Over the past fall semester, the CU Boulder Community Safety Task Force has continued its work to forge new paths and bring forth recommendations to increase accountability, transparency, engagement and trust between the University of Colorado Boulder Police Department and the broader university community.
Now, task force members are inviting the campus community to submit ideas by Dec. 30 that will help inform how the task force will fulfill its mission. In January, the task force expects to issue its preliminary recommendations to the campus community with an eye toward implementing next steps over the spring semester.
In an Aug. 18 announcement, Chancellor Phil DiStefano said that he and his cabinet had approved a plan to convene the task force to evaluate community policing policies, practices and training and to recommend steps to “ensure that public safety works for the entire campus community.”
Task force members were nominated by their peers and supervisors. They include student leaders, representatives from all of the campus’s shared governance groups, and CUPD officers who are available to help explain the department’s policies and procedures. Students and others have called on the university to address their concerns and improve the community’s understanding of the role of campus police amid a broader national discussion in the aftermath of the violent death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
Since convening for the first time in late summer, the task force has been meeting biweekly to develop recommendations for the chancellor and his cabinet, as well as for Dan Jones, associate vice chancellor for integrity, safety and compliance; Doreen Jokerst, police chief; and other campus leaders and safety officers.
Paul Taylor, an assistant professor in the CU Denver School of Public Affairs and the task force’s external facilitator, said members are on track to deliver actionable recommendations to campus leaders. Also, he is working to ensure that the communication and collaboration the task force has established continues well into the future.
Building greater community understanding of how national issues inform the decisions, responses and goals of smaller, community-focused police departments like CUPD—and how the campus’s police department is working to achieve its goals at a local level—is instrumental to this collaborative process, he said.
“The key is relationships. We have to establish and maintain those relationships. When there is something controversial, it’s knowing who you can get an answer from. We are looking for local solutions with national implications,” said Taylor, a former CUPD officer and CU Boulder graduate whose academic research focuses on policing, police decision-making and safety, and police-community interactions.
Taylor acknowledged that inroads made by student leaders during summer meetings with Jokerst “laid the groundwork for what we are doing.”
Jokerst has met regularly with students over the past year and noted that officers serving on the task force are participating to provide answers to procedural questions about how the department works. As the leader of a police department on a large public research university campus, she said her goals have always been to put a greater focus on community outreach, transparency and accountability.
“Students, faculty and staff are engaging with my officers and me more and, through the task force and other community outreach efforts, I believe we are fostering greater understanding in our community,” she said.
To gain greater knowledge on how to succeed on these fronts, she is working closely with the Center for Policing Equity and with academic experts who are providing her with tools and insights to further the department’s culture to one that is more responsive to the needs of students, faculty and staff, she said.