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National and local police reform in the making
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By Ernest Gurulé

It would be hard for anyone to say---at least with straight face---that it has been a good spring and summer for the nation’s police. The country is embroiled in social upheaval unlike anything it has seen in decades with the police the centerpiece of the clamor. So troubling is the standoff between huge swaths of the country and police that President Trump recently signed an executive order on police reform.

As the mid-June Rose Garden ceremony took place, anger outside the White House and in pockets all across the country was building over police treatment of African-American and Latino men.

As if on a loop, the nation watched the full eight minutes and forty-six seconds that it took a Minneapolis cop to slowly strangle the life out of George Floyd. Floyd’s crime: possibly passing a fake $20 bill. Just days later it was security video showing an Atlanta cop shooting an unarmed drunk driving suspect in the back as he ran away.

The President’s executive order calls for the creation of a national database that would make it easier to track police candidates who may have a history of violence. It also included the need for mental health professionals to be added to the public safety arsenal when there is a mental health issue, including dealing problems involving the homeless or substance abuse issues.

Too often, critics say, cops are called into situations for which they have little or no training and often escalate into violence or worse. Like so many other jobs, police are facing the reality of job evolution.

“The Aurora Police Department understands that working with our communities during this difficult time is of the utmost import,” said Faith Goodrich, APD detective. Goodrich said some of the changes in Aurora were already in place “prior to the Executive Order.” Included in the department’s new rules are measures addressing “use of physical force,” “authorized weapons and ammunition,” using “less lethal devices, weapons and techniques.” It also calls for police to know when they have a “duty to intervene.”

Goodrich adds that “Aurora PD will continue to train Officers on implicit Bias, Anti-bias policing, and de-escalation.” All new recruits, she said, will receive this instruction during their time in the Police Academy. Each officer will also be required to take a class on this subject on an annual basis.

Colorado legislators last week were among the first in the nation to address police reform when they passed a bill that, among other things, bans chokeholds and includes a provision that requires law enforcement to intervene if they believe excessive force is being used. The new law that ends the long practice of qualified immunity for cops. “By facing the cold hard truth about the unequal treatment of Black Americans,” said Governor Jared Polis at the signing ceremony, “We can and we will create real change,” adding Dr. Martin Luther King’s ageless axiom, “We can bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.”

Denver Police also announced three major policy changes in policing that, effective June 7th, “clarify the existing policy of not allowing chokeholds or carotid compression” on suspects. The policy calls for no exceptions. Officers will report to supervisors any incidents in which weapons are intentionally pointed at a person. Denver Police has also ordered all Metro/SWAT units to “activate their body-worn cameras when executing tactical operations.”

Former legislator and current Denver District Attorney Beth McCann provided input into the new measure that she said will give the public a keener understanding of processes that have sometimes been opaque. “I am proud to have contributed an amendment that is now part of the bill’s language,” she said. Her office’s contribution “will require a final public report to be issued when a Grand Jury investigation into an allegation of excessive force against a peace officer does not result in an indictment.”





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