Colorado Springs police chief updates City Council on progress in use-of-force study results
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- On Monday afternoon, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez made a presentation to the City Council regarding the results and recommendations of an independent study of how and how often officers use force to subdue suspects.
The city hired Transparency Matters, a Pennsylvania-based consulting firm, in 2020 to study how often the CSPD uses force, whether any of that force is considered unnecessary and preventable, and the possible implementation of training to de-escalate tense situations that would eliminate the need for physical force, gas, spray or guns.
The study began in the wake of the 2020 downtown protests in the aftermath of the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd , who died during an arrest; one of the officers involved was convicted of murder and manslaughter and received a 22-year prison sentence, while the other three officers were convicted of violating Floyd's civil rights.
The CSPD made the final report public last April and presented it to the City Council two months later for further action.
"What (the study) said is that there were some disparities in the use of force that we see across the nation in all police organizations," Vasquez explained. "But the author of the report did say that our police department should be incredibly proud because the numbers that we see compared to other galvanizations of our size are relatively low."
Still, he said that the CSPD will follow through on the study's major recommendations for improvement.
"For example -- they recommended that we not only evaluate our training, but that we bring an outside consultant in to evaluate whether our use-of-force training meets standards that are best practices or benchmarks across the nation. So, we're in the middle of doing that."
The chief also mentioned procedural justice as an easy way to further reduce use-of-force instances.
"It's really about, simply, how do we treat the citizens that we're interacting with, in a fair and respectful manner?" he said.
Among other objectives revealed by Vasquez:
- The entire department will complete, by the end of April, a four-hour training session that focuses on de-escalating crisis situations that could result in officers' use of force.
- Annual reports on the frequency and motive of officers' use of force -- with the first report to be released next month.
- Allocating $5 million to efficiently link data systems and better track instances of use of force.
The Council was supportive of the progress made, but Councilwoman Nancy Henjum said that citizens should share the responsibility.
"How do we behave?" she said. "How do each of us, when we get behind the wheel of a car, how are we driving? How are we living our own lives responsibly? What are we doing as families and to support all of the systems in our community?"
However, some Council members worry that the progress in limiting use-of-force situations could be affected by an ongoing shortage of officers.
"You have a shortage of 100 officers and you lose six to eight every month," said Council President Tom Strand. "You're not catching up. How do you overcome that?"
Councilman Dave Donelson shared that concern.
"How many officers need to be hired to get us to where we need to be?" He asked. "That's what I'm concerned about."
Councilman Bill Murray advocated for more police resources.
"I'll be out office next week and will no longer be here," he said. "I hope that my successor, in the next budget cycle, will allocate more resources. What you've been getting clearly isn't enough. We're growing, we have more tourists coming. You need more resources. It's something I've always been saying."
Vasquez said that his top priority is finding a new location for, and increasing the size of, the CSPD's academy.
"That will allow us ti provide better training and have bigger classes of potential officers coming in," he said.