Happy Friday, Boulder! 🕺 Hope you’re enjoying this break from the summer heat.

Today’s top story by John Herrick offers an update on the city’s volunteer-led police oversight panel, which just released its first report. Its recommendations on use-of-force come as the city council reviews the police department’s long-term plan to “reimagine policing.”

Plus a crackdown on landlords on University Hill, a dip in Boulder’s homelessness numbers, unionization efforts at Trader Joe’s, open applications for BVSD’s free and reduced-price meal program and more.

Until Monday,

– Jezy, managing editor

A nighttime storm rocks Boulder during monsoon season on July 27, 2022. Credit: John Herrick

Quickly

Slightly warmer, but still cool: Temps should tick up a few degrees from yesterday, with highs in the upper-70s. We’ll be back in the 80s this weekend, with mostly sunny skies and isolated p.m. storm chances on Saturday.

⚖️ Pro-gun group sues state: Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a conservative pro-gun rights group, announced on Thursday it is suing Gov. Jared Polis in federal court in an effort to overturn the state’s 2013 ban on large-capacity magazines. The group said in a news release that a federal judge’s recent decision to temporarily halt enforcement of the Town of Superior’s newly passed gun laws is a “telltale sign of what is to come not only in Colorado but around the entire country.” State lawmakers passed the magazine ban after the July 20, 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting in which a gunman killed 12 people. Last Wednesday marked the 10 year anniversary of the tragedy.

📉 Homelessness numbers falling: Homelessness has decreased in Boulder County since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to preliminary 2022 data from the annual Point-in-Time count, a common source for estimating the number of people experiencing homelessness in a given community. As homelessness increased across the Denver metro area, it dropped in Boulder County 34% from 2020, according to data from the Jan. 24, 2022 count. That day, surveyors counted 457 homeless people in the county sleeping in a shelter or outdoors. The count provides a valuable benchmark, but it is considered an underrepresentation of the actual number of people experiencing homelessness, according the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, an organization that contracts with state, local and federal governments to coordinate homelessness services and conduct the annual survey.

👮 BPD launches crime blotter: The Boulder Police Department announced on Thursday the launch of a new blotter tracking reported crimes plus an automated Twitter account “to share information with the community in nearly real time.” All sensitive information will be redacted in the blotter to protect privacy. “This new digital crime blotter was a direct result of our community members telling us they missed the old crime blotter and wanted more information about public safety incidents in their neighborhoods,” Police Chief Maris Herold said in a press release.

🔊 ‘Nuisance’ issues on the Hill: About 20% of properties on University Hill account for 61% of the college neighborhood’s nuisance incidences, according to a data analysis by City of Boulder staff. Officials said the data shows some landlords and property managers are responsible for a disproportionate share of the noise, trash and other nuisance issues in the area. Next week, the Boulder City Council is expected to begin discussing an ordinance aimed at making it easier to punish landlords and residents for violating the city’s noise ordinance. Read our reporting on efforts from a city-led working group to change the way code violations are handled on University Hill.

Plus a crackdown on landlords: City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde said city staff are drafting an ordinance to make it easier to revoke a landlord’s rental license for ongoing violations of the city’s nuisance-prevention ordinances. “The vast majority of our landlords and our property managers are doing phenomenal work,” Rivera-Vandermyde told the Boulder City Council during a study session on Thursday. “But there are some for whom we really need to think about how do we increase avenues for success and how do we hold them accountable.”

🤝 Workers move to unionize at Trader Joe’s: Employees of the grocery store chain’s Boulder location at 1906 28th St. could organize with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 after the union filed an election petition this week on their behalf. The move makes the local store the third in the country to initiate unionization efforts.

🥕 Food bank boon: After a swell of donations in response to mounting shortages, Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA) says its food bank is on sturdier footing with regard to supplies. “Our Food Bank Manager now reports that he is optimistic that EFAA will have enough food to feed our community for the remainder of the month,” the organization says. Read our reporting on the topic.

🍽️ Free and reduced-priced meals: The application period for the BVSD free and reduced-price meal program is now open for the 2022–23 school year. Students approved last year will continue to receive benefits through Sept. 28, but families must submit a new application to ensure they continue in the program. Learn more about the qualification criteria here and how to apply here.

🚌 Fare-free RTD starts Monday: Next Monday, Aug. 1, kicks off a month of free rides across the entire RTD system as part of the Zero Fare for Better Air initiative. The statewide program, spurred by Colorado Senate Bill 22-180, is a partnership with the Colorado Energy Office “designed to reduce ground level ozone by increasing use of public transit.”

Top Story

After early growing pains and high turnover, Boulder’s volunteer-led police oversight panel releases its first findings

By John Herrick

Nearly two years after the Boulder City Council established the city’s  community-led Police Oversight Panel in 2020, the group has published its first report detailing case-by-case instances of alleged misconduct by city police. 

The findings come as the city council reviews the police department’s long-term plan to “reimagine policing” in Boulder, and as law enforcement has become a lightning rod issue. While some community members want fewer police on the streets, others are calling for a tougher response to the recent rise in crime. 

The panel is required by law to issue the yearly report that includes recommendations for potential disciplinary measures and an evaluation of the performance of the city’s independent police monitor. The city hired its first monitor in July 2020 to oversee investigations into alleged police misconduct. 

The 84-page document summarizes 58 complaints and how the police department responded. One of those cases involved the physical restraint of a child. In light of that case, the panel recommended the department reexamine use-of-force training and clarify its prohibition on chokeholds and neck restraints. Like oversight panels in other cities, Boulder’s panel cannot discipline or fire officers. 

The report said the monitor has shown “general competency in fulfilling his duties.”

The volunteers who make up the panel serve one- to three-year terms and include professionals with “strong ties to the city.” The panel’s eight members were nominated by a committee that included representatives from two nonprofits — the  Islamic Center of Boulder County and the NAACP of Boulder County — and approved by the Boulder City Council. The group has met monthly since March 2021. 

“At times, we have not agreed with the Police Department with the ultimate outcome on cases. At other times, we have changed police thinking and led outcomes with the department,” the panel wrote. “We cannot all be satisfied in all of our disputes and will continue to work on processes for redress and remediation.” 

BRL Picks

🎹 Classical concert: Pianist Gabriela Montero performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Chautauqua Auditorium tonight, July 29, as part of the Colorado Music Festival. Kicking off at 6:30 p.m., the evening will also feature Principal Guest Conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni in a stirring take on Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. Tickets here.

📚 Get lit: Mark your calendars for Sept. 17–18, when the largest free literature festival in the world returns to the Boulder Main Library. Billed as “the greatest literary show on Earth,” the Jaipur Literature Festival features authors and stories from across the globe. In addition to free general admission, various ticket levels are available with perks and opportunities to support the fest. Get yours here.

🐦  For the birds: It’s the last weekend to catch the Bird’s Eye View exhibition on display in the Canyon Gallery at the Boulder Main Library through July 31. Presented in partnership with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, the exhibition by local young people takes a science-forward approach to art “exploring humans’ interspecies relationships with birds in our backyards.”

Covid-19 Updates: July 29, 2022

  • 169 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up 8% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 15 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from a high of 13 last week.
  • 32% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 68% since July 2020.
  • Note: Stazio Ball Fields in Boulder is now the only free community testing site in Boulder County. It’s open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What We’re Reading

📖 Boulder County ‘equity map’ seeks to provide targeted relief after the Marshall Fire: “‘We had to do something that was easy to use, put data together that nobody in the county had ever put together before and look at it from a perspective of recovery and future resilience and do all that as fast as possible,’ said Paul Chinowsky, a co-founder of Resilient Analytics. ‘I lived in the area for 20 years and I was finding out things about the demographics of the area … I was completely surprised.'” [Rocky Mountain PBS]

📖 Out-of-state patients lead to longer wait times at Colorado abortion clinics: “Waits are hovering around two weeks for most clinics — up from just seven days earlier this year, according to a recent survey of providers conducted by researchers at Middlebury College. Out-of-state patient demand is the main driver behind the jump, said Caitlin Myers, an economics professor who led the survey. ‘[Demand] has only grown now that Roe has been reversed and no providers remain in Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma,’ Myers said. ‘This strain is likely to grow even more if other western states including Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming begin enforcing bans, as is widely expected.'” [CPR]

ICYMI from BRL

🏊 Museum of Boulder exhibition dives deep on the life and legacy of Rose Lueras, who fought to integrate the Lafayette Swimming Pool in 1934. Running through Aug. 14, the collaborative local history show in the museum’s Lodge Gallery tells the story of the trailblazing Boulder County resident who led a group of Latino families in a civil rights case that went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court.

📣 ‘What am I doing this for?’: Amid another grim season of mass shootings, three former youth gun reform activists from Boulder reflect on why they left the movement. No local residents were on the team behind last month’s March For Our Lives rally in Denver, according to its lead organizer.

🔥 What worries Boulder Fire-Rescue about wildfire in the city proper? Junipers, mulch and wooden fencing, to name a few. New laws could be in store. The lack of fire in the city so far means ‘the fire department’s gotten really lucky,’ says Wildland Fire Division Chief Brian Oliver, who breaks down ways to mitigate the threat of potential home-to-home ignition.

💡 Boulder considers acquiring public streetlights owned by Xcel to reduce consumption and gain more autonomy over its energy infrastructureThe conversion to smart LED lights would lower the city’s electric bill, provide more responsive maintenance and reduce light pollution, according to a city staff memo.

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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.