Colorado Springs City Council Moves Toward A Vote On Police Advisory Committee

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Colorado Springs City Council had its second work session on Tuesday around the formation of a police advisory committee.

Two groups presented proposals on the idea. Both plans called for increased communication, transparency and accountability for the Colorado Springs Police Department. 

Robbie Johnson and Justin Baker put forth a proposal from a group called Back to the People, made up of young activists. 

They outlined ideas for an advisory committee, including citizens who would be interviewed and put through a hiring process by city council members. The committee would be involved in independent and external audits of the police department, and offer policy recommendations on the use of force and training procedures.

"We don't want to be the 'too late' story," said Baker. "We want to prevent that. And we want to set Colorado Springs up for success, and move us in the right direction through transparency and accountability."

Johnson said he was grateful for the people participating in the protests who gave advice on the proposal.

"What the people want is in the document," said Johnson.

Pastor and UCCS professor Stephany Rose Spaulding presented a different set of recommendations, which involved many similar points about police accountability and transparency.

It was a continuation of conversations from earlier in the year, which included a community conversation in February, as well as a trip to a conference by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.

The group on the trip, which also included Councilman Wayne Williams, talked about the conference in April and was set to present recommendations in a meeting at the end of June, but city council members moved the meeting up to address continued protests in the city over the killing of George Floyd and police brutality.

Spaulding said the proposal reflects "a long, invested work for justice."

"What we have seen is these protests didn't start three weeks ago," said Spaulding, "and they're not going to end until this city recognizes you have a responsibility to not just speak about justice, but to live it."

There were different opinions on the kind of group that should be formed, one called a presidential commission and the other a city council committee.

Both Spaulding and Council President Richard Skorman said a presidential commission would allow for expedited action on policing in the city. Other city council members, like Wayne Williams, brought up concerns that presidential commissions might not allow for public process like a city council committee would.

As city council members discussed both proposals, a majority were in support of a committee wherein community members would be chosen and vetted by council members.

Council member Yolanda Avila, though, supported the creation of a presidential commission. She said it would allow the community to drive the conversation and not the council.

"It's about the community having a voice," said Avila. "And we have been screaming and crying to have our voice [heard]. Not only have we been screaming and crying, we've been dying."

Council members landed on combining key points from both proposals into a final draft at a work session next Monday. They then would plan to vote on the creation of a committee for police accountability at the council session the following day.

Colorado Springs City Council opened applications for volunteers for the committee on Wednesday.

Skorman ended the meeting by stating that people from the community will have a chance to comment on the details, the selection process for committee members and any future recommendations when the proposal goes up to vote next Tuesday.