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Former police chief prompted Boulder’s reversal of off-duty officer cancellation

Top city officials acknowledge initial BI, Inc. decision as 'mistake'

The GEO Group in Boulder is the parent company of BI Industries.
The GEO Group in Boulder is the parent company of BI Industries.

One of Greg Testa’s last moves as Boulder’s chief of police was to reinstate off-duty officer services for a Gunbarrel-based federal immigration contractor.

A city memo circulated Monday shows a conversation Testa had with the City Manager’s and City Attorney’s offices helped bring Boulder back around to providing off-duty police to BI, Inc., which has come under public scrutiny for its multi-million dollar contracts with federal immigration authorities.

Following early August emails from community members to city leaders inquiring whether Boulder had any contracts with BI, Inc., officials in the City Manager’s and City Attorney’s offices directed the police department to no longer provide off-duty officers for extra patrol at BI’s campus.

Boulder’s off-duty officer program is a common practice by law enforcement agencies that allows businesses and community organizations to request additional police presence for increased security from officers who would normally be off the clock. Their time is paid to the police department by the organizations that ask for the extra law enforcement presence. The Bolder Boulder race is one of the more prominent annual users of the city’s off-duty officer program.

Late last month, the police department announced to BI the city had reversed course, and would resume allowing the business to engage the service, but it was unclear what prompted Boulder’s backtrack.

Testa retired earlier this month after more than three decades with Boulder police, the last five years as the department’s chief.

The memo showing Testa’s involvement in the reversal in BI’s favor, shared with city council via email at the request of Councilwoman Lisa Morzel, was from City Manager Jane Brautigam, City Attorney Tom Carr, Deputy City Manager Tanya Ange and Interim Police Chief Carey Weinheimer.

BI makes ankle-worn monitoring devices used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of its Intensive Supervision Appearance Program for people moving through immigration proceedings. Local activists have raised concerns with how immigrants in the program are treated by company officials and that program participants are humiliated by wearing the devices in public.

“In light of the public scrutiny of BI, Inc. related to the use of ankle monitors in (Intensive Supervision Appearance Program), the city attorney and city manager decided that the police department should end its relationship with BI, Inc.,” the memo stated. “In later discussions with the police chief, the city attorney and city manager decided that the decision to stop providing security at BI, Inc. was a mistake.”

BI used the off-duty officer program following protests at its offices this year, and demonstrations outside an Aurora detention facility operated by its parent company, GEO Group, with which Denver discontinued contracts for running halfway houses in that city, initially putting inmates at risk of being sent back to state prisons.

The parent company’s safety worries heightened Tuesday, according to a statement from GEO spokesperson Rich Coolidge. It said Denver activist groups through Facebook have planned a protest next week outside the home of the Aurora ICE Processing Center’s facility administrator, Johnny Choate.

“We are deeply troubled by the dangerous rhetoric and intimidation perpetrated by these extremist groups, who have now targeted one of our employees and his family at their home, recklessly releasing their personal information,” the GEO statement said. “… The dishonest narrative and lies being spread by radical groups about the services our company provides on behalf of the federal government has only led to the endangerment of our employees, of government employees and the public.”

When Boulder’s cancellation of off-duty services to BI was reversed, police department spokesperson Shannon Aulabaugh cited “safety concerns” as the reason, but declined to elaborate.

“The Boulder Police Department has a long history of protecting everyone in the community, as well as providing off-duty services to businesses with safety concerns, without regard to politics,” the city memo stated. “Equal access to city services is a key component of the city’s responsibility to promote the health, safety and welfare of all community members. Deciding not to provide security to BI, Inc. set a precedent that could ultimately risk public safety.”

Boulder policy dictates the police department normally avoid providing off-duty police services to marijuana-based and alcohol-based businesses, unless the police chief approves such work, and also prohibits off-duty officer employment as a private investigator or security guard.

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