Police and Our Community

It seems we can’t go a week without hearing the horrific details of another police shooting somewhere in America. These tragedies have lead to the growth of movements like BLM, ending Qualified Immunity, and Defund The Police. As a person of color the concept that black and brown people are people too resonates with me. As a finance person I have sticker shock from the $115 billion we spend on policing annually, according to Bloomberg Business Week. 

Longmont isn’t immune to these issues. In the 1980s there was an incident where several people of color were killed by police. Since I’m running for City Council, I figure that I better get educated on local law enforcement issues. So, I started having conversations with people in the criminal justice arena. 

I did an interview with Kathleen McGoey, previously at Longmont’s Community Justice Partnership, for my tv show, The Savvy Entrepreneur, on Longmont Public Media. I learned quite a bit about the progressive ways Longmont police and courts give nonviolent first time offenders the option to avoid a criminal record while still taking accountability and making amends to harmed parties and the community. I learned that Colorado is leading the way on criminal justice reform: We’ve removed for-profit prisons and ended Qualified Immunity. 

This made me want to chat with Longmont Police Chief Rob Spendlow to see what his take was. 

When I met with Chief Spendlow I was admittedly surprised by his very progressive views. He advocates smart policing tactics like utilizing data and technology to increase efficiencies that improve interactions between officers and members of our community. 

I spoke to him about implementing speed cameras to reduce the number of speeders on our side streets. I live on Collyer and I often see vehicles driving way too fast to be able to stop for car, pet or child. He was very supportive of the idea and added that they currently have to park an officer in the neighborhood on speed duty, adding that it isn’t the most efficient use of an officer’s time. One type of technology the Longmont Police Department does utilize is drones— they are a lot less expensive to operate than a helicopter and several can be used to cover more area. 

I left the meeting feeling proud of our local law enforcement and eager to help them continue to innovate. Which made me realize, if we defund the police we will be stopping their progress. To me, the sensible solution is to not just continue to give our police and first responders their current level of resources but to give them even more resources. Give them funds for more technologies to improve efficiencies. Give police, firefighters, healthcare workers, teachers and other civil servants a living wage for our community. It pains me to think that so many first responders need to work overtime just to live in the community they serve. If I’m in a situation where I’m relying on a first responder’s decision making, I don’t want that person to be tired from over working and stressed about making ends meet. 

The moral of the story is, while on the whole the United States of America needs to address the way we police our communities, and while there is no magical solution, the nation can learn a thing or two by taking a look at how Longmont is doing it. 

4 thoughts on “Police and Our Community”

  1. You’ve said in your post that Longmont public safety should be given more funds. I’d like you to forward me the analysis you’ve done on the current funding mechanisms for Longmont public safety and the associated departmental spending. I’d like to see both direct and indirect level spending along with prioritized goals for the department. I’d also like to see your analysis of where more funding would come from and where it would be directed.

    1. Hello Jim,

      I appreciate your hunger for financial analysis, I too would like to understand what the actual budget looks like. Since, at the moment I’m still running for the city council seat, I’m not privy to any information that isn’t publicly available. I don’t think the analysis that you’re talking about can be done with just public information. That being said, I do plan to perform a detailed analysis of all of Longmont City’s programs, departments and initiatives to ensure we are running as efficiently as possible. I will note your contact info and I commit to reach back out to you once I have the resources to perform the much needed budgetary analysis.

      What I do know is this:

      1) A drone is much less expensive to own and operate than a helicopter.

      2) If someone needs to work multiple overtime shifts to make a living wage, then the base pay needs to rise. Personally, I don’t want overworked people to have to make life or death decisions. Additionally, the extra shifts harm work-life balance that I think we all can agree is important for mental health.

      3) A speed camera generates non-tax-income for the city and officers spend less time making traffic stops, allowing them time to do other things.

      These truths helped me formulate my opinion that more resources will improve outcomes. Do you not agree that:

      A) New technologies often take an initial investment but pay off over time due to efficiency gains.
      B) Employees are entitled to a living wage and work-life balance.

      Thank you for sharing your passion for budgetary prudence.

      1. Financial analysis is possible for all city departments from publicly available documents. I have generated detailed reports for all city services for several years from the various documents published. A person does need to understand the various documents generated by the city and how to use them. IMO, there are shortcomings in the financial information provided in the various city documents, but the shortcomings come from city staff lack of understanding of certain budget principals used to evaluate and control staffing and spending.

        As for your specific points
        1) Longmont has never entertained nor needed the use of a helicopter. Use of drones is appropriate.
        2) Wages, and benefits, paid to all Longmont city employees are reviewed by Human Resources on an annual basis and information is gathered to ensure the wages being paid are consistent with wages paid for similar positions across the region. Benefits are annually reviewed also. The police and firefighter positions are unionized and the pay scales are negotiated as part of the union contract. Wage information is also available in documents published by the city and actual payroll data for all employees is available via an open records request. As an example, in 2021 a police recruit will earn $65,304/yr with a top salary for a police officer $90,912/yr. A Master Police Officer will earn $95,460/yr. A police Sargent will earn $113,496/yr. Overtime is paid for these positions.
        3) Speed cameras are called Automated Vehicle Identification Systems (AVIS) and are codified in C.R.S. 42-4-110.5. In Colorado the use of AVIS has been controversial and the state legislature has looked at abolishing their use. In order to solve traffic speeding problems, driver behavior must be changed and AVIS will not change behavior for extended periods. The city continually looks at speed mitigation but it’s a difficult problem. Traffic calming devices have been found to be effective at reducing speeding. Per C.R.S. using AVIS for NON traffic control signal disobedience monitoring requires attended operation by an officer or employee of the entity using the system.

        A) New technologies take an upfront investment and if the technologies are properly implemented and utilized they have the potential to improve efficiencies. IMO, in order for new technologies to be successful in a government organization, paradigms must be changed and implementation times must be reduced and specific goals must be identified and measured.

        B) living wages and a balanced work life are extremely important in any organization. An understanding of the total wage package is also important and providing the detailed information to all employees is essential.

        I have developed detailed understandings of the various operations within the city and will continue my research over time.

        1. It sounds like we agree on the issues. To summarize, work-life-balance, thinking outside the box and implementing new technologies are great ways to improve service. We also agree that implementation and monitoring results is key to successful outcomes.

          I appreciate you for sharing your work, I am always a fan of collaborating.

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