Two Boulder City Council members will add another person to the task force charged with examining models for a police oversight board — a process that has already been subject to criticism from the NAACP Boulder County branch and some community members.
In a 7-1 vote on May 7, council approved 12 members of the task force, but they reexamined that membership late Tuesday night because it did not include a Latinx person.
“I think all of us on the subcommittee wanted Latino representation, and we thought we had that,” Councilwoman Mary Young said. “We made some assumptions, and as it turned out, we didn’t.”
Young, Councilman Aaron Brockett and NAACP members Annett James, who is the president of the Boulder County branch; Jude Landsman; and Darren O’Connor served on the subcommittee that assembled the recommendations for task force membership.
Brockett was not at Tuesday’s council meeting, but Young said she and Brockett had discussed reopening the applications to solicit a Latinx member to be chosen by the subcommittee.
However, City Manager Jane Brautigam cautioned the subcommittee is scheduled to have its first meeting May 30, which would not give much time to reopen the process, collect materials and have another member ready in time.
Councilman Bob Yates suggested Young and Brockett appoint someone from the original list of applicants if there was not time to reopen applications.
“I’m OK with that,” Councilman Sam Weaver said. “I also feel like in the interest of transparency and cooperation, you (Young) should let the other three members of the committee know what you’re up to and know what council has said.”
Added Councilwoman Cindy Carlisle, “I would say the same thing. In order to expedite the process and move forward, I’m comfortable with doing that as well.”
Councilwoman Lisa Morzel also said that would be OK. Mayor Suzanne Jones and Councilwoman Mirabai Nagle were absent, in addition to Brockett.
The move drew public criticism by at least one member of the NAACP and subcommittee, O’Connor, who wrote in an email to council about his disappointment. The unnamed Latino applicant Young favored is from Denver and has no significant ties to Boulder, which is why members of the subcommittee originally opposed him, O’Connor wrote.
“(H)is selection by Council would not only dismiss the input of the NAACP, but also would go against the very charter that laid out the requirements for applicants,” O’Connor wrote. “Expediency is often used as an excuse to bypass process that otherwise ensures the community believes in the good faith work on such activities as choosing who will be on this Task Force.”
There was another Latinx applicant from Boulder who NAACP subcommittee members supported, but they are being excluded from weighing in on the additional member, he wrote.
Boulder police in recent months have faced increased community scrutiny after a March 1 incident in which police confronted a black Naropa University student, Zayd Atkinson, while he picked up trash, and the April 5 incident in which police arrested Sammie Lawrence, who also is black.
An independent review of the police investigation into the contact with Atkinson was released Monday. Conducted by U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, along with Michael Rankin and Robert Evans, both of Bluestone Investigative and Risk Solutions, the review concluded the police investigation “met or exceeded” standards and was right in finding no evidence of racial profiling.
In selecting the original 12 members of the task force, the majority of council — with only Brockett dissenting — rejected the inclusion of Lawrence. He was arrested while filming a police officer interacting with homeless individuals and after reportedly ignoring commands to move back.
Council members cited various reasons they thought Lawrence should not be on the task force, including that they thought his reaction was “theater,” that he would serve as a distraction and there is an ongoing case against him. NAACP members, among others, criticized the move to exclude Lawrence, as well as ignore their recommendation.
Earlier at Tuesday’s meeting, Lawrence took to the podium during public comment to say that though he could understand and even agree with council concerns about the ongoing case against him, the rest of council’s comments insulted him personally as well as mental health awareness more broadly.
“I shouldn’t have had to seek additional healing after being assaulted by a police officer because members of city council ignored or doubted my earnestness about the trauma I experienced,” he said. “Your lack of understanding and empathy were revealed, you should be embarrassed and ashamed.”
Justin Thunder Hart also spoke on behalf of Lawrence, who he described as his best friend and someone with whom he clawed his way out of homelessness.
“I don’t come to a lot of city council meetings because I’m very proud to live in Boulder,” Thunder Hart said. “… It was the first time I had ever felt ashamed to be living in Boulder.”
The task force meetings, which begin next week, will be noticed and open to the public. Its recommendations are due to council by Sept. 30.