Statements from the Panel and Co-chairs
This page houses statements released by the Boulder Police Oversight Panel. The most recent statements are at the top of the page.
Letter From the Co-chairs
Ariel Amaru and Daniel Leonard
In 2019, Zayd Atkinson was accosted by a member of the Boulder Police while he was caring for the property around his home. Emblematic of the deep, systematic prejudices in policing in the United States, community leaders rallied together to re-envision police oversight and discipline.
In 2020, communities across the country rallied for change after the wrongful execution of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police in their communities. Leaders in the Boulder community finalized Ordinance 8430, establishing the Office of the Independent Police Monitor and the Police Oversight Panel.
In 2021, we went work.
The city of Boulder's first Police Oversight Panel has worked with the Independent Monitor and the Police Department to build community oversight of the police. The panelists are everyday members of the Boulder Community. We work full-time jobs—as lawyers, social workers, businesspeople, students, teachers—and then volunteer our evenings and weekends for this work. We are united by the pressing need to bring accountability, insight, and oversight to policing.
Ordinance 8430 did not give empty lip service to diversity in selecting panelists. We are those marginalized by our community and our police force. We are people of color, women, LGTBQ, and people who have experienced homelessness or been previously incarcerated. Ordinance 8430 mandated our presence and empowered us to carry out this work. The conversation has frequently been contentious. The panel has stepped up to challenge systemic norms. The community has rallied to demand change. What is evident in this first year is that police oversight only works with real diversity in power and in the room.
Our primary achievement this year was establishing our bylaws to supplement Ordinance 8430. The process was lengthy. We worked through research, drafting, legal review, and public comment phases. We worked with every subsequent panel in our hearts and minds, knowing that even the smallest decisions would reverberate throughout the future. While we are proud of the bylaws approved in March 2022, we also leave them forever incomplete. Our guidance for the future is that these bylaws, and even Ordinance 8430, should be living documents that must change and grow with the community’s needs.
As you will read in this report, we began to review community complaints and investigations into police conduct in early 2021. In this work, the panel has already proven its worth in perspective and advisement. We have initiated additional investigations into police conduct, recommended lasting policy changes, in addition to recommending appropriate discipline and reform. 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. We cannot all be satisfied in all of our disputes and will continue to work on processes for redress and remediation. Even so, we can take pride in the growing oversight of the department and our intent on producing the lasting change our community requires of us.
From our outset, we have intended to delve into the data, to examine our history, and use it to set policy for our future. Unfortunately, injustice was not keeping a good record of its activities. Previously, data and records of police activity and the use of force in our community have not undergone robust analysis or provided effective public transparency, making them insufficient to quickly meet our current needs for understanding and progress. This is systemic injustice. This will take time to change, and to draw out the information we need. In 2021, the Office of the Police Monitor and the Police Oversight Panel published the first of these annual reports and turned a page with the Boulder Police Department. Our mission now is a complete, practical, publicly accessible collection of data on the use of force, community complaints, and all other salient data of police conduct. Our community demands this insight into our policing. We on this panel require it so that our future includes objective evaluation on our effectiveness in changing policing in our community.
In the coming year, we look forward to regular community engagement, a deeper look into police use of force with the Police Monitor, and the recruitment of new panel members.
Today's message to our community is that our work has only just begun.
Statement With Respect to the Boulder County NAACP's Request to Review Previously Closed Cases
Panel Members: Unanimous
Submitted: Oct. 22, 2021
The Boulder Police Oversight Panel is still establishing its bylaws in relation to Ordinance 8430. We, the Panel members, recognize and are attempting to appropriately address, within our legal authority, the request by the Boulder County Branch of the NAACP to consider reviewing an investigation completed in 2014 involving allegations against deceased Officer Eric Talley. Thus, the Panel suspended its work in order to receive communications outside of the designated complaint processes, to consult with counsel, and to determine its jurisdiction in this area.
It is the opinion of the Panel that the review of this case was not brought in good faith to the Panel, as communications between the Boulder NAACP and the Boulder Police Department, which included a meeting and presentation on the investigation, proceeded with no involvement from the Panel. The Panel was only made aware of the conflict hours before being confronted in a public meeting, without due time to review materials submitted by the NAACP or the Independent Police Monitor, and only after interviews had already been given to members of the press by both the NAACP and the Boulder Police Department.
The Panel is committed to transparency and fairness. We recognize our critical role as the first Boulder Police Oversight Panel in establishing the legitimacy of this work and must act with legal and ethical integrity. The Panel does not answer—in practice or legal authority—to the Boulder NAACP or to the Boulder Police Department. We answer to our community and consider the community trust as sacred.
The Panel will not be influenced by threats against its legitimacy, crossing personal boundaries with its members, or any other tactics of coercion. We look forward to working with our community and representative organizations with grace and openness.
Reason for Policy
The community volunteers of the Panel have consulted legal counsel regarding Ordinance 8430 and the Panel's jurisdiction over complaints in which the Boulder Police Chief has already made recommendations. The City Attorney’s Office has reviewed Ordinance 8430, as passed by the Boulder City Council, and advised the Panel that the law grants it authority to review an investigation and access the requisite evidence before the Chief of Police makes a final determination. As such, the Panel does not have legal authority to review any cases in which the Chief of Police has already made a final determination, nor does the City of Boulder or the Boulder Police Department have legal authority to provide the Panel with the required evidence and investigation reports necessary to complete a new review of these cases.
Finally, the Panel does not have judicial authority, or in any way serve in a judicial capacity. Nor does the Panel have the authority to conduct investigations, but rather only has the power to review investigations conducted by the Boulder Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit.
Overview of Policy
Historical review of policing and policy practice is within the jurisdiction of the Panel through the request and review of non-case specific data and is a critical component to affecting real change. Ordinance 8430 grants the Panel special access to request historical data on policing and patterns of use of force in the Boulder Community. Consequently, the Panel plans to request further information to examine past and current patterns of officer use of force or the threat to use force while out of uniform, and to consider policy recommendations.
In its provisional bylaws, the Panel has also established initiatives to focus specifically on analyzing and understanding our past, to better set policy recommendations for our future. This includes a process for regular review of historical information—including data collected prior to the formation of the panel—to identify trends and make policy recommendations. As a part of the process, the panel will host public engagement opportunities to co-interpret the historical data and co-develop policy recommendations to address any inequities.
Stakeholders Affected and Additional Actions
The Panel will not foster exclusive relationships with any organization, individual, or other body to file complaints in its future work. As diverse community representatives, the Panel is committed to providing independent and equitable review of our police.
Finally, the Panel sees the value in, and intends on creating pathways for community outreach and communication. The exact path forward is still being developed and we are open to community suggestions for ideal community involvement.
The Panel recognizes and willingly accepts its responsibility to disrupt any patterns of inappropriate use of force by Boulder Police, for the safety, security, and well-being of our community. At this time, there is no legal way, however, for the Panel to fulfill the specific demands made by the Boulder NAACP to review this particular investigation. To pressure others or ourselves to attempt an action not legally sanctioned by Ordinance 8430 would jeopardize the Panel’s legitimacy and ability to continue.