Boulder Human Relations Commission weighs in on deals with police departments

The Boulder Human Relations Commission intends to work on a statement regarding agreements between the city’s police department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security.

In addition, the committee is interested in continuing discussions on the means by which it can influence such partnerships, even when it has not been formally requested.

“We cannot control an outcome,” Commissioner Lindsey Loberg said. “But I think it’s important to say something, to make a statement.”

“And that’s our job, isn’t it?” President Art Figel agreed. “It’s part of our responsibility…to be advisory and not just when asked.”

When the Boulder City Council approved a deal allowing the Boulder Police Department to join the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force earlier this month, several city council members suggested sending the proposal to the human relations for further consideration. However, the Council ultimately backed the deal by a 6-3 vote without formally requesting input from the committee.

Despite this, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold met with HRC on Wednesday evening to learn more about the agreements and answer questions.

Typically, the already-approved agreement with the FBI allows the city to enter the task force, allowing information sharing between the FBI and the Boulder Police Department for the stated purpose of protecting the country from threats. terrorists to national security.

Changes to the agreement, which officials have acknowledged was a boilerplate provided by the FBI, included the addition of a stipulation that the officer assigned to the task force would continue to follow. city ​​procedures and the requirement that the police department publish an annual report with general information about investigations conducted as part of its participation in the task force.

The city delayed a decision on a similar deal with the Department of Homeland Security after hearing the conversation between city council members and the community’s denial during the public hearing on the FBI deal.

While that deal was originally intended as an agreement with the department’s US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, Herold clarified on Wednesday that ICE would not be involved.

Instead, the police department would work with the Department of Homeland Security on human trafficking cases, she said.

Details of this particular deal have not been released as the city continues to work on it, but officials have repeatedly maintained that Boulder will continue to be a sanctuary city and will not work with ICE or ask people their immigration status.

“Most importantly, I want to emphasize that the city remains committed to our status as a sanctuary city and nothing in this memorandum of understanding would violate the language of the current ordinance … which specifically prohibits any employee from the city to “cooperate with any federal authority with respect to any investigation of a person’s immigration status,” City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde wrote in an email.

Given Boulder’s size, partnerships with federal agencies provide the city with the necessary resources and assistance, Herold noted.

Still, community members raised concerns about the FBI in particular, referring to the organization’s darker history, including its surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. and its murder of Fred Hampton, a leader of the Black Panther Party.

In the end, Herold and the members of the Human Relations Commission, it comes down to trust, although there have been differing opinions on the nature of this.

“I wouldn’t make a deal if there weren’t safeguards,” Herold said, later adding, “I can tell you that my whole purpose as chief of police is to prevent damage to the community.”

But for some members of the commission, it is not always so simple.

Commissioner Christine Chen, for example, highlighted transparency concerns she heard expressed by community members.

“There is clearly skepticism and distrust from some people around these (deals),” Chen said. “Bringing it down to a trust issue is accurate, but I also think it’s quite unsatisfying for a lot of people. I think building that trust requires more transparency…around the details.

Loberg agreed, noting that there are systemic concerns beyond the control and influence of any single individual.

“Conversations about distrust and this issue are often separated from the decades and centuries of harm, abuse and violence that caused it,” they said. “Not historic – today too. That’s part of what needs to be sorted out.

Aurora J. William