November 2, 2023 | OPINION | By Tim Smith
Note: This article is written by a Co-Chair of the Prison Abolition Project at Colorado College
Content Warning: The following statement deals with violent themes such as police brutality, racialized oppression, and hate-based violence within the Colorado Springs community.
The members of Colorado College’s Prison Abolition Project firmly reject the Colorado Springs Ballot Initiative 2A. The initiative asks voters to permit the City of Colorado Springs to withhold $4,750,000 in Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights funds for “the purpose of acquiring property, planning, constructing and equipping a training facility for the Colorado Springs Police Department.”
Should 2A pass, the City of Colorado Springs will use the funds as seed money for a cop city that is predicted to cost between $45-60 million. We call on all voting members of the Colorado College community to vote “no” on such an amendment for a plethora of reasons.
- The Colorado Springs Police Department , like all police organizations, has a history of racialized violence. Since department officers murdered Devon Bailey in 2019, they have been sued 14 times for excessive force, surveillance and other dehumanizing tactics. In August of 2023, the ACLU sued the Colorado Springs Police Department and the FBI regarding the department’s surveillance and infiltration into local activist and housing advocacy groups. The department infiltrated such community groups, attempting to incriminate and incarcerate housing activists through the illegal solicitation of firearms.
- Colorado Springs faces a housing crisis. We find it reprehensible that the city would spend $45 million on police, who have a $125 million budget as of 2022, rather than on housing its residents. Prison Abolition Project views houselessness not as coincidental but rather produced through policy which favors the development of unaffordable housing; the city’s decision to spend $45 million on a police academy amidst increasing housing prices and houselessness reflects the idea that unhoused status is produced through policy.
- Related to the ongoing housing crisis, we fear that this unprecedented “investment” in the police department will embolden and enhance its harassment of unhoused Colorado Springs community members. Out of any city in Colorado, Colorado Springs has the mostcity ordinances criminalizing the activity of unhoused folks (i.e. Sit, Stand, Lie ordinances). Such ordinances, enforced by local police, drastically expand the arm of mass incarceration through the dissemination of citations. Citations require that an individual appear in court, which presupposes one has transportation, time off from employment, etc. Failure to appear, even despite transportation or occupational barriers, further produces unhoused individuals vulnerable to incarceration and “violations” of parole.
- Furthermore, several members have heard directly from unhoused community members regarding their unfair and inhumane treatment at the hands of the police department’s Homeless Outreach Team. At the hands of the team, unhoused community members have been subject to physical and verbal violence and the seizure of personal, sentimental, and/or practical belongings. With a $45 million investment from the city, we predict the repressive capacities of the department and the team to increase.
- Many proponents of Amendment 2A falsely suggest that this facility will lead to better police retention and, in turn, a reduction in crime rates. Not only has “crime” been reducing since 2010 in Colorado Springs, but the era of mass incarceration and policing in its totality has succinctly demonstrated that increased policing does not produce a reduction in “crime.” What we have seen, however, is a drastic expansion of the category of “crime” to produce an increasing number of individuals as “criminal.” Indeed, violent “crime” rates have been decreasing nationwide long before the inception of mass incarceration in the 1970s. Instead, “criminality” has seen a drastic expansion of its parameters to increasingly include property crimes, or “crimes of desperation,” which we understand as crimes produced through the violent socioeconomic conditions of racial capitalism. Perhaps instead of turning to a solution that has consistently been ineffective – the overfunding of policing – Colorado Springs should reference approaches to conflict resolution that have shown clear positive results, such as the Supported Team Assisted Response program in Denver, or the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets program in Eugene, Oregon.
- The city claims that this police training facility (cop city) will improve police-community relations through enhanced de-escalation training and trauma-informed methods. A plethora of research demonstrates that de-escalation and trauma-informed training have a minuscule effect in reducing incidences of police brutality. Furthermore, police will never be “trauma-informed” because they gain authority through policing’s state-mandated/sanctioned ability to use violence. Instead, policing is reified through the production of trauma because the tactic of policing itself is rooted in the threat, or enactment, of force, particularly against Black and Brown folks. When considering the intersections of policing and mass incarceration, we see how police function as trauma-producers, and how the production of trauma disproportionately rests on the infliction of harm against Black and Brown folks.
- Colorado Springs plans to spend $45-60 million on this facility by borrowing from its reserves. Such fiscal irresponsibility is incomprehensible given that Mayor Yemi Mobolade’s budget for the 2024 year requires all departments to reduce spending by 3.4%. As concerned residents, we must critique the dumbfounding decision to spend at least $45 million dollars at the expense of invaluable city departments such as the Department of Transportation, Parks, Jobs Assistance, etc.
Listed above are seven of the many reasons that Prison Abolition Project opposes initiative 2A. We encourage readers to oppose 2A for the aforementioned reasons, but also to reflect on their commitments to community well-being in Colorado Springs, their relationship (or lack thereof) with local policing and how they choose to engage with Colorado Springs as CC Students. Sources are available upon request, but we encourage students to research these phenomena themselves.
We encourage readers to critically examine their knowledge, or lack thereof, of Colorado Springs politics and policing at large, and to develop their relationships with, and knowledge of, the Colorado Springs community. We call upon Colorado College Students, particularly those who seldom depart from the Colorado College “bubble,” to engage with Colorado Springs policy and community in meaningful and respectful ways. The reasoning outlined above has come through face-to-face conversations and organizing with Colorado Springs residents – a perspective not often considered by Colorado College Students during their academic careers.
Beyond The Election:
We know that the fight to Stop Cop City in Colorado Springs does not end with voting (regardless of whether or not 2A fails). We ground our opposition to 2A in the vision and fruition of a police-free future. As such, the work of Prison Abolition Project will continue far beyond the election on Nov. 7. We call on Colorado College community members to pay close attention to the actions of the Colorado Springs City Government and the Colorado Springs Police Department following the election and to join the broad coalition of community organizing groups in fighting against a Colorado Springs Cop City.
Other Voting Recommendations:
- We encourage readers to reject fascism in District 11 School Boards. Prison Abolition Project supports Darleen Daniels, Kate “Kathryn” Singh, Shay Dabney, and Rachel Paul
- “No” on Proposition HH