By Charlotte Schwebel
At the Oct. 21 City Council Public Hearing for the 2020 budget, the heat was on over plans to hire 20 new police officers in the coming year.
According to the budget proposed by Mayor John Suthers, the city of Colorado Springs expects to bring in an additional $23 million to the General Fund Budget. The majority of proposed changes to the 2019 budget come from this increase. The Monday hearing was held to allow the public to encourage City Council to challenge aspects of the budget.
The demand for new officers comes from the Colorado Springs Police Department. Colorado Springs moved from the 42nd to the 39th largest city in the United States over the past year, according to the Budget Proposal. According to the Colorado Springs Independent, CSPD lost 45% of its police force between 2012 and 2018, with retention rates dropping to their lowest over the past year. CSPD police academies have hardly kept up, graduating 133 recruits and losing 111 officers in 2017 and 2018.
Of the six people who spoke at the hearing, four demanded changes to the police department in the wake of the shooting of De’Von Bailey, 19, a black man from the Springs who was killed by an officer with an alleged history of police brutality.
Each of these four contributors had powerful personal statements, and they all asked for the same things: a community review board, increased transparency in the department, implicit bias training, ethical non-race based de-escalation techniques, a permanent independent investigator, and an external audit of the processes for training and hiring officers.
Stephany Rose Spaulding, a candidate for a Colorado U.S. Senate seat in 2020, pointed to discrepancies in the investigation of Bailey’s death.
“We learned, unfortunately through the death of De’Von Bailey, that documents just disappear,” Spaulding said. “We need a review board.” This is likely in response to complaints about the body cam video that records Bailey’s shooting, which the CSPD released with edits.
A speaker who only gave his first name advocated for a stop on all police department hiring until training is improved.
“People’s lives are at stake,” he said, “and you haven’t seen any riots about this issue, you haven’t seen people tearing things up; they are trying to trust the process.” He continued, “I’m coming as a concerned citizen and also as a potential victim to the same violence, because I am a black man.”
Council member Yolanda Avila told me that although City Council accepted the mayor’s budget last year without a challenge, this year the council plans to challenge the notable absence of police reform in the budget.
The other comments concerned funding for animal control services and an increase in funding for Trails and Open Space maintenance.
James Hanafee ’22, a Colorado College student who attended the hearing with CC Dems, was impressed by the passion citizens brought to their comments but questioned their impact.
“I always wonder how deep the passion actually impacts the elected officials who are supposed to be doing their job to maintain the welfare of Colorado Springs residents,” Hanafee said.