COLORADO SPRINGS — Holding law enforcement officers accountable is one of the purposes of oversight committees found across the country. According to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), there are over 100 communities throughout the U.S. that have these kinds of boards, including three already here in Colorado.
Colorado Springs City Council recently approved an ordinance for the Law Enforcement Transparency and Accountability Commission. The draft approved on Tuesday stated the commission would assist City Council with budget recommendations using data-driven audits of law enforcement performance, provide a platform for both citizens and officers to voice concerns about the police department, recommend policy changes to council, and promote improved understanding between the public and police.
News5 spoke with President of the Colorado Springs Black Business Network Rodney Gullatte Jr. about his time spent on a Citizen's Review Board from 2014 to 2015 in Key West, Florida.
"I got a chance to go on ride-alongs, and see what the city of Key West looked like after hours from a police point of view. So, I gained a really deep respect for the work that they do... I think it was really important for me to have that point of view and that experience with the police so I could better help be an oversight person, to make sure they were doing their job right and taking care of the community the way they're supposed to," said Gullatte.
Gullatte said the board in Florida produced an annual report, could hold police officers accountable if they were found to have used excessive force repeatedly in the past, and even requested assistance from the Department of Justice in a few cases.
"The most important thing is the power and authority of this organization to be able to hold police accountable. Right now, what I'm seeing, is that the organization that they're putting together right now does not have those teeth," said Gullatte.
Gullatte said the board in Key West followed NACOLE's guidelines, who's website says they can be used as a resource to places considering the creation of such oversight. "They don't have to recreate the wheel... [NACOLE has] already created the template that you need to follow. Just adopt it, and tailor it, to what we need in our community," said Gullatte.
Gullatte also pointed out that the meetings in Florida always had their city attorney present. Plus, he said the executive director of the board was a prior police officer and military veteran. "Who's a better expert on policing than a police officer? So, you want to make sure you have one that is a good police officer, because there's bad ones and there's good ones. They're not all bad," said Gullatte.
Gullatte said this creation of the commission is a sign of progress in Colorado Springs. He drew a comparison toward the end of the conversation, that he has been struggling with since moving to Colorado.
"There was a gentleman that shot up Planned Parenthood since I've been here... and they still took this guy alive... There's a process that police officers are able to do, so they're able to find a legal way to justify that De'Von Bailey was okay being shot. So, when I look at these other situations and I see that they, above all odds, were able to take these other people alive and they were white, and I see a young brother who did something knuckleheaded, like he shouldn't have ran, but that's not a death sentence either... This police oversight commission that Colorado Springs is trying to create, this will help us kind of even that field. So, that police will think twice before going to shoot another brother in the back for running away. We don't need that," said Gullatte.
News5 reached out to City Council to ask about some of these points made by Gullatte regarding the board in Key West, but has not heard back yet.
News5 did get in contact with one of the people who has been involved with the original proposal presented to council by The People's Group last week. They said the NACOLE guidelines and Department of Justice's Citizen Review of Police report were both reviewed before drafting their proposal.