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Conversations between protesters and city leaders spur action towards a Police Advisory Committee

Posted at 2:00 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-13 17:00:03-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Police transparency and accountability were the only items on the agenda for a special work session of the Colorado Springs City Council Thursday as the board heard from a group that's been developing plans for a new civilian oversight committee.

As News 5 previously reported, an ad-hoc group of city leaders known as the Law Enforcement Accountability Project led by Pastor Promise Lee began meeting after the fatal officer-involved shooting of De'Von Bailey last August.

The group is now referred to as the Austin Group after 12 members attended the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement annual symposium in Texas in early March.

"We have been doing a lot of legwork, doing research on civilian oversight of police departments that actually work," said Pastor Promise Lee who leads the group.

The group had planned to present a proposal for the council but asked for more time after meeting with protest leaders who've been holding daily demonstrations at City Hall since late May.

"In the last 24 hours, multiple new ideas have surfaced," Jody Alyn told the Council. Alyn is a local consultant who has been working with the Austin group.

Councilman Wayne Williams, who is the council representative of the Austin group, said he welcomed the chance to hear from more voices. "We don't want to limit it to just the people who were here today. We want anyone to feel like they have the opportunity to participate and to offer their suggestions."

Members of the Austin group and the protesters both want to see the city act quickly, but they also want good policy.

Speaking with reporters after the council meeting, Mayor John Suthers warned that the policy process could take some extra time. "I'm just saying if you really to understand exactly how the police department operates, what the procedures are, and contrast it to different departments, that's going to take some time and some education," Suthers said.

Pastor Lee pointed out that City Hall has resisted previous attempts to enact a citizen oversight board for the police department. He thinks the protesters will grow impatient if the process becomes too drawn out. "If City Council continues to perpetuate procrastination, the protests are going to continue and they're going to grow bigger, and bigger and bigger and bigger," he said. "We need action now."

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In a Behind the Springs podcast from the City of Colorado Springs, City Councilman At-large Wayne Williams explained the difference between proposals.

1) A private study group endorsed or supported by city council
2) A formal city committee.

A private study group would not be appointed or selected by council. The process would not be guaranteed to take place in the public sphere with full transparency. Details on this proposal are very limited as it would not be a formalized process.

In regards to a formal committee, Williams says questions remain on who will appoint the members, also whether any proceedings are subject to open records requests. He says most people within the group prefer the committee solution.

City council will meet again next week and may come to a decision on which direction to proceed. The committee option will require a city ordinance adopting an application process and all other formalities involved.

Williams envisions applicants and members will need to be familiar with or have the intention to familiarize themselves with police operations through ride-a-longs and fieldwork with officers and the community. This is a standard protocol for members of city committees.

The committee would then provide their recommendations to the city council for consideration for passing along to the mayor for action within city policy.

All of these conversations with council would take place in a public setting, allowing for more transparency and public comment.

The next city council meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 23rd. Click here to see options for viewing and to see the agenda.

There will not be a vote on approving a complete plan of action in the coming week as staff will need to prepare documents based on the discussions to present to council in the near future, if a particular direction is decided upon.

If you want to get in touch with city council members, click here for contact information.