Law Enforcement Transparency And Accountability Committee Moves Forward In Colorado Springs

June 23, 2020
The statewide stay-at-home order lifts on April 26, but Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers says a return to normalcy will come in phases for the city. (Colorado Springs City Hall File Photo)The statewide stay-at-home order lifts on April 26, but Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers says a return to normalcy will come in phases for the city. (Colorado Springs City Hall File Photo) Andrea Chalfin / 91.5 KRCC
The statewide stay-at-home order lifts on April 26, but Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers says a return to normalcy will come in phases for the city. (Colorado Springs City Hall File Photo)

Colorado Springs City Council members voted in favor of an ordinance that forms a commission to oversee police transparency and accountability in the city.

The vote was 8 to 1.

In its current form, the commission will utilize data-driven audits of law enforcement performance, provide an avenue for the community to share concerns and provide feedback to city council in regard to policy recommendations. Other areas of inquiry will be approved by city council.

It will have 11 members: one representative from each city council district and five additional at large members. Each member would serve a maximum of two three-year terms.

More than two dozen community members called into the meeting. An overwhelming number asked for a completely independent commission from the city, the Colorado Springs Police Department and El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

Nicole Hannigan was one of many who said the voices of people of color need to be amplified, with at large members specifically representing the southeast portion of the city.

"It needs to be people from the communities who have dealt and suffered with the pain and injustices that have been happening for years," she said. "This needs to be something that the people can be involved with so that we can rebuild trust with CSPD."

Many participating in the public comments urged council members to act quickly in creating and giving power to an independent board that would serve to amplify the concerns of people of color in the city.

"It's crucial in order to restore faith in the system to have this committee and it needs to have been set up, in my opinion...yesterday," said Khalil Yarborough, who grew up in Colorado Springs and has two young biracial children. He said his kids have grown fearful of police.

Other concerns include having a process for people to report complaints about police interactions that would be protected from retaliation.

Prior to the vote, District 6 Representative Andy Pico said the urgency from the community came through loud and clear.

"[This draft of the ordinance] may not be perfect, but I think it captures most everything we need to do," he said.

District 1 Representative Don Knight disagreed, and said he would rather hammer out the details of the ordinance, which he felt was lacking.

"This is a great skeleton, but all of the meat that the people gave us is missing," Knight said. Specifically, Knight was referring to who can serve on the board, how they will be selected and how or if the board will have access to law enforcement data.

Only Yolanda Avila voted against the commission, calling it "lukewarm," and saying it "didn't give a voice to the community."

Avila also raised questions about several ideas that were ultimately not included in the actual document: that the committee consist of only registered voters and a requirement for background checks. The mention, she said, was racist and offensive.

"This has never been considered on any other board, commission or committee ever," said Avila. "Is it because we're going to have brown and Black people on this one?"

Other members of council took issue with Avila's comments, saying that they never officially made it into the ordinance and that other entities, like the Citizens Police Academy, require background checks.

Next steps for the city council include determining how to vet the more than 600 current applicants for the commission and select the 11 who will servce. Other topics for further discussion include limitations the commission will face based on state law regarding access to personnel files and certain law enforcement documents.

Applications will continue to be accepted through July 1st.

The ordinance is up for a second vote next month.

Read the ordinance here.

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