Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Commentary: CSPD operates under a veil of mystery

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 11:33 AM

click to enlarge Mayor John Suthers vows to get rid of police officers with a propensity for excessive use of force. But Tyler Walker wasn't fired or charged. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers vows to get rid of police officers with a propensity for excessive use of force. But Tyler Walker wasn't fired or charged.
Many have said that sunshine is the best disinfectant.

If that's true, then the Colorado Springs Police Department must be debilitated with pathogens due to a consistent practice of hiding in the shadows.

Let's recap.

On July 8, local lawmen and others called a news conference to make remarks about the gunning down of five Dallas police officers on the previous day.

Each official marched to the podium to comment solemnly on the incident, which came after two people were killed by police in separate incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota just days before. The black shooter in Dallas was quoted as saying he wanted to kill police officers.

All the local lawmen said at the July 8 media event that they and their officers work hard at building relationships with the community.

"What we do in the north part of town should be the same as we do in the south part of town," Springs Police Chief Pete Carey said, referring to the high-income north area compared to the poverty-stricken and crime-ridden south and southeast sections.

"I'm proud of our relationship with the community," Carey said.

Others talked of the need to build trust with citizens so that what happened in Dallas doesn't happen here, so that there is no reason for someone to even dream of doing that here.

But let's look at one way the CSPD fails the community and shows no signs of wanting to change. Namely, transparency.

Today in the Independent, we report that the CSPD once again told the public "none of your beeswax" when asked for the third time for the internal affairs file of Tyler Walker, the officer who threw down a teenager, Alexis Acker, who was cuffed behind her back. He planted her face in the floor in an incident captured on video in November 2013. Yet, the department failed to even open an investigation until July 2014 — after the woman threatened a lawsuit — and then didn't come to a conclusion until the following July, shortly before the lawsuit was filed. Walker left on his own in October 2015, so we know he wasn't fired, though some type of discipline was imposed, CSPD has said.

The department has consistently maintained it's not in the public interest to release the IA report. Even though the city ponied up $100,000 in May to settle the lawsuit.

Did we mention that Walker is the son of a former CSPD commander? Maybe that played no role. But the public will never know, because the file is off-limits to the public, according to the police. It's not in our interest to know anything about that investigation, they say. Some citizens suggest Walker should have been charged with a crime. But again, we'll never know why the cops, who investigate themselves in cases like this, decided to give him a pass.

click to enlarge Alexis Acker is human evidence of CSPD tactics when dealing with the public. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Alexis Acker is human evidence of CSPD tactics when dealing with the public.
Mayor John Suthers said at the July 8 news conference the city and police want to create a good environment with the community. That includes setting high standards for officers whose demographic reflects that of the community, he said, and providing "cutting edge training" on the use of force and then holding officers accountable.

But he means by that — accountability — remains off-limits to the public, because the CSPD says it's not in our best interest to be informed.

The purpose of open-meetings and open-records laws is to allow citizens the opportunity to monitor their government. This they cannot do when an agency remains cloaked in secrecy with the full backing of the chief executive officer that oversees that agency — the mayor.

The take-away, sadly, seems to be that the CSPD wants to have a good relationship with the community, and that its formula for that is for the community to respect the police, obey the police, never question the police and just take their word that everything is fine.

One might wonder if Alexis Acker thinks everything is fine.  


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