In the past year, a dozen Goldenites have sat in on the Golden Police Department’s Incident Review Board meetings, helping GPD review or draft policies and helping the department develop its new mission, vision and values.
Their next task, as they discussed at their March 9 meeting, is to help the department assess whether it is keeping pace with national best practices.
The Golden Police Department began laying the groundwork for its Community Engagement Group in 2021, selected the members in late 2021, and then held its first meeting in March 2022.
Chief Joe Harvey said the department started CEG to help rebuild public trust and “create good faith with the people we have … and the systems we have.” Because CEG members are golden residents, they bring valuable outside perspectives when the department develops policies or reviews best practices, he explained.
While other departments across the country have something similar, CEG member Stuart Sipkin believed some are just using it as a PR tactic. But that’s not the case in Golden.
Looking around the room at his colleagues, Sipkin said, “I don’t think anybody would disagree that the (GPD) command staff hears us. … I would love to see (a CEG) in every law enforcement agency in the country .”
Eric Trout, a former prosecutor in western Colorado, said he never saw this kind of community involvement where he used to work, adding, “It’s nice to see out here.”
Right now, CEG has 11 members, and Harvey said he’s looking to add one or two more. Considering that about 9% of the city’s population is Hispanic, Harvey said he wanted to see more Hispanic representation on the CEG.
Overall, he wanted the membership to be as diverse as Golden himself—not just racial diversity, but socioeconomic status, age, career background, and other characteristics. The group includes a few retirees, four members of the Golden Anti-Racism Collective, a Golden High School student, a local realtor, a minister and a teacher.
“We wanted to create as diverse a group as possible and have as many characteristics of our community as we possibly could,” Harvey continued.
Having a voice that ensures transparency
When the CEG came together, members were able to “see behind the curtain and get involved,” as Harvey described. They broke into smaller subgroups to help the department with different tasks and do a few overall projects together.
Some CEG members sit on the Incident Review Board, where officers review high-level uses of force such as strikes, takedowns, stun weapons and others. The IRB reviews whether the incident was within or outside policy and makes disciplinary recommendations.
Although the CEG members do not have a voice per se during these incident reviews, they do have a voice. They are able to ask questions and make statements about the incidents they described, adding how they see “the good, the bad and the ugly” in these encounters.
Other CEG members helped GPD develop its new mission, vision and values. Rev. Susan Otey of the First United Methodist Church of Golden said she loved hearing the sworn and non-sworn employees talk about “what they loved about GPD.”
Another subgroup is the policy committee, where CEG members “have a direct line” to help GPD review current policies and draft new ones, they described.
Overall, the 11 Golden Knights said they have learned a lot about the police department and the day-to-day activities of the officers. One experience was learning about de-escalation and use of force via training scenarios and simulations.
Bryan Kelly described how seeing how poorly he and his colleagues performed was the biggest learning experience for him. He, Otey and others said it gave them an appreciation for the amount and breadth of training GPD officers have.
Kelly said he thought he would be able to make a split-second decision during the use-of-force exercise, but “from my perspective, there was no split-second at all.” In the end, he got himself and another person killed during the exercise. Meanwhile, he said, the officers “seemed comfortable in their training — they were just called in.”
While they have accomplished a lot in their first year, CEG members said they have more work to do. During the March 9 meeting, Harvey asked them to review the “President’s Task Force on Policing in the 21st Century” and see how GPD could improve from when it first implemented these best practices six years ago.
In general, CEG members felt that the GPD was moving in the right direction and “sets itself apart from other forces,” as Ty Scrable said.
Kelly added, “I’m impressed with how high the expectations are here. The officers and staff here are set up for success and everyone at GPD is in positions where they should have no problem meeting those high expectations.”
Board of Directors,