COLORADO SPRINGS — As protests and demonstrations continue throughout the country and in southern Colorado- relationships between law enforcement and people of color are at the forefront of many conversations.
It's something the Colorado Springs Police Department says they've been working to address through a program it added in 2017. "The Illumination Project" creates opportunities for CSPD officers and community members to discuss issues in the community such as race, religion, and police relationships.
CSPD is one of two police departments with the program. The other is in Charleston, South Carolina, that was created after the shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2015 which killed nine African Americans.
"We're seeing things in the last couple of days where the relationships become more and more important," Deputy Chief Adrian Vasquez said. "Obviously there's work to do because if we had a perfect relationship with our community we wouldn't see the protests, we would just see conversations happen."
Less than a year ago, protesters demonstrated in Colorado Springs after the shooting death of De'Von Bailey - a 19 year-old black man. The officers were ruled justified in the shooting, as family members called for an agency outside of El Paso County to investigate.
Vasquez says after Bailey's death, they've worked to have more conversations surrounding race and police. "If we're not sitting back and reevaluating and retooling how something like the Illumination Project responds to something, then we're making mistakes," Vasquez said. "We realized that we were missing pieces of conversations."
CSPD says its also seeing more conversations and action come from the Illumination Project, including an additional group of leaders to address the needs between the community and police officers.