After watchdogs stop work, what’s next for police oversight in Boulder?

Thursday, May 18, 2023 (Updated Tuesday, May 23)
A version of this article was originally published in Boulder Weekly

Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel (POP) last week enacted a partial work stoppage, even as they were warned by city attorneys that doing so could cost them their seats on the watchdog group. The move was necessary, members argued, to send a message to City Council and prevent resignations in protest of the ouster of panelist Lisa Sweeney-Miran.

“This vilification of one of us was an attempt to intimidate all of us,” said panelist Mylene Vialard. “It’s clear disrespect of this oversight panel.”

Under the terms of the stoppage, the panel will stop reviewing new cases of alleged police misconduct until the ordinance governing the POP’s work can be amended. The panel ultimately voted 8-1 to proceed.

Jason Savela, the lone dissenting vote, said continuing the work was essentially to build community trust in the panel.

“As a public defender, I know there are cases we are not seeing, and we’re not seeing them because people don’t trust that process,” Savela said. “I’m more upset that people who are suffering violence are not even willing to bring their issue to us. I would rather us be available for them to talk to than not be here.”

“It’s not really a question of whether we suspend the work or not,” countered Sam Zhang. “The work is going to be disrupted no matter what, because of council.”

City attorneys warned panelists that they could be removed for their decision, if a code of conduct complaint is filed and upheld against them. That could be avoided by asking City Council for permission to stop work, Erin Poe said during Wednesday’s meeting.

“As a product of the civil rights movement and many protests, I can’t recall one where we got permission,” said panelist Madelyn Strong Woodley. “Change happened as a result of taking some very drastic actions.”

Here’s a rundown of what this means for police oversight in the city:

What will the panel do during the work stoppage?

The POP will not review any new complaints or allegations of misconduct. They will finish out the dozen they’ve already committed to review.

No committees will meet, either, except those necessary to work on updating the ordinance that guides the oversight panel’s work. Two members of the POP, to be determined, will serve on that workgroup.

What happens to complaints against the police in the meantime?

The Independent Monitor will continue to review cases of alleged misconduct. The monitor can recommend disciplinary actions, as the panel does. Boulder’s temporary monitor is Florence Finkle, who works with Los Angeles-based OIR Group and is a board member for the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.

Any complaints filed during the work stoppage would “most likely be closed” by the time the POP resumes, Finkle said.

How long will the stoppage last?

As long as it takes to update the ordinance. Farah Muscadin, a consultant hired by the city to help the panel in the absence of a permanent monitor, laid out a possible timeline.

The work will begin this week; a community feedback session on the ordinance is tentatively scheduled for the week of June 19. The workgroup hopes to meet with City Council for an August study session, with first reading of the ordinance in September and a vote and passage the first week of October.

Who will be in the workgroup?

Two members of POP, a representative from the Boulder Police Department, a city attorney, representatives from the Boulder County NAACP branch and El Centro Amistad — the community organizations who had members on POP’s selection committee — and Martha Wilson, a former panelist who began working on ordinance changes after resigning in November.

An attorney not affiliated with the city may join the group as well. POP voted to request that the city pay for outside counsel.

“We’ve requested independent counsel several times,” panel member Hadasa Villalobos said, but those requests have not been honored.

“That hasn’t been a, ‘No, you can’t do it,’” Leonard clarified. “It’s been a ‘Pick your legal counsel and set your budget.’”’

What parts of the ordinance might be changed?

That will in part be determined by the process. So far, two areas have been specifically called out by current and former panelists and community members: The need for an independent attorney to advise POP, and changes to the language around bias that were the crux of Sweeney-Miran’s dismissal.

What happens next?

Although the panel is not asking the city’s permission to stop work, Council may still discuss it. As of yet, it has not been added to the agenda.

If a code of conduct complaint is filed, the Council will have to take action. Complaints must be investigated, either internally or by an outside party.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Poe said. “This is a unique situation … we’ll see what direction [council members] want to take.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct attribution of a quote to Mylene Vialard. It was incorrectly attributed to Sam Zhang in an earlier version.

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle or on Mastodon at

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3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I have just sent the following message to the City of Boulder website:

    To Whom It May Concern:

    Please regard this submission as my formal complaint against the Police

    Oversight Panel as a body.

    Years ago, as a homeless camper on the outskirts of north Boulder, I had cause

    to make a complaint against an individual officer to Boulder PD’s Professional

    Standards Unit. The matter was quickly resolved in my favor and I found the

    process more than fair. I’ve been watching the confusing antics of everyone

    involved in the nascent Police Oversight Panel, and to me it’s abundantly clear

    that there is an inappropriate influence being exercised by outside special

    interest groups, all of which can accurately be described as Progressive

    advocates with an inherent anti-law enforcement bias. POP members are out

    of touch with ordinary citizens who generally support policing and public


    Now, POP members (with one exception) are trying to extort City Council to

    change municipal ordinances with an eye to corrupting POP’s mission from one

    of oversight to a different goal altogether: Punishing the police department

    and rendering their difficult job impossible.

    This must NOT be allowed to stand!

    I ask that City Council remove all Police Oversight Panel members who have

    voted to discontinue reviewing new complaints brought against officers.

    Further, I ask that City Council reconsider whether such a group is necessary to

    good policing, free from extremist political influence, for the citizens of


    Thank you for your time and consideration of my formal complaint.

    Max R. Weller
    Boulder Post Acute, Room 415B
    2121 Mesa Dr.
    Boulder, CO 80404

    • Russell and Leslie Chandler are no friends of the Boulder Community. They are driven by chaos. As their family member, I rest my case.

  2. ETA 5/20/2023: I’ve been informed by a city official that I must appear before the City Clerk to file an affidavit, but I have limited mobility . . . I’ve asked if it’s permissible to use a notary here at the nursing home and mail my affidavit to the city, and am waiting to hear back.

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