Happy Friday, Boulder. Here’s what’s going on.

Today, John Herrick covers developments in Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel — a panel that reviews internal investigations into allegations of misconduct. Next week, city council will vote whether or not to approve a new batch of volunteers wanting to serve on the panel. Councilmembers have already delayed a vote after some community members raised concerns about one candidate’s role in suing the city’s police chief over Boulder’s camping ban — a ban that makes it illegal for homeless people to sleep outside in public spaces. With the vote coming before council again, it could reveal rifts in how the city responds to concerns over public safety, crime and police accountability.

Also, candidates for the Independent Police Monitor position answered questions from the public on Wednesday. The Police Monitor will work closely with the aforementioned oversight panel to ensure “transparency, accountability, community engagement and best practices in policing.” On cue, the issue of transparency in Boulder policing was a repeatedly referenced topic in questions for the candidates.

Enjoy your weekend. I’ll see you Monday.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • A gorgeous Saturday coming: Today will be in the high 40s, but tomorrow, wow. Tomorrow will be in the 50s with a touch of sun and no chance of moisture.
  • New security at library branches in wake of meth issue: The city is taking security precautions at its Meadows, George Reynolds and North Boulder library branches to prevent drug use in its public restrooms. This includes installing proximity tags to be able to lock the bathrooms, if necessary, and requesting additional security guards and police patrols, according to Library Director David Farnan. How much that would cost is to be determined, Farnan told Boulder Reporting Lab.
    • The precautionary steps come after the city closed the Boulder Public Library in downtown Boulder on Dec. 20, after discovering methamphetamine contamination exceeding the state’s cleanup standards in air ducts and on some furniture. The library is open, but the bathrooms remain closed for remediation.
    • Farnan said there have been no reported incidents of drug use at the branch libraries. As a result, the city has not conducted any testing.
  • Prospective police monitors face the public: Candidates vying for the job of Independent Police Monitor took questions from city officials and community members on Wednesday during a forum in the city council chambers. The police monitor helps the Police Oversight Panel review internal investigations into cases of alleged misconduct and make disciplinary recommendations.
    • Over the course of an hour and a half, the candidates answered questions concerning broad questions of racism, inclusivity and Boulder Police Department culture. They also responded to a question about how they would change the city ordinance that provides powers to the police monitor and volunteer oversight panel. Changes would be made to “assist transparency” and provide an avenue for dealing with cases where panel members and the city’s police chief disagree over how to discipline an officer.
    • Panel members have recently voiced frustrations over restrictions on what they can say publicly and called for the firing of five officers following an investigation that found “systemic failure” in the city’s detective unit. In that case, Police Chief Maris Herold issued one- to five-day suspensions.
    • Cathy Rodriguez, a compliance manager with Colorado’s POST, which oversees officer training and certification, said the ordinance could be changed to create an appeals process when the panel and the police department disagree over disciplinary measures.
    • “All of the boards that I have ever worked with have due process and an appeals process, which this one does not,” Rodriguez said. “I find that quite interesting.”
    • On the issue of transparency, she said minor changes could be made but did not describe specifics.
    • Mac Muir, a supervising investigator for the Civilian Complaint Review Board in New York, said he agreed with Rodriguez about the appeals process. Regarding transparency, he said, in most cities, there is the ability for members of the police oversight panel to discuss cases “to some extent.”
    • “The important part is prioritizing safety though — the safety of the civilians involved and making sure their information is not disclosed just because we feel like talking about this bad thing that happened to them. That creates a huge chilling effect on complaints,” Muir said. “For the officers’ due process as well, you don’t want to discuss a case that would in any way identify them because the process isn’t complete. You can’t point fingers until there has been a full adjudication of justice.”
    • Gina Torres, the police monitor for the Community Police Review Board in the City of Albany, New York, said it is important to have the ability to appeal decisions by the police chief. She suggested “judicial court set-up” that would bring together stakeholders, the complainant and the officers involved. She did not weigh in on the issue of transparency.
    • The city is paying up to $148,720 for the job, depending on qualifications, according to its job listing. It is in the process of evaluating the candidates, in part based on community feedback.
  • Future of the Boulder Municipal Airport: Consultants hired by the city are planning to convene a working group next month to discuss the future of the Boulder Municipal Airport, which is located in East Boulder and mostly used for private, recreational and emergency response flights.
    • Boulder City Councilmembers on Thursday told the consultants that they want the working group to include airport users, businesses and neighbors affected by noise and other airport activities, among other interests.
    • The city is gathering feedback from airport users and community members as part of its update to its Airport Master Plan. Potential changes could include tighter limits on noise, a new traffic management program, and “alternative uses,” according to a city staff memo.
  • RTD cancels SKIP: Due to a lack of drivers, the SKIP missed 14 scheduled runs yesterday. The bus runs along Broadway connecting North Boulder to South Boulder. Whether this is going to prove a pattern is anyone’s guess.
  • Martin Luther King closures: This coming Monday, all libraries, age well centers and City of Boulder administrative facilities will be closed. Rec centers, however, will be open, along with Flatirons golf course and open space trails.
  • 2022 transportation snapshot: The City of Boulder put out a roundup of 2022 happenings around transportation. The year saw the introduction of Lime scooters to East Boulder and the beginnings of the Vision Zero project. Some updates from the city:
    • It launched an interactive visual dashboard that allows residents to see crash data summaries and over 10,500 individual crash data points.
    • It installed four new head-start pedestrian signals at intersections, theoretically cutting pedestrian-vehicle collisions by as much as 60%.
    • It replaced an estimated 300,000 vehicle miles with rented BCycles.
    • In 2023, the city plans to roll out e-bike rebates and finish its Vision Zero Action Plan, a plan with the goal of getting traffic related deaths and serious injuries to zero.
  • County commissioners outline goals for coming year: With Ashley Stolzmann replacing Matt Jones as the new District 3 commissioner, all three representatives voiced their priorities for the coming year. Some consistent themes included addressing climate change, tackling the housing crisis and equity.
    • “I believe strongly that we should leave things better than we found them,” Stolzmann said. “I am committed to serving the Boulder County community in a way that protects the environment and allows every person the opportunity to thrive.”

Go deeper

Boulder City Council to revisit appointment of Police Oversight Panel members after controversy

By John Herrick

January 13, 2023

A selection committee set up to nominate new members for council approval has reaffirmed its support of six candidates, after councilmembers last month questioned one candidate’s potential bias.

Continue reading…

BRL picks

✊🏾 Martin Luther King Jr. events: The NAACP Boulder County is leading two celebratory events this weekend dedicated to the memory of the civil rights leader. On Sunday, a keynote speech by Dr. Reiland Rabaka, founder and director of The Center for African & African-American Studies at CU Boulder, plus musical performances and more, will take place at the Boulder JCC. On Monday, there will be dance, choir music and more at Silver Creek High School. The events are free and open to the public, though tickets can be reserved in advance.

🏃🏽‍♀️ Greatest .5K ever: At Sanitas Brewing on Saturday, 10 a.m. marks the beginning of a series of events, beginning with yoga and ending with drinking, with a short run slotted in between. The event is free, and will have tacos.

🎨 Marshall Renews, through Feb. 4: The “juried exhibition explores the Marshall Fire’s impact on Colorado’s communities of Louisville, Superior, portions of Unincorporated Boulder County, and portions of Boulder by giving voice to victims as well as local artists.” Local and impacted artists are showcasing art “exploring the paradox between renewal and ruin,” through Feb. 4, at 375 S. McCaslin Blvd, Suite B.

For more ideas on what to do this week, check out BRL’s Local Events page.


Tim Drugan

Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other climate-related issues for Boulder with a focus on explanatory and solutions journalism. He also is the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Tim grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from UNH with a degree in English/Journalism. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.