Local law enforcement leaders opened themselves up to an hour and a half of questions about issues ranging from use of force to marijuana legalization to civil forfeiture during a Tuesday night forum.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder and Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey and Libertarian attorney David K. Williams sat on a panel at the forum hosted by Colorado Springs-based political group Liberty First and moderated by the group's president, David Kelly.
"As a police chief, one of my biggest mistakes would be assuming what concerns a community about public safety and not asking them," Carey said before the event. "It's important from me to hear from the community members and see exactly what's going on and see if I'm doing the very best I can as far as allocating police officers and the resources I have."
Elder, too, said that law enforcement leaders don't guess - or at least, "we don't guess well" - what community members are concerned about.
"It's not what we think they need - it's what they want to come tell us they need," Elder said after the forum concluded. "What's important is that people of our community through this event, or the host of other ones that we do, that they feel comfortable to ask us questions."
The event's several dozen attendees sat in a room in Library 21c, 1175 Chapel Hills Drive. Shortly after the forum began, it was opened up to the crowd, and people stepped up to a microphone to ask the panelists a question.
Several questions focused on law enforcement tactics, and in response to one about use of force, Elder and Carey emphasized the importance of well-trained officers.
"I've seen a rise in violence against police officers ... so they're forced to respond to that," Carey said. But he added: "I think the body-worn cameras will show clearly the level of restraint we use."
Kelly, with Liberty First, said he hoped the panel would facilitate conversations between law enforcement and the community by identifying "hot topics" that would bring people together to ask questions.
"There's a lot going on right now," Carey said during the forum. "How are we dealing with those things? How transparent are we?"
He cited conversations he's had in the community on topics including race, body-worn cameras, immigration and marijuana.
"There's lots that I could say are important, but that's not as important as hearing what you say is important," he said.
For more information about Liberty First, visit libertasprimoris.org.
Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198