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Community Conversation speakers reply to your questions

Chief Mike Butler and Minister Glenda Robinson respond to questions you asked during a forum on race and policing.
community conversation screen shot
Screen shot from Longmont Public Media footage

Diversity remains a topic of conversation across the nation. On Monday, June 29, Minister Glenda Robinson and Public Safety Chief Mike Butler held a public conversation on the topic in Longmont:

The hour and a half event began the conversation of how human and civil rights and policing are addressed in Longmont. However, the event ran out of time before all the audience questions could be answered. The following is a question-and-answer write up of the speakers’ responses to those unanswered questions. 

Unfortunately, someone dies and then we move to action. What call to action do you have for Longmont residents? What would Dr. King ask of us if he was here today?

Mike Butler: I understand that's how the sequencing of these things seem. But that's not how it is in Longmont. But sometimes I understand that before change happens, a crisis needs to occur. But crisis doesn't always have to happen for a change to happen.So I don't necessarily agree with someone needs to die before thing change. 

In fact, in Longmont, that's never been the case. We've never been driven by a crisis never. We've always done the strategic planning, we've always thought through things we've created. We've done the work to create partnerships and relationships with people in our community. The voice of our community is loud and clear within our own organization. 

That's kind of responding to media mantra, in my mind, and and I get it that that's sometimes what it looks like. And actually that's what does happen in many cases. For many police departments around the country crisis has to occur in order for something to happen and that's what's happening in our police profession at some level.

With Dr. King might say is, I don't think he was saying much different. I think he would say, "don't judge us by our race or our color, judge us by the content of our character. You don't need to make preferences for anybody. Just give us a level playing field of equal opportunity make things fair. "

Those were his mantras. Dr. King was not as concerned about the issue of race, even though he knew racism was alive and well, as much as he was concerned about the morality of how various races interact with each other. And he did see people, that there was a God within each person, and that we needed to somehow rise to that level of thinking in our own lives and see each other as our brothers and sisters. And that message would not change today because that message back in the mid 60s, his times, and so I don't care if it's 2020 or 2030, that message is still timeless and true.

Glenda Robinson: My answer is that Dr. King beautifully summed up instructions that are so pertinent to us today and his last book, entitled, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos, or Community? “Are we more concerned with the size, power and wealth of our society or creating a more just society? The failure to pursue justice is not only a moral default, without it, social tensions will grow and the turbulence in the streets will persist. Despite disapproval and repressive action, even more a wizard sense of justice is an expanding society that leads to corruption of the lives of all Americans. All too many of those who live in an affluent America ignore those who exist in poor from there. In doing so, the affluent Americans will eventually have to face themselves with the question that Eichmann chose to ignore. How responsible Am I for the well being of my fellow man to ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.” Longmont residents can apply by continuing to act and keep on acting, learn, grow and continue doing what we know is right. Treat our fellow man the way we want to be treated.

How are each of you feeling about the non violent civil demonstration taking place in Longmont and surrounding areas?

Glenda Robinson:  I feel happier, I feel that it's necessary to call attention to the matters at hand, which are human lives. We're arguing over Black Lives Matter, all lives matter and all of that. Black Lives Matter is, on one hand, a movement, on the other hand, we need to ask ourselves, do black lives really matter? Because that's what's happening in the street. It's not all lives being snuffed out in the street and in society, it is black lives, and they do matter.

Mike Butler: We've always warmly and enthusiastically invited the voice of people. It was kind of exciting to see people come together, because every now and then, you get a little bit. Why isn't this community kind of being more visceral about its own well being, so to speak? I mean, so there was a visceral nature a little bit more but it doesn't end there. It doesn’t end with just saying, ‘no justice, no peace’ or ‘no more racism.’ Each person has to take accountability. No longer can we get away with saying something else has to change before I change. We can't say you have to be different and in the same breath, try to declare your own innocence in terms of your own sense of personal responsibility for things. It has to go further. You just can't stand on street corners and voice your concerns. As much as good as that was. That goes back to the previous question we talked about. Each person in his community is going to have to decide to be the change they want to see. I think Martin Luther King, set it up but I think it became popularized with Mahatma Gandhi. And so that's what people need to do. While welcome people's voices, we strongly welcome and encourage people's personal accountability, responsibility and action.

When we hear talk about defunding or reforming the police, what would that mean?

Mike Butler: Well, it depends where you come from. If you take that literally, that means do away with your police department. And I think some people are there. I think what people are really clamoring for, though, is what's the more appropriate role and response purpose of a police department? How do we get it to that point, and how do we get it to a point where police departments are respectful and honor everybody's dignity within the community, and that they're treating people with a level playing field and a sense of fairness? And they're also doing things that are keeping people safe and also working in partnership with the community. So I think ultimately, it could come down to that. 

What I wouldn't be surprised to see is the repurposing of what police departments do, shifting of certain kinds of responsibilities. But the question that is not in there is what does the community need to do? What's the culture in the community need to do? How does that need to shift?

That needs to shift, just like I was saying before in terms of saying, ‘Well, I'm gonna call the cops when I'm not happy with my next door neighbor for any reason.’ 

Try to figure out how to galvanize your neighborhood and make it all stronger, so that you're all together. I sometimes wonder if 80% of the time people don’t need to call the police but that need to talk to their neighbor or don’t need that neighbor. The culture needs to shift in our community. And if the culture shifts in the community starting to take care of those kinds of things, and take care of each other, take that kind of personal responsibility to take that kind of action. Guess what, you won't need the police department to do. So that's the shift that needs to happen.

Glenda Robinson: I'm always concerned when we hear issues that are raised, because then it's subject to interpretation. And this is when interpretation in my opinion goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. I don't think anyone literally thinks that we can do without law enforcement. I think the issue is how that group protects and serves the community. And as Mike spoke the other day, he talked about creating an environment of community where the community polices itself or works together with law enforcement to create a caring space and place for people, a safe place for people to live. And that's what he has spent his time working on. So we don't want to defund the police and I don't think that would even be real or rational. We want a group that protects and serves the community and works with the community to bring that about. 

Is the Longmont Police Department doing anything internally/with their employees to educate and train differently as a result of the current racial tensions? To Glenda, does that feel like enough? Should they do more?

Glenda Robinson: My answer is, it's fairly simple, there's always room for improvement. I think more focus however, should be given to look like the people who are here. Check out the different cultures who attend our inclusive communities activities. We've had countless numbers over 50 different cultures to attend and it is sponsored by the Longmont multicultural Action Committee, of which I am a part. And I simply said, at least start there, obtain the numbers of cultures that are there and continue the conversation. I think a big thing that happened last Monday was actually somebody starting to talk about what's going on, what's going on here locally and what's going on regionally and what's going on nationally, what's happening around us, and what's happening to us. And so I think the conversations are healthy, because then you know what's on people's minds. 

Mike Butler: I could go on and on. But, you know, we're not. We don't feel like we don't have this sense urgency to shift a lot of things because we've already developed and implemented the kinds of policies and practices that we needed to develop and implement. We've developed a culture in which pure accountability is a big part. Self and peer accountability are big parts. We've done the work in terms of ensuring that we have the right people, as police officers in our community, I could go into another whole two hours around how to select a police officer into our community, what what those attributes need to look like, and what the process needs to look like in order to ensure that you get those attributes. So we've done all that work and we didn't need to react.

How can we continue this conversation moving forward in a proactive way to educate, learn and grow?

Glenda Robinson: It is imperative that white people call out racism or injustice when they see it happening. People should be encouraged to address it in every facet of their lives, on social media, in grocery stores, schools, restaurants or any other public venue. I think that just the fact that people are seeing people doing wrong things and man they're quick to turn on their phones, cell phones and record the conversations and it's incredible what is being revealed, what people are doing to other people, good and bad. 

Mike Butler: Whoever the person is, who wrote that question, take action to pull people to take personal action to start with friends, neighborhood, family. There's public settings you can go to. Go down to the city council, don't ask the city council to do anything just say I'm here to make a request to the community. Here's how you can reach me. Let's start pulling some things together as a community. I would reflect back to that person and challenge and invite that person to answer their own question.

Could you please explain the use of force protocol in Longmont?

Mike Butler: Well, that's a policy that I personally paid attention to for 26 and a half years to make sure that it was state-of-the-art along the way. We constantly are reviewing our policy. We have a public safety legal advisor, who's letting us know where that policy needs to be from a legal perspective. But one of the first sentences in that policy is that we honor and respect the sanctity of life. People constantly asked us did we have those things in our policy. They're all in our policy except one. And that was the continued use of force continuum. That is an antiquated model, that somehow someone thought that was needed to be one of those eight things. We put in a more sophisticated model, so that our officers have more flexibility in doing things when it comes to use of force. And, and so the continued use of force continuing was very linear. And the model we put in as more of a circular nature to it in terms of being able to back off even to de-escalate, we don't have to go higher, we can go lower, we can do whatever we need to do whatever we need to do and given the circumstances and so that's the only difference.

Glenda Robinson did not have a comment to contribute to this question.

SAM (Supporting Action for Mental Health of Longmont) is slated to undergo a suspension of operations after tomorrow, how will this impact communities of color and the police force?

Glenda Robinson was not familiar with this program and did not feel comfortable commenting on its impacts.

Mike Butler: Sam was something that developed back in March of 2015. We had two incidents occur, similar incidents occur where people struggling with your mental health

committed acts that basically resulted in the deaths of others. And in the police department, we stood up. Personally, I stood up in front of a bunch of cameras. And interestingly enough to the world's media had descended on Longmont because we were the community of choice for the media. 

Media was there for the BBC, China, everywhere else, CNN, Fox. And so we did a press conference. Basically, I stood up and said, we need to be thinking differently, what we're doing with people struggling with mental health. And I said a lot of things that I challenged the community to step up in a different way out of that rose, Sam. And so and the idea was, that the community needed to engage differently and more robustly with all.

So Sam, temporarily halting their services, will probably result in less community response than we had. I haven't kept up with the momentum that they've had. But if they've had momentum, it's gonna stop the momentum of engaging people in the community more.

As you know, public safety has a CORE team made up of clinicians, case managers, paramedics and police officers that are responding incredibly effectively, to what's happening, the number of suicides this year have been halved, or half as many as we had in the past. People that we've seen hundreds if not thousands, of times, we're not seeing anywhere near as much.

And so we've kind of, at some level, calmed the waters in a lot of mental health crisis circumstances and we're going to continue to do so. 

What work is needed to move toward a more equitable community? What are areas that we can improve? What does that improvement look like?

Mike Butler: Well, first of all starts with every person. Every person needs to ask themselves, what can I do to be a better person to those that I encountered? And how can I not let opportunities pass by to make a difference in someone else's life? And everyone, every day, sometimes every hour of every day, is given an opportunity to make a difference in someone else's life. What is each person doing with those kinds of invitations to make a difference in someone else's life is the question each and every person needs to ask themselves. If people were to take the stance that I am going to do my best to try to make a difference and not

miss opportunities as they pass by then I think that will lend itself to a considerable surge of equitability within our community. And so again, reflect the impact. It could be a smile, it can be reflecting back someone's goodness, it could be caring for someone, it could be seeing a neighbor that needs help. I could see a teenager that struggling. 

There’s thousands of human circumstances in our community that people can learn how to respond to and help with and so I think the question has a context of race. attached to, but we need to look at each other as brothers and sisters, a loving family instead of that person is different than me or that person is a different race or that person's a different gender or thinks in a different way. We need to assume the positive.

Glenda Robinson wished to combine the answer to this question with one that appears later. 

Should Longmont consider renaming Roosevelt Park? What are your thoughts to adding more black history to Longmont? What would that include? What should be done with the Roosevelt statue?

Glenda Robinson: I don't have any thoughts on renaming Roosevelt Park. I know people are demanding and tearing down statutes and and all of that. I haven’t given Roosevelt Park any thought, but my thoughts are that black history is an American history. We seem to separate it; it should not be separated. We seem to continue to separate and isolate that phrase and that teaching and all of that. But black history is American history and should be incorporated into the mainstream of history. Included in that teaching should also be Native American, Latino, Asian Pacific and all other ethnicities in the teaching of American history; how that's woven in, when it was woven in and what's the significance of that to American Life. 

Mike Butler: I have no strong sentiment around that. And so my answer is we have historical figures that have done great things, and the same person has done things that would be good are not great. And so, again you could look at a statue and say that represents somebody that represents what they didn't do well, that you wish they had done differently. Or you can look at that statue and say, a person caused some good things to happen. I would encourage people, let's quit looking at things through the lens of deficiencies. Let's quit looking at each other as a problem. So let's look at each other and say, there's possibilities here, and there's potential and there's goodness inside that person. There was goodness inside Teddy Roosevelt. What if we took that goodness and expanded that versus saying, ‘Okay, this wasn't good of Teddy Roosevelt. Well, let's tear him down.’ That's not reflective of trying to get to equitableness by the way. If that's who we are with each other, if I'm going to look at you or anybody, whether it's a person of color and say, that's what's wrong with that person, I'm going to tear that person down. That's the last thing we want to do to get to equitableness. So, I guess my answer is statues don't have that. But they're, they're fairly benign and inert. Let's just listen and worry less about statues and more about each other. 

Longmont police have been referring cases to Restorative Justice instead of writing tickets and making arrests for 25 years. This model is nationally acclaimed; there is only one other similar program, in Boston.  A nonprofit called Longmont Community Justice Partnership receives these cases, and brings together victims and offenders with community volunteers and police to resolve crime outside the criminal justice system. What is your vision for how this community / police department could use Restorative Justice even more? How can Longmont residents support Restorative Justice? 

Mike Butler: I believe restorative principles and practices can be applied to just about any set of human circumstances. I'm not a fan of the criminal justice system's punitive response. It doesn't mean that I don't believe that there aren't people that should be removed from our community that makes our communities safer. But restorative practice principles can be enlarged dramatically in terms of how it deals with various kinds of circumstances, where people are harmed, crimes are committed and there's victims. It can be 10 times, 20 times more than what it is being used for today.

Since it's a community based project, a community based way of doing business, there's no question that our community could become more engaged. And I would encourage people to call the law community justice partnership, 303-776-1527, and ask how they can help. Because it is truly the community deciding what justice looks like, it's not the criminal justice system. And that is profound for our community, not only for the person who committed the harm or the person who was harmed, but it's profound for our community. So the potential and possibility of restorative principles and practices is enormous. And there is a dream and one of my dreams has always been is to create a restorative community and restorative justice as part of that.

Glenda Robinson:  I just, I just have one thing to say: ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS. 

Become an ACTIVE PARTICIPANT in building our community.

That that long and short of it. I mean, there's so many places that people can serve. There’s boards and commissions, there’s volunteer work at the city level, the county level. Man I'm on so many boards. The work is great and and, and the needs of the people who serve there are great. So become an ACTIVE PARTICPANT in the Longmont community.

Question for Chief Butler-The online crime stats for Longmont do not show data re ethnicities involved in various events. How do we know if the local arrest rates reflect our populations or if there is a disproportionate rate of police arrests of a particular ethnicity? Is longer term historical data available and accessible to the public? Where and how can this be obtained?

Mike Butler: We don't put stats out there that reflect ethnicity. But I will tell you I recently had our public safety analyst give me information around people that we've arrested and sentenced over last three years. In 2017, 31% of the people arrested or ticketed were Latino. In 2018, that figure was 30%. In 2019, that figure was 29% of our population and our Latino population is approximately 30%.

Do you think police are asked to do too much — from fighting crime to herding an escaped cow?  Is there mission creep?  If so, what would you suggest as solutions?

Mike Butler: I've talked a lot about that. There's been mission creep for decades. And in essence, I'm at a disagreement with some of the things that police do that we shouldn't be doing and the community should be doing. We, the police and the community need to have conversation, very in depth, long term ongoing conversation around what should the community be doing for itself and what should the police department be doing for the community. And that should constantly be morphing towards more community responsibility.

Glenda Robinson: Every time I've called upon them for something, I think because of my relationship with Mike and you know, knowing some of the people in that arena. It's been easy access for me.

Do you favor a national clearinghouse for all police, former and current, to include personnel records in order to track bad behavior?  Why or why not?

Glenda Robinson: Yes, my answer is yes, by all means. We got a clearing house for everybody else. Why should we allow them? I mean, we know that people are hired to protect and serve. And we know that for the most part, there are great police officers. But one bad apple can can spoil the whole bunch. I think that is what we're seeing in many of our cities, especially our inner cities. And so yes, I definitely think there should be a clearing house, for instance. I don't think it's appropriate for a person to have worked in in Denver. got thrown out for use before, too many charges of use of force. And then you come to Boulder and you get hired. Your record. I mean, it goes with you, but it's not made public or anything and then you get the same thing you get charged with use of force here and your call then internal investigation and all is like, Okay, this is too hot. So then you move to Fort Collins. I mean, yeah, that's just not okay. And that's not acceptable. And this is what we're actually having happen in our cities and our towns and our local places. Matter of fact, we've had people hired in Denver, okay, too hot in Denver or with questionable action, use before being hired in Boulder called out in the city of Boulder by too many charges of police brutality and that sort of thing. Then you go and get hired by search. So you ease them out, because the person is hot. And you ease them out and then you move them to another county and they become a sheriff.

No, they're not fit to serve in the community. If you're saying it's all about aggressive behavior and use of force and police brutality and beating people up and shoving people around, bad behavior should be tracked and not only tracked but should be dealt with. I appreciated what Chief Butler said the other day about not eliminating or don't even consider people who have records of aggressive behavior.

Mike Butler: What i'm not in favor of is creating more bureaucracy. What I am in favor of is more transparency. And to whatever level we can become more transparent, without creating large levels of bureaucracy. I'm in favor. And there's no there's no question in my mind thatwe're public servants and the work we do should be open to the public.

What are the main things white allies can do to support BIPOC right now?

Mike Butler deferred to Glenda for an answer. 

Glenda Robinson: Short and sweet; actively listen to and amplify voices of people of color, who have been doing this work for years and are pros at it.

Can you talk about why St. Vrain chose to keep it’s SRO program while other places dismantled theirs?

Mike Butler: That's a St. Vrain question, but it's actually been there's been a partnership. I had a conversation with Don Haddad before they made the decision. And Don and I both strongly recommended, we kind of reflected back to each other, that our SRO program is different from just about everywhere else because of how our SROs are.  How they are comes from what happens within the police culture. And so the expectations we have of our police officers, when they're in the schools is a huge part of why the schools chose to keep us. And so our expectations are very high. We want you to connect with kids. We want you to be able to relate to kids. We want you to be a confidant of kids, but we also want you to help keep things safe. Just a year or two years ago, and it does happen and it will happen again, every time there's a horrific school shooting people are always saying how do we know our schools are safe? It's inevitable where parents, principals, teachers are on bended knee asking for more school resource officers. We have a dual role of ensuring that our schools remain safe. From outsiders and from people within who maybe want to hurt others, but also to help ourselves in that role by getting to know these kids, connecting with these kids and relating to them. 

Glenda Robinson: I agree. It is a question for the school district and I know that the NAACP is working together with the school district to come up with a solution to the issues that we have. And we have plenty of issues. 

We have Native Americans in our community that occasionally struggle, where can they go for assistance?

Mike Butler: no comment

Glenda Robinson: To the best of my knowledge, we have El Comite which does great community work. And I understand that they're not just limited to Latino people. Well, I know that they're not because they've helped me on a couple of situations. And so I think that's the best place they address social and legal issues for people of color. And then probably community issues as well. I don't know that for a fact. But like I said, I've been helped by our community and they're open to all people who are in need of community help with specific things. I know there is Sister Carmen and they're with another group here that we're here to help people. They can also go to the OUR Center. The OUR Center is a great resource center for people and they can do referrals. If you have, you know, I guess mental health issues or medical issues, social issues, there are a number of resources that are right here in Longmont and I actually think that right down downtown in the city. That little kiosk is over by the community neighborhood [department]. Oh, that's another place they can go to the Carmen Ramirez and the community neighborhood Services Group. I think they can help there as well. 

Would love to hear Chief Butler discuss how the changes that have happened under his watch (which are laudable and make me so proud to live here) will be maintained as he steps out of the role. Have the changes been embedded in the culture?

Glenda Robinson:  What I would really value and like to recommend is for all the great work that Mike has done and all of the systems and processes he implemented. I would just hate to see them go by the wayside because he's gone. You know, if you've spent 25-30 years working on something and it's working, understand, and I was surprised to hear this the other day that he or the city and his department had received national awards for the great work that he's doing. If it's working, keep on working on it and clone it and you know, continue doing what we're doing. And it's all based on a scale of numbers. And so if those numbers are down in terms of serving the people, then we certainly need to keep doing it and I'd hate to see all this work that he's given his life for go to waste.

Mike Butler: Please refer to for an answer to this question.

Should we identify goals and an action plan?

Mike Butler: Deferred this question to Glenda.

Glenda Robinson: Yes, we should identify goals. And an action plan. Defining community based justice. I don't know. I think it all works within the confines of the things that we want to do. I think that might be adequately defined in all of his discussion on Monday, talking about how he would like in his perfect world, this is what he would like to see. Well, yes, in our perfect world, we'd like to see community based justice as well. I read over Connie Ferenc's just her notes, suggestions, a few possibilities for positive actions. And so this kind of covers what can we do? What do we think? What direction do we want to go in? And she very clearly outlined it. And she outlined some of the things that we've been doing in our Martin Luther King celebrations annually. And like I said, we served on the landmark multicultural Action Committee together.

So,I mean, it's all there. 

These are what people can do to get involved. Maybe if, if people liked the idea, we can take this, hand it over to the group and they can form an action plan from the suggestions and go from here. And like I said, I have a sheet of paper with references to books and resources that people can do and people can use, you know, half how to be an ally, how not to be racist or how to be anti-racist. And white fragility, I think, was one of the resources as well. 

Ferenc’s notes:”In the spirit of brainstorming, I jotted down some thoughts about positive, community-building actions that might be possible as a counter to conditions that foster problems with policing and human rights.”

“Planting the Seeds to Grow Community”

Can we encourage Longmont residents to go on record as making a commitment to take some positive action within the community?  The individual’s commitment could be written down on a large piece of paper which is then held up for a photo that could be posted online.  I believe something similar was done a few years ago at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration.  Ideally, that commitment should include a time frame, such as, “This month I will….”

 A few possibilities for positive actions:

  • volunteering in a local nonprofit organization for a month, a week, an hour, or…

  • making a longer commitment to a City committee or nonprofit organization by joining the governing group of the organization

  • talking to that new neighbor

  • etc.

Perhaps there could even be a place (in spite of Covid-19) where Longmont residents could go in order to have such a photo taken.  And/or a place (physical or online) where these photos could all be displayed.  Each positive action would essentially be “planting the seeds to grow community.”

 Creating a campaign to encourage—and count—kindnesses within the community.

Anaheim, CA is one city that has developed a program to do just that: .  Apparently Anaheim elementary school students set and met a goal of a million acts of kindness.

Involving celebrities in positive community action

An article in the sports section of the June 25th Times-Call quoted Denver Nuggets player Will Barton as saying, “A revolution is on the way.”  Perhaps it can be a positive revolution, with professional sports figures, musicians, etc. helping to draw people into volunteer events as well as individual actions.

 “Thank you events” for people who do volunteer

Planning and coordinating such events would be a major undertaking, but it has been done before. The idea is that a concert or other event is held annually to thank volunteers in the community, and the only way to get a ticket is to have volunteered during that year. I have to think that there are celebrities in the sports and arts communities who would support volunteerism enough to participate in something like this for a minimal amount.  I’d love to see this idea catch on to the point that any self-respecting musician participates in one or two “volunteer thank you” concerts a year.  Variations on this go back to about 1985 (Live Aid, We Are the World, Farm Aid, etc.) and continue today (the online One World: Together at Home and the Global Citizen event planned for September).  But these tend to be fundraisers for a good cause, rather than rewarding the audience for the audience members’ own, active participation in good causes.”

Can you define community based justice?

Mike Butler: Community based justice is not much different than restorative justice. The restorative justice program way of doing business that we have in this community is community based. And that's what makes it so powerful. Because it's not run by people who work for the government. The facilitators are community members, the community representatives in the group who talk and reflect back to both people committed the harm and the person who's harmed the community members. And as I said just a minute ago, that community engagement is very easy for our community. So it's restorative justice.