You can sign up for the conversation at gazette.com/police and you will be able to ask the panelists your questions in real time during the video conference.

On the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the day when the last enslaved Americans learned they had been freed, Colorado became the first state in the nation to act on police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“It’s now the law in Colorado!” Gov. Jared Polis yelled immediately after signing Senate Bill 217 into law. 

Among the changes to police departments coming across the state under the new measure: officers can no longer use chokeholds, they must wear body cameras when dealing with the public, they cannot use deadly force unless they feel their lives are in imminent danger, and officers can be sued individually for misconduct for up to $25,000, or for 5% of the judgment. It also requires other officers to intervene if they feel that another is using inappropriate force.

Colorado Springs police seek to identify, arrest demonstrators who blocked I-25
Colorado Springs votes in favor of advisory police accountability commission

A few days after the bill signing, Colorado Springs City Council members voted 8-1 in favor of an ordinance outlining the creation of the city's first police advisory commission.

The commission has four main goals: assisting city council members with budget, appropriation and resource allocation using audits of law enforcement performance; serving as a channel for residents and the Police Department to share concerns; providing policy recommendations; and promoting an "improved understanding and relationships" between the public and Police Department.

The year of the coronavirus has suddenly morphed into a year of dramatic change for police departments and social justice reform.

So what will policing look like going forward in Colorado Springs? How have three weeks of local protests and the fresh political responses to them changed the relationship between police and people of color? Or have they?

Some of the folks most closely involved have agreed to come together, via Zoom, to discuss the coming changes and take questions from the public about it all. 

The Gazette Community Conversation will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday on a computer or phone near you.  

Our panelists will be: Police Chief Vince Niski, protest organizer Derrick Matthews, head of Back to the People; Ron Wynn, founder of the African American Youth Leadership Conference; and City Councilman Wayne Williams. 

You can sign up for the conversation at gazette.com/police and you will be able to ask the panelists your questions in real time during the video conference. A moderator will vet questions via a chat box and then ask the panelists to address them directly.

“In homes and workplaces, conversations around issues of racial equity are happening," said Tim Wise, author and a national expert on the sociology of white privilege, "and many people who have never really focused on issues of racial justice are beginning to do so.” 

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