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De'Von Bailey's death spurs group to look at police accountability 

Moving forward

click to enlarge Pastor Promise Lee. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Pastor Promise Lee.
Six months after the police shooting of a 19-year-old black man divided the community, a group has formed to explore options to improve the accountability of local law enforcement.

A grand jury ultimately ruled that the Aug. 3 shooting of De’Von Bailey, who had a gun in his shorts, was justified. But many Colorado Springs residents, particularly in the Southeast neighborhood where Bailey, was shot after running from police, aren’t happy with the way law enforcement handled the incident.

“This killing of De’Von Bailey left the community traumatized... and amplified both fear and distrust of the CSPD and city leaders, particularly the mayor and some [City Council] members,” says Pastor Promise Lee, whose Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center lies on Preuss Road near Adams Park, about a mile west of where Bailey was shot.

Thus, a group of “diverse, concerned citizens” formed a group called the Justice for De’Von Editorial Board to advocate against police violence in Colorado Springs, Lee says. The Law Enforcement Accountability Project, an offshoot of that group, aims to encourage dialogue and transparency.

The Accountability Project’s first event, “Transparency in Olympic City USA,” will take place Feb. 6 and is billed as a panel discussion of the state of police accountability in Colorado Springs.

The panel includes: Gia Irlando, outgoing community relations ombudsman for the Denver Office of the Independent Monitor and member of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) Board of Directors; Stephany Rose Spaulding, director of women’s and ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski; Florencia Rojo, assistant professor of sociology at Colorado College; and Kevin Mitchell, co-chairperson of the Colorado Springs NAACP’s Criminal Justice Committee.

Event sponsors include the Justice for De’Von Editorial Board, Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center, Citizens Project, Jody Alyn Consulting, NAACP Colorado Springs and Colorado College.

Via a police spokesperson, Chief Niski said he was “looking forward to an educational, informative and collaborative event.”

“I believe it is incredibly beneficial when law enforcement can sit down with engaged citizen groups and have a thoughtful and respectful conversation,” Niski added.

One issue the group plans to explore, Lee says, is the possibility of instituting a civilian oversight process similar to Denver’s Office of the Independent Monitor. That office was created by the Denver mayor and Denver City Council in 2014 to conduct independent oversight of the discipline of law enforcement personnel. A Citizen Oversight Board also makes policy recommendations for law enforcement.

Lee says Denver’s process isn’t perfect, but the group is looking at civilian-oversight models from around the country.

Niski, however, disagrees with the idea of a civilian review board to investigate use of force by law enforcement.

“I do not believe that there are issues with the current system,” Niski wrote. “...From some of the data I have reviewed, civilian review panels can be more lenient with employees than their own department.”

The Feb. 6 event, moderated by Lee, will include a portion where members of the audience can ask questions.

“There are harsh feelings, of course, and unanswered questions, because this is the first time this kind of dialogue has taken place,” Lee says of the event. “But it will, in fact, be cordial, and the end goal is to come up with solutions that make our city a better place for everybody, for everyone, regardless of ZIP code, ethnicity, gender, etc.”

Editor’s Note: The Colorado Springs Indy is the media sponsor of the panel event Feb. 6.

Event details:

The Law Enforcement Accountability Project presents: Transparency in Olympic City USA
• Thursday, Feb. 6, 6 to 8 p.m.
• Relevant Word Ministries, 1040 S. Institute St.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly characterized a ruling regarding the officer-involved shooting of De'Von Bailey. After 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May referred the matter to a grand jury, the grand jury determined the shooting was justified.

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