Former Denver Deputy With A History of Misconduct Center of Two Cases; Community Says Oversight is an Ethical Imperative
Boulder: Officer Previously Involved In Denver Misconduct Under Investigation In Boulder
Boulder Civil Rights Activists Call for Systemic Change
Since the release of a video in which eight Boulder Police Officers allegedly detained a young man who was picking up trash in his yard, the city of Boulder, CO has been under scrutiny for failure to investigate patterns of police misconduct. Increased pressure from the community, including a 650-person protest, led to an independent review of the incident. Nearly a month later, Boulder City Council has requested a second independent review to investigate the recent arrest of Sammie Lawrence, who was filming the police when Officer Waylon Lolotai charged Mr. Lawrence with obstruction.
NAACP Boulder County Branch civil rights activists have obtained video and disciplinary papers documenting Officer Lolotai’s history of severe misconduct toward civilians during his tenure as a Denver Deputy. At a public hearing in relationship to Mr. Lawrence’s arrest, Boulder City Attorney Tom Carr stated he does not believe the Officer Lolotai did anything wrong in this situation and said, “My experience with this department is that when they find something wrong, they jump all over it.” The hiring and retention of at least this one officer who has had multiple complaints filed against him in Denver and Boulder provides an opportunity for Mr. Carr’s words to be put into action.
However, it is not enough to point a finger at a single officer or to wait for one single city leader to resign, take blame, or apologize when all parties are responsible. As residents of the City of Boulder, we see these events as a constellation in a polluted sky, and for this reason, we believe the most ethical way forward is for community members to lead the following:
- Assess the extent to which the City Attorney, Chief of Police, City Manager, Deputy City Manager and city staff are aware of the past records of abusive officers and determine if they have acted in a manner which prioritizes the safety of all members of our community
- Review previous employment records of all Boulder Police Officers hired in the last ten years and make public any past record of concern
- Create a more transparent process for hiring and termination of heads of city departments
- Make body camera footage publicly available immediately after an officer-involved incident regardless of investigation status
All of the above are possible with the creation of an independent police oversight body which has subpoena power, can make binding legal decisions with regard to Boulder Police, is free of involvement from the offices of the City Manager, City Attorney, and all city boards and commissions, and is adequately funded in order to fulfill its duties and obligations. We look forward to the formation of the task force for creation of a police oversight body and trust the leadership of the City of Boulder is committed to generative and forward-thinking processes.
We choose to transcend discriminatory, partisan, and hostile behavior and affirm our right and power to define and create safety in our own town.
We are a coalition of organizations including the Boulder Chapter of the NAACP, Boulder Parenting in Diversity, Safe Access for Everyone, Boulder Rights Watch, and the Colorado Public Health Association. We have convened around the matter of local policing to provide the City of Boulder with the basic structure and strategies needed to plan and carry out an effective grassroots public education and advocacy campaign to end biased police practices. Rather than lead the movement, we are here to teach willing learners, including city leadership, how to mobilize each other, partners, and resources to make reach achievable goals. We believe the answers are with the people, and we know coalitions have the power to bring people together for common purpose. History shows that change can be made when diverse voices unite around a shared goal.
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