For the last year, a dozen Goldenites have been sitting on Golden Police Department’s Incident Review Board meetings, helping GPD review or draft policies, and helping the department develop its new mission, vision and values.
Their next task, as they discussed at their March 9 meeting, is to help the department review whether it’s keeping up with national best practices.
The Golden Police Department started laying the groundwork for its Community Engagement Group in 2021, selected the members in late 2021, and then had its first meeting in March 2022.
Chief Joe Harvey said the department started CEG to help rebuild public trust and “engender good faith with the people we have … and the systems we have.” Because the CEG members are Golden residents, they bring valuable outside perspectives as the department drafts policies or reviews best practices, he explained.
While other departments across the country have something similar, CEG member Stuart Sipkin believed some only use it as a public relations tactic. But that’s not the case in Golden.
As Sipkin looked around the room at his fellow members, he said, “I don’t think anyone would disagree with that fact that the (GPD) command staff hears us. … I would love to see (a CEG) in every law enforcement agency in the country.”
Eric Trout, a former prosecutor in western Colorado, said he never saw this kind of community engagement where he used to work, adding, “It’s nice to see out here.”
Right now, CEG has 11 members, and Harvey said he’s looking to add one or two more. Considering about 9% of the city’s population is Hispanic, Harvey said he wanted to see more Hispanic representation on CEG.
Overall, he wanted the membership to be as diverse as Golden itself — not only racial diversity, but socioeconomic status, age, career backgrounds and other characteristics. The group includes a few retirees, four members of the Golden Anti-Racism Collective, a Golden High School student, a local real estate agent, a minister, and a teacher.
“We wanted to create as diverse a group as possible, and have as many characteristics about our community as we possibly can,” Harvey continued.
Having a voice, ensuring transparency
Once CEG was assembled, the members were able to “look behind the curtain and get involved,” as Harvey described. They broke out into smaller subgroups to help the department with various tasks and do a few overarching projects together.
Some CEG members sit on the Incident Review Board, where officers review high-level uses of force, such as strikes, takedowns, stun-guns and others. The IRB reviews whether the incident was within policy or outside of policy, and makes disciplinary recommendations.
While the CEG members don’t have a vote, per se, during these incident reviews, they do have a voice. They’re able to ask questions and make statements about the incidents, they described, adding how they see “the good, the bad, and the ugly” at these meetings.
Other CEG members helped GPD develop its new mission, vision and values. The Rev. Susan Otey from First United Methodist Church of Golden said she loved hearing the sworn and unsworn staff members talk about “what they loved in the GPD.”
Another subgroup is the policy committee, where CEG members “have a direct line” to helping GPD review current policies and draft new ones, they described.
Overall, the 11 Goldenites said they’ve learned a lot about the police department and the officers’ day-to-day activities. One experience was learning about de-escalation and use of force via training scenarios and simulations.
Bryan Kelly described how that was the biggest learning experience for him, seeing how poorly he and his fellow members did. He, Otey and others said it gave them an appreciation for the amount and breadth of training GPD officers have.
Kelly said he thought he’d be able to make a split-second decision during the use-of-force exercise, but “from my perspective, there was no split-second at all.” He ultimately got himself and another person killed during the exercise. Meanwhile, he said, the officers “seemed comfortable in their training — they were just dialed in.”
While they’ve done a lot in their first year, the CEG members said they have more work to do. During the March 9 meeting, Harvey asked them to review “The President’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing,” and see how GPD could improve from when it first implemented these best practices six years ago.
Overall, CEG members believed GPD was moving in the right direction and “separating themselves from other forces,” as Ty Scrable stated.
Kelly added: “I’m impressed at how high the expectations are here. The officers and staff here are set up for success, and everybody at GPD are in positions where they should have no problem meeting those high expectations.”