COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — For weeks this past summer, protesters gathered at Colorado Springs City Hall to voice their frustration with the police killings of black men and women both locally and around the country.
Their efforts moved city council members to create a citizens advisory board providing oversight of the Colorado Springs Police Department. It appears that reform has not gone far enough as a coalition of progressive groups is now calling for the city to defund the CSPD.
Chauncey Johnson was one of the leaders during the protests. He said the new Law Enforcement Transparency and Accountability Commission lacks the power to hold police officers accountable. Any recommendations from the board must still be voted on by the city council.
"It's kind of just basically just a slap in the face," Johnson said. "It's basically your just a PR stunt, like oh yeah, we'll pretend like we're listening to you but we don't care at all. We're just going to do what we need to do."
Johnson is a member of a local branch of the political group Colorado Springs Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). On Wednesday, they issued a news release that called Mayor John Suthers' 2021 budget proposal, "out of touch and both fiscally and morally irresponsible."
Spokesperson Maryah Lauer explained that the DSA wants to abolish police departments in favor of spending the money on social programs that address the root causes of crime.
"I think it's also very important that people know how much the police eat up our current budget, that they consume over a third of the city budget as is," Lauer said.
Johnson also thinks city money is not being spent adequately. For example, he said the city could do more to create emergency housing for the homeless.
"If we want to be more evolved than that, why don't we spend our money evolving our homeless situation the way that we're supposed to and the way that the people have asked," he said.
The news release finds other faults with the budget proposal like a rejection of a request for a Victim Advocate and additional funds for court-appointed legal defense. They point out public safety funding is growing at a time when city funding to senior services, community centers, neighborhood parks maintenance are all decreasing.
The coalition is made of organizations and individuals including but not limited to the Chinook Center, Empowerment Solidarity Network, Colorado Springs DSA, Pikes Peak Women for Liberation, Justice 4 De'Von Editorial Board, Immigrant Justice Alliance, Colorado Springs Pro-Housing Partnership.
They're asking Colorado Springs residents for their input in a People's Budget Survey.
City Council will discuss the budget for the first time at a work session on Tuesday, October 20. The first public hearing and town hall, where members of the public can comment, is scheduled for Monday, October 26.