My thanks to Gazette Editor Vince Bzdek for reminding elected officials that their first priority is keeping citizens safe. (Colorado Has Never Felt This Unsafe, July 4, 2021). But, the response from the majority of Colorado’s General Assembly has not been “crickets” as Bzdek states. Rather, the progressive liberal response, led by El Paso County’s own Sen. Pete Lee, has been legislation making our citizens less safe, releasing serious offenders without bail with no consequences if they fail to appear in court. And Lee’s liberal legislative colleagues led efforts to hamstring our police, forcing those who protect us to wonder whether they might be prosecuted for protecting their fellow citizens and themselves.
Bzdek touts President Joe Biden’s toothless crime-fighting agenda which encourages the use of one-time pandemic relief money to beef up police departments and hire more officers. But, Biden’s party has promoted defunding the police, while pushing for limitations on law enforcement’s ability to defend the very communities that suffer the most from violent crime. The crickets are from Biden himself, as well as Gov. Jared Polis and Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock who both sat by for weeks while Colorado’s Capitol was vandalized, graffitied, and ravaged by “peaceful” protesters. This fomented a culture of lawlessness.
The Colorado Democrat reaction to George Floyd’s murder, which occurred in a Democrat controlled city and state, was to hastily pass legislation purporting to impose law enforcement accountability and transparency, but doing so in a way that caused officer retirements, serious police retention problems, and a law enforcement recruiting crisis. All of this at the time that we need to hire the very best from the communities that need to be protected.
Hire more police? Beef up police departments? Everything that Biden, Polis, and their party have done has been an attack on the law enforcement profession. Is it any wonder good people would find some other career? Accountability and transparency were always possible without attacking everyone who puts on a badge every day and night to protect us. By the Democrats’ estimation, the bad guys are not the elected officials put in office by the liberals themselves who have failed their communities. They blame the men and women who put on the uniform daily to protect all of us.
Bzdek says it’s time to move to a conversation about public protection again. There are those of us who spent the last two legislative sessions trying to keep public protection in the conversation at all. We spoke out about the rising crime rate. We advocated for law enforcement and for accountability and transparency, as did the leaders in law enforcement themselves. We opposed legislation that would have set serious offenders free to commit other crimes while awaiting trial and then, give them a pass if they failed to appear in court. We tried to have the conversation but it was ignored, dismissed, or even labeled as misinformation. Instead, Democrats were more concerned about criminals than crime victims; more worried about parolees than public safety; and more concerned about sex offenders than innocent children.
No one cares more about the exploding crime rate than do our law enforcement leaders and their officers and no one wants professional, accountable, and respected law enforcement departments more than they. No one. Yet, we and they had to fight every day to be heard and to have public safety and a rising crime rate even considered in a conversation that was more about punishing police than ensuring accountability and transparency. The assumption was police are bad and everyone they arrest is a victim.
What to do about runaway crime? In the long term, we need to continue our work on mental health issues, drug use and other social problems that make neighborhoods recruiting grounds for gangs, and improving community policing methods.
The public should know that law enforcement has supported and partnered with us in this work. It is a fact that no one cares about this more than they do. In the near term though, how about emphasizing the arrest and prosecution of felons in possession of illegal or stolen firearms? How about ensuring that those who commit violent and serious crimes are subject to serious bail conditions or even held as the community and flight risk that they are? These proposals have all been rejected by the progressive liberal majority.
Will public safety and criminal justice be a defining issue in 2022? I hope so. It is after all, as Bzdek says, the prime directive.
State Senator Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) is the ranking Republican member on the State Senate Judiciary Committee.