Around 32 Coloradans lost their lives to domestic violence in 2018, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or NCADV. But the statistics don’t stop there. The NCADV goes on to state that nearly 37% of women and 30.5% of men who live in the state have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.
This crime is one of many law enforcement officers, nonprofits and other organizations work to eradicate. Two officers from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, or BCSO, were recognized for their work addressing domestic violence issues throughout Boulder County.
The 28th Annual Beth Haynes Award honors law enforcement officers and their partners in the community who have demonstrated commitment and excellence in protecting domestic violence victims. Nominations are given out by police command staff and peers in their respective departments and the awards are voted on by officers and community partners. Every law enforcement officer in the county is eligible for the award.
The awards were given at a ceremony on Oct. 28 at the Boulder County Justice Center. The Boulder chapter of Zonta International — a women’s advocacy group — provides the winner of the Beth Haynes Memorial Award with a scholarship to attend a national conference on domestic violence prevention, according to the 20th Judicial District Attorney’s office.
The award was first established in 1994 after the death of Boulder Police Officer Beth Haynes. Haynes was shot and killed in the line of duty while responding to a domestic disturbance on April 16, 1994. Haynes only served with the Boulder Police Department for three years before she died.
This year’s recipient was BCSO Detective Asa Merriam, nominated by BCSO Commander Jason Oehlkers and Donna Teague — an investigator from the 20th Judicial District Attorney’s Office — for exemplary work as part of the Boulder County Domestic Violence Task Force.
“I would say humbled and proud are the two words that come to mind (receiving this award),” Merriam said. “To be the one chosen this year out of every officer in the county means a lot to me.”
Merriam works with the Boulder County Domestic Violence Task Force — a community partnership between law enforcement agencies around the county, the district attorney’s office and nonprofits — that meets biweekly to address trends within the community along with ongoing cases.
Oehlkers was also given a Special Recognition Award, along with Sergeant Eric Edford of University of Colorado-Boulder Police Department, Veronica Horn of Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-violence and the entirety of the Louisville Police Department. The Special Recognition Award “honors outstanding citizens, advocates and exceptional law enforcement leaders in our community who engage in exceptional acts of service for domestic violence victims and survivors,” according to the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office.
“We don’t go into this work for the recognition or the awards,” Oehlkers said. “Really I think that the recognition should go to all the deputies and detectives that work on the front line. I think my job is really just to give them the tools they need to serve the community better."
Oehlkers and Merriam work within BCSO to build partnerships and communication with the district attorney’s office and to improve BCSO’s response to domestic violence in the county. A key component is the county’s Lethality Assessment Program, or LAP — an evidence-based program that helps first responders identify the victims of domestic violence who have a high likelihood of becoming victims of homicide or further violence. The LAP connects those victims with advocates for shelter and resources.
Merriam recognized that the victims of domestic violence and other family crimes are often interdependent on the perpetrators of the crime, making the situations precarious and difficult to get out of. Merriam said the goal of the Domestic Violence Task Force and LAP are to expand options that victims and law enforcement partners have in addressing the circumstances surrounding domestic abuse and make sure victims of domestic abuse get the same fair treatment throughout the county.
Merriam urged anyone experiencing, or knows someone experiencing, domestic violence, family crimes or other circumstances of abuse to reach out to their local law enforcement agency to seek help.
“I didn’t join law enforcement to become rich or get a whole bunch of awards. I want to help people,” Merriam said. “I grew up in Boulder County and my family has been here since 1927, these are my people. I have a desire to help, not only just to have you be living and feel safe but to have a meaningful and fulfilled life.”
Below is a list of locals who were nominated for the award:
2021 Award Nominees
Officer Don Adam, Louisville PD
Detective Josh Burke, Longmont PD
Officer Scott Byars, Boulder PD (Finalist)
Deputy Theron Crawford, BCSO (Finalist)
Deputy Scott Deming, BCSO
Sergeant Eric Edford, CUPD (Finalist)
Detective Molly Gettman, Longmont PD (Finalist)
Officer Ethan Harper, Longmont PD
Officer Ben Hibi, Louisville PD
Officer Garret Hultgren, Longmont PD (Finalist)
Officer Chris Humpreys, Louisville PD
Officer Grant Jensen, Longmont PD
Officer Laura McCarthy, Longmont PD
Officer Raul Montano, Boulder PD (Finalist)
Commander Jason Oehlkers, BCSO
Sergeant Ben Redard, Louisville PD
Deputy Robert Seifert, BCSO
Offer Eric Siburg, Longmont PD
Officer Tyler Valdez, Boulder PD (Finalist)
Officer Savannah Vowers, Longmont PD
Officer Christopher White, Longmont PD
Detective Kwame Williams, Boulder PD (Finalist)