization rate since Nov. 16 with the five-day average of new daily cases being the lowest it has been since early November.

Since Dec. 1, there have been over 1000 cases and 18 deaths reported in the county.

Boulder, Longmont, and then Lafayette are the cities with the highest rates of infection.

Statewide, cases total over 250,000 with 3000 deaths and nearly 15,000 people hospitalized.

Former CU Boulder Professor Donates Millions to Science Education

A Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former CU Boulder professor donated $3 million in prize money to a science education program. Carl Wieman was awarded the Yidan Prize in Education Research Monday for his work in STEM education (science technology engineering and math.) Wieman donated his award money to the PhET program at CU-Boulder. The program offers over 100 free interactive online simulations for teaching and learning science.

Wieman won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2001 and used that prize money to start the PhET program at CU-Boulder, where he taught for 25 years. He’s now on the faculty at Stanford.

Enrollment Down in Metro Area Schools 

Enrollment is down in Boulder County public schools and in schools throughout the metro area. The Boulder Valley School District enrollment dropped by about 1600 students compared to last year. St Vrain Valley Schools are down 600 kids. The sharp decrease is attributed to the impact of COVID-19 on public education. St Vrain’s enrollment was growing prior to the pandemic and Boulder Valley enrollment was posting slight declines. The Daily Camera reports that most of the current declines in both districts are at the elementary level as parents choose other options for their kids during the pandemic. For example, three St Vrain charter schools posted enrollment gains. Charters are independent and do not have to follow district guidelines. Some charter schools have offered more in-person learning options for kids.