The Boulder Police Department is proposing to spend more time preventing crime rather than reacting to it. Credit: Boulder Reporting Lab

The Boulder Police Department last week released its long-term policing plan, a major step in a nearly two-year process aimed at “reimagining policing.” The plan focuses primarily on preventing crime by targeting hotspots where officers receive a disproportionate number of calls. 

“Problem-solving policing is a shift that needs to happen in policing not just here in Boulder, but across the U.S.,” Police Chief Maris Herold said in a news release last week. 

The 49-page plan lays out a vision for the city’s police department that would increase staffing levels for the city’s police force from 190 officers to 206. The goal of this increase would be to free up more time for officers to focus on crime prevention rather than responding to calls. 

The department is currently implementing a “traditional call-and-respond model,” according to the report. This has resulted in officers spending less and less time on “proactive” activities, such as teaming up with community members and businesses and local agencies to root out the sources of crime. The proposed “problem-solving approach” to policing is relatively rare, existing only in New Zealand, according to the report. 

The department has been hosting town halls over the past year to present early iterations of this plan and gather community feedback. It also contacted several civil rights organizations. The report is the latest effort by the department to make its case for this strategic shift. 

It presents several statistics to support its vision. Notably, when analyzing 206,678 calls since 2020, the department found 10% of addresses accounted for 72% of calls. 

And to showcase what a “prevention and problem solving” strategy would look like in practice, the plan cites the example of the department’s efforts to reduce calls for service at the Circle K convenience store on Canyon Boulevard and 15th Street. A relatively high number of police calls have come from this store since summer 2021.

Officers who spoke with employees learned that an unlocked alcohol display case near the entrance, and a bathroom where people were overdosing with the door locked, were the key “problem areas.” To address the issue, officers encouraged the manager to remove the alcohol display, add lighting and cameras near the store, and put a lock on the bathroom door. Calls have since dropped off, according to recent department data. 

The Boulder City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the plan and decide whether to adopt it on Sept.7, 2023. Councilmembers will play a key role in deciding whether they want to pay for this new vision during the 2024 budget process, which will begin next month. (Last year, councilmembers approved a $42 million budget for the Boulder Police Department for 2023.) 

It’s unclear how much it would cost to implement the new policing plan. But it’s likely the department will be asking for more money to hire officers, expand recruitment activities and do more training. 

“It is important to be transparent about something that might seem counterintuitive. In order to implement a deeply community centered, problem-solving approach, and be less reactive, the Boulder Police Department will need more — not fewer — personnel,” the report states. 

It’s also unclear whether the department will be able to hire the officers it is requesting. In recent years, it has been operating with a 15% vacancy. The hiring challenges were cited as one of the reasons why five officers in the city’s detective section failed to investigate dozens of cases of reported crimes, including reports of assault and stalking.

Earlier this year, however, Herold announced the department had hired 22 officers. And in order to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the city’s police force, the plan calls for “recruiting at Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” among other general strategies. 

Other commitments in the plan: 

  • Host meetings in to-be-determined neighborhoods starting in 2024. 
  • Increase training for de-escalation techniques. This includes creating a Colorado POST-certified academy at CU Boulder that would provide “more advanced, evidence-based training and incorporate community-based training.” The city is still awaiting approval for the academy from Colorado POST. The academy is estimated to cost $50,000 to launch and $145,000 per year to operate. 
  • Expand mental health services for officers, including “innovative and evidence-based Post-Traumatic Stress therapies” and to contract with organizations that specialize in preventing officer suicides. “The goal is to break stigma surrounding officers coming forward for mental health treatment,” the plan states. 
  • Build “trusted relationships with communities that have been impacted negatively by policing” by collaborating with certain organizations and “to address at least one problem a year that affects an underrepresented population.” 
  • Include more diverse viewpoints into key decisions. This includes working with the volunteer-led Police Oversight Panel to get “feedback on training needs and policy updates.” (This process is currently outlined in city code.) 
  • Monitor officer behavior by creating an app allowing residents to “provide feedback in real time after every interaction with a Boulder Police Department employee” and to use that data to evaluate the performance of officers. 
  • Publish traffic stop data, broken down by demographic information, by the end of 2024. Traffic stops have declined dramatically over the last decade, according to the report.

John Herrick is senior reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering housing, transportation, policing and local government. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for He is interested in stories about people, power and fairness. Email:

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1 Comment

  1. Why is Maris not focusing on the nationwide new practice of sending social worker/medical workers to crisis calls. This can cut way back on the number of police needed for big crime response. Denver police love that very effective, helpful practice. It is greatly expanding there. Why not here? And why does Maris not emphasize police officers’ “support,” not “control” approaches to citizens.

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