Boulder gets first look at long-awaited police reform document

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Saturday, July 23, 2022

Boulder’s city council next week discuss the long-awaited results of “Reimagining Policing,” the reform efforts / update to Boulder PD’s guiding document. The effort, part of a national movement pushed by The Obama Foundation, are the latest in a series of changes that began in 2019. 

Read the draft plan

That was the year Zayd Atikinson, a Naropa student, was confronted by several armed officers while picking up trash outside his Boulder home. Mass protests followed, resulting in a new civilian oversight panel and hiring of an independent police monitor to increase residents’ involvement in disciplinary matters.

Police Chief Maris Herold, noted for her reform efforts in Cincinnati, began internal reforms after joining BPD in 2020, first overhauling policies on use of force and firearms and later implementing de-escalation training.

“Reimagining Policing” was launched in 2021. Rather than a customary refresh of the Police Master Plan — last updated in 2013 — the city hailed “Reimagining” as an opportunity to “create meaningful changes to public safety in Boulder.”

The moves have not insulated Herold or her department from heavy criticism. A working agreement with the FBI spurred backlash from groups historically targeted by federal surveillance, and continued ticketing of unhoused persons even as the city’s homeless shelter hits capacity has drawn the ire of activists and advocates (though that policy is set by elected officials rather than police).

In a “Letter from the Chief” at the beginning of the Reimagining Policing document, Herold writes of the need to reduce arrests and farm out some of the department’s responsibility to other agencies, and promises that new police practices will address “inequities and concerns raised by social justice activists.”

“A holistic government model of public safety produces outcomes that are more effective, ethical, and equitable than relying on law enforcement alone to address crime and victimization,” Herold wrote. “Asking officers to continually respond to recurring problems, with no plan to address underlying conditions, is unacceptable.”

The draft plan includes six focus areas — mostly about working with the community while maintaining a healthy police force — and a values statement, which reads,

“We feel safe in our community when:

  • We are all free to enjoy public and private spaces without fear of harm;
  • Laws are enforced equitably;
  • Police respond professionally and respectfully when we need them, but we have alternative and creative resources to address problems not suited to policing;
  • We demonstrate we are a compassionate community that supports the basic needs and the right to be free from crime for all community members;
  • Criminal behavior is met with accountability measures that are fair and just within policing and other systems, with opportunities for individuals to be supported in underlying issues; and
  • Officers are part of the communities they serve, building relationships and understanding and addressing problems before having to step up enforcement and resort to force.”

There will not be opportunity for public input at the July 28 study session, but a fourth engagement window will begin later this month or next and run through September. Community members will be invited to provide feedback on the draft plan.

Council is scheduled to approve the plan in December.

Also July 28
Staff will update council on plans to convert city streetlights to LED, and on efforts to reduce noise, partying and trash on University Hill.

Read: Boulder plans noise crackdown on University Hill. Boulder Reporting Lab

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle

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1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. We certainly need more police. A 75 year old woman was mugged by a thug who isn’t even from here in central park last week. The woman was a tourist walking with her husband enjoying the day until she was attacked. We need more police!

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