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'Reimagine Policing Plan' garners unanimous support from Boulder City Council

Under the plan, officers would spend an average of 40 percent of their shift time on crime prevention and problem solving.
Posted at 11:00 PM, Sep 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-08 01:00:15-04

BOULDER, Colo. — In an unanimous vote Thursday, Boulder City Council showed its support for a new policing strategy, as the city sees an uptick in violent crime.

The "Reimagine Policing Plan" takes a more holistic approach to fighting crime, focusing less on incarceration and more on getting officers out into the community.

"I'm not saying I'm not a 'lock-em-up, throw them in jail' person. But before we pass unthoughtful legislation, we have to ensure that there's other mechanisms in place or these community members are harmed," said Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold during Thursday's city council meeting.

Commander Barry Hartkopp has been with the Boulder Police Department for more than 30 years. He said this new strategy would be different than traditional "reactive" policing.

"We’ve had a lot of master plans in the past. Those master plans really focused on numbers, focused on how many people we’re going to have on patrol, how many people are going to have on traffic," said Hartkopp.

This plan, on the other hand, places an emphasis on preventative policies.

"As opposed to our typical put a couple of cops down here, walking back and forth giving tickets and taking people to jail. We know that that's a short-term solution. We need to start looking at long-term, and I really think this is going to help us with that," said Hartkopp.

The plan outlines three goals for Boulder PD:

  • Address staffing needs and restructure assignments to allow officers to spend roughly 40 percent of their shift time on crime prevention and problem solving
  • Train all officers in de-escalation strategies and techniques
  • Address Boulder PD staff well-being and emotional health

Hartkopp said the department aims to hire up to 14 additional officers to address the staffing needs. One problem solving technique would be meeting with business owners to discuss their concerns, specifically in communities negatively impacted by policing.
"This is needed, now more than ever," said Hartkopp.

This new strategy comes as Boulder is seeing an uptick in violent crime, despite a reduced number of calls for service. That concerned Boulder resident Mike Harms.

"My initial knee-jerk reaction is... arrests are a good deterrent for crime," said Harms.

The city contracted The National Policing Institute to help understand how policing in Boulder has been perceived — a process that spanned 19 months. Results showed 59% of participants believe Boulder police are doing well dealing with problems in their neighborhood. One hundred percent of participants said officers treated them politely.

While Hartkopp said the numbers reaffirmed his belief that Boulder officers are living up to the high level of professionalism he knew they had, but added there's always room for improvement in other areas.

"Now we need to collaborate with other departments within the city to come up with solutions, for example, dealing with operations or issues down here on the Pearl Street Mall," said Hartkopp.

The plan also includes neighborhood meetings in parts of town with higher call volumes and the creation of an online tool that will allow the community to rate their experience with officers after every interaction.

"These are tough times for our society and for policing. And anything we can do to improve our relationships with our community, it's going to be beneficial," said Hartkopp.

Boulder City Council will need to approve funding for the plan before it can take effect. A date has not yet been set for that discussion.

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