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.