OPINION – Have you tracked the progression?

By Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith

Have you tracked the progression?

We have watched over the last few weeks as protestors have filled the streets in communities across the country. Some protests have devolved into looting and rioting, thankfully most have not.

The demands of protestors have progressed almost daily. At first, the demands were for the officers involved in the death of George Floyd to be fired. They were fired.

Next, demands moved to charging the officers. They were charged.

Toward the end of the week, demands moved to immediate changes in laws and police practices nationwide. I’ve received numerous emails demanding an “8 that can’t wait” list of police reforms that backers insist must happen now. The Colorado legislative majority is dutifully obliging, introducing and cramming through the most massive rewrite of criminal justice laws in a century in barely over 10 days.

A few days ago, articles began appearing in left wing publications insisting that the vast majority of police are not honorable men and women, dedicated to protecting their communities. Insisting, instead, that they were merely oppressors of the people. By Sunday, the entertainment writer for the Denver Post published a piece loathing that television shows and movies depicted police officers as good guys and not villains.

Over the weekend, the demand has moved to defunding the police, literally dismantling the enforcement of criminal laws. What is the protestors solution? Locally, the demand is for “trauma-informed counselors.” Yes, you read it correctly, the protestors solution is when you are the victim of a crime, a trauma-informed counselor comes to your aid to comfort you. But, what about when a crime is in progress? Their proposed solution (you can’t make this up), is vigilantes. According to handouts shared at the Fort Collins protests last week, protestors endorse a vigilante response rather then a police response. If you read the news over the last 24 hours, a supermajority of the Minneapolis city council has publicly vowed to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.

That wouldn’t happen in Colorado, would it? Well, the current bill being rammed through our legislature has a provision that would do just that, if police agencies failed to follow all of the exhaustive reporting measures proposed in their bill, ( page 7, lines 17-20), their funding authority we be directed to reduce their funding. What are those reporting requirements? They include more than a dozen data points on each and every contact a peace officer makes, to include a requirement that the officers profile every person contacted, based on “THE PERCEIVED DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION OF THE PERSON STOPPED BASED ON THE OBSERVATION AND PERCEPTION OF THE PEACE OFFICER MAKING THE STOP” (page 5, lines 26-27 and page 6, line 1). Aren’t we not supposed to profile persons?

Sorry, but I will not stand by silently and accept these lies and this radical agenda. Humankind is not perfect. Police officers are not perfect. However, the vast majority of officers are tremendously dedicated and amazing people. That is a fact.

Since I joined this profession over 3 decades ago, more than 4,500 American police officers’ names have been added to the police memorial wall because they lost their lives in service to their communities. They are just as much heroes as the military heroes who have died on battlefields abroad.

Collectively, from the brave and dedicated officers on the beat, up through chiefs and sheriffs, we work every day to improve our profession. Change doesn’t come through chants. It comes through action and we have been taking positive actions for decades and we continue to today. The spending mental health co-responder programs, less lethal tools and body camera programs well exceeds the cost of firearms in American police budgets today.

To the Colorado legislature who is in a rush to pass a bill and get back to the campaign trail, I leave you with this universal truth – Anything doing is worth doing right.

If you are truly dedicated to improving our state, take the time to do it right and budget for what you claim is critically important.

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