Headlines May 24, 2021

Headlines May 24, 2021

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Bill at Legislature to Examine Police Response to Last Year’s Racial Justice Protests

Tomorrow will mark one year since the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.  The murder sparked protests in many places including Denver, and now legislators in Colorado’s General Assembly are considering a bill that would examine the response of law enforcement to those demonstrations.

The Associated Press reports that the proposed measure comes after outrage by activists over local police department’s reaction to the racial protests over Floyd’s death and that of Elijah McClain in Aurora. The largely peaceful demonstrations in late May and early June in Denver and Aurora were met with tear gas and hundreds of arrests. The American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits against the city on behalf of Black Lives Matter 5280 and several demonstrators who were allegedly injured by police.

The pending measure at the legislature was amended last week to eliminate a provision that would have prohibited officials from deeming protests unlawful – unless a significant number of protestors posed an imminent threat to property or personal injuries. Now, if passed, it will establish a study group led by the Colorado State Patrol to differentiate between lawful demonstrators and outside agitators engaging in unlawful actions.

Denise Maes of the ACLU of Colorado said that what they were seeing across cities in Colorado, was basically ad hoc and arbitrary methods of law enforcement to deem something an unlawful assembly with no consistency.

The bill currently is in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be voted on during a future meeting.

Report by Task Force Makes Many Recommendations about Denver Policing, Jails and Courts

And in related news, on Friday a task force of the city of Denver released a report listing more than 100 recommendations about law enforcement, including a sweeping new vision for how policing, jails and the courts should operate.

Denverite reports that among the many changes, the first is to create an autonomous, non-law enforcement institution that would foster community-based public safety programming.

Other recommendations include creating community-level courts, decriminalizing drug use and public intoxication, and removing armed police officers from routine traffic stops.

The task force list included increasing housing for people without homes and legalizing safe drug use sites.

Generally, the changes aim to give more power to residents and community groups to address public safety and its socioeconomic underpinnings and give locals more oversight of the police and sheriff departments.

The task force comprised residents, elected officials and community groups.

Students at CU Boulder Sanctioned for March Incident 

Officials at Colorado University in Boulder have taken action against students who participated in a large outdoor party on University Hill that turned violent. The University placed 43 students on probation and suspended four others in connection with the incident in early March.

The Daily Camera reports that a large outdoor party grew out of control as some flipped cars and damaged property. Three police officers suffered minor injuries. CU Boulder received names of 96 students who may have been involved and referred 55 of them to student conduct process.

Colorado Shows Some Signs of Economic Recovery – But Unemployment Claims Rise

There are some signs that Colorado economy is recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

According to the state Department of Labor and Employment, there are now more people working in April this year than last year.  But the state’s rate of unemployment has remained the same ant 6.4% for the third straight month.

A spokesperson for the agency told the Colorado Sun that the reason that the rate has stayed the same is because the number of jobs and size of the labor force are growing at a similar pace.

The rate of residents participating in the labor force in Colorado is tied for the second-highest in the country, and the state is now only one of seven to fully regain their pre-pandemic level.

However, the state is still missing almost 130,000 payroll jobs that were lost during March and April of last year, and some industries are still not growing.

The lost jobs may explain why 16,000 Coloradans filed for unemployment for the first time in April – 3.5 times more than two years ago.

Air Pollution Regulators Accept Report about Suncor Changes

State air pollution regulators have said they would accept changes to the Suncor refinery in Commerce City that have been recommended by a consultant to prevent some toxic releases.

The investigation was done as part of a settlement between Suncor and the state Department of Public health and Environment last year after air quality violations that affected surrounding neighborhoods.

The Colorado Sun reports that the state had asked for stronger measures than the initial consultant’s report, but is now approving the revised plan.

State health officials praised the plan but also said they would keep watching Suncor, whose operations in recent years have prompted repeated neighborhood protests, environmental justice demands and new air monitoring proposals at the Legislature.

Bicyclists Take to Streets after Three Died Last Week

Dozens of bicyclists took to the streets in Denver yesterday afternoon to demonstrate for safer roads, and to draw attention to the dangers of distracted, speeding and impaired drivers.

The rally was spurred by the deaths of three bicyclists last week including a 60-year-old man who was struck on Foothills Parkway in Boulder.

Denver7 reports the demonstrators gathered at a skate park downtown with the goal of letting drivers know that bike riders are on the road too, and drivers need to exercise caution.