The city of Fort Collins plans to form a community advisory group to improve Fort Collins Police Services’ work with people of color, the LGBTQ community and historically under-served populations.
The news comes following passage of historic statewide police reform and a summer of widespread police-related demonstrations in Fort Collins, ranging from Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality protests to “Back the Blue”-style rallies.
“We recognize that different groups have unique barriers to trust with law enforcement,” Chief Jeff Swoboda said in a city news release. “Our hope is that this program will help us better understand experiences, fears, intersectional issues and obstacles so we can solve problems together and create a safer community for all.”
The volunteer group, which is expected to become active next year, will work with Fort Collins police to identify service gaps, make suggestions and provide perspective on policing practices and local issues, according to the city news release. The city is modeling the group’s approach off the 2018 Community Trust Initiative, which City Council created to examine challenges that immigrants face in Fort Collins.
Data released by Fort Collins Police Services earlier this year shows that Black people are overrepresented among those arrested and ticketed in the community. It’s unknown if this holds true for the Latino population because Fort Collins Police Services hasn’t historically tracked that information. About 1.6% of the city’s population is Black, and Black people made up about 6.1% of arrests and citations issued by Fort Collins police between 2018 and spring 2020.
The city plans to release more information about getting involved in the advisory group in early 2021. Swoboda said the new group will fill a gap in community discourse.
“We frequently share data and have single-issue meetings, but what we’re missing is a regular group discussion with individuals who represent diverse parts of our community,” Swoboda said in the news release. “We need to find out if the information we share is meaningful, relevant and accessible; how people want to engage with our agency; and what critical communication we may be overlooking. Without engaging all segments of the community, we fail.”
Fort Collins Police Services began a strategic planning process in October to better align the agency’s work with the community’s needs. The effort followed a nationwide wave of police brutality protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The Colorado General Assembly adopted police reform legislation this summer that changed police procedures in an effort to prevent deadly use-of-force and requires more extensive tracking and reporting of police encounters with the public, among other things.
Also this summer, Fort Collins City Council created an ad-hoc Community Impact Committee to discuss community safety through an equity lens. The committee has been meeting regularly and is expected to make budget and policy recommendations in early 2021. It’s currently accepting community input and ideas.
Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.