With police accountability, racism and related issues continuing to be a major discussion topic both in Golden and nationwide since the murder of George Floyd, the Golden city council held a …
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With police accountability, racism and related issues continuing to be a major discussion topic both in Golden and nationwide since the murder of George Floyd, the Golden city council held a discussion of Golden Police Department policy and operations with Golden’s police chief and deputy police chief on July 16.
Golden Police Chief Bill Kilpatrick said the discussion was the first time the city had held such a discussion in his 18-year career with the department.
“We haven’t had this kind of conversation and I don’t know why not,” said Mayor Laura Weinberg. “These are certainly important conversations to have to know that we know more about what is happening within the department and we can make sure we are aligned on those things that we expect for the city. I am sure this is the first of additional conversations and it certainly won’t be the last.
Here are some of the highlights from the wide-ranging conversation, which touched on everything from department culture and use of force policies to how the provisions of Colorado’s new policing law will be implemented in Golden.
PD culture and performance
Kilpatrick said the department started making “incredible strides” 32 years ago when former police chief Russ Cook took over a department plagued by a bad reputation and poor standing in the community.
In the last 31 years, the department has had only one officer involved-shooting, which resulted when officers were fired upon during a traffic stop. In that time, the department has not made payment on civil rights claims.
“I hope you realize how extraordinary that is,” said Kilpatrick. “If you don’t believe me ask your city attorneys.”
Department arrest numbers
Deputy chief Joe Harvey said the department typically responds to between 35,000 and 40,000 calls for service and makes less than 1,000 arrests. In 2018, those numbers were 38,000 calls for service and 832 arrests.
“I think our overall numbers are quite appropriate to the number of calls for service we take each year,” Harvey said.
Body camera implementation
Harvey said he is supportive of body cameras and so are the majority of officers on the department.
He said a major advantage of body cameras is that they cut down on citizen complaints about actions taken by police because video evidence can easily be reviewed. However, he said recent situations suggest body cameras might be less effective in discouraging wrongful behavior by officers than many people think.
“Do they change behavior?” Kilpatrick said. “I think they do to an extent but I don’t think that is a foregone conclusion. But they do document behavior.”
Kilpatrick also said preliminary research suggests it will cost the department about $200,000 a year to have cameras, with much of that figure going toward the cost of data storage.
On policy revisions
Harvey said the department was already undertaking a full rewrite of its policies relating to use-of-force and pursuits prior to the murder of George Floyd. The department is now taking additional time with those rewrites to make sure they correspond to Senate Bill 217, Colorado’s new policing law.
Changes to policing in Golden
With changes to policing a hot topic across the nation, Kilpatrick said it is important for the council to understand what the department does, how it does it and why before making any changes. He recommended that council members and members of the community participate in opportunities such as the citizen police academy to learn more about how the department works.
“One of the things I’ve noticed over all the years I’ve been here is that people living in Golden think they are living in Mayberry and that there isn’t crime,” Kilpatrick said. “Well we have what everybody else in the metro area has just usually at a lower level. People are surprised by what we have here in town and what we deal with.”
He said he believe that if the public and council learned more, they would come to share his view on policing in Golden.
“I think you will find that we have an exceptional police culture without having to take my word for it,” he said.
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