2020 NACOLE Academic Symposium

Preliminary Report, 4/10/20
Since the police-involved shooting of De’Von Bailey on Aug 3, 2019, there have been community
divisions in Colorado Springs. De’Von’s death and related events brought about significant local,
state and national media coverage. Public protests have disrupted events. Police department and
city officials have been criticized for their response. Neighborhood residents, concerned
community members, and law enforcement leaders have found themselves at odds on how to heal
from this trauma, repair mistrust, and come together for real solutions.
The Reverend Promise Y. Lee officiated at De’Von Bailey’s funeral and serves as the Bailey family’s
pastor and spokesperson. Other individuals and groups came together with offers of support. The
Law Enforcement Accountability (LEA) Project grew out of this collective interest. The LEA Project
is a series of programs and events designed to broaden community knowledge of, conversation
about and engagement with police transparency and accountability.
As part of this project, twelve community leaders attended a symposium put on by the National
Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE). Members of this delegation
represented neighborhoods most impacted, the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD), the
business community, Colorado Springs City Council, clergy members, and academia. The group was to bring back information and report on the symposium at a public event on April 2. The COVID-19 pandemic required postponing that event until it becomes safe to publicly gather again.
Consequently, this summary provides a brief overview of the conference and follow up.
The symposium, “New Frontiers in Oversight of Jails, Prisons and Police,” covered latest
developments and current research in independent oversight. This full day, academic symposium
was held at the University of Texas Law School in Austin (3/6/20). Sessions covered topics like the
state of civilian oversight, using data to promote reform, the health and care of people in custody
and new voices in oversight. One session, entitled “Policing the Police,” covered constitutional and
administrative standards regulating police use of force, community advisory boards and police
effectiveness. The lunchtime keynote was on the use of big data in policing.
Presentations were high-level and specialized, with an academic focus. Many reported on new
research and/or work yet to be published. While there was a heavy focus on jails and prisons, the
principles of transparency, accountability and oversight applied across settings. Along with more
specific data, some general ideas about oversight emerged from the symposium. Some of these
are:
● Law enforcement transparency may help prevent harm.
● There is still great variety in the mechanisms of practice and in levels of effectiveness.
● The creation of oversight bodies tends to follow high profile incidents. “The idea should be
to lift up [law enforcement agencies], not just to limit harm.” –Michele Deitch, JD 2
● There are different models of police oversight along with conditions and principles that can
be applied to maximize effectiveness. (NACOLE’s new, large research overview looking at
166 oversight agencies was only partially presented. Release of the full study has been
postponed because of the current crisis.)
● Oversight agencies are still kept from the information they need to do their jobs.
● For new groups and efforts that are starting, ask key questions: What are the expectations
and are they shared? What are we looking for in terms of results? What sustainable
resources will be available to this effort and how many of the principles are being
followed? How does state law empower or obstruct oversight?
● Sometimes community advisory boards can result in worse than what the community
started with if they’re not implemented properly.
● There is an assumption that transparency increases accountability. It may also increase
police effectiveness, defined as the proportion of crimes that police ultimately solve.
Beyond the above, themes from a debrief session with symposium attendees include:
● The importance of breaking down barriers, human connection and interaction. “We’re all
people at the end of the day.”
● This is hard work. Where to start and how to do this so that it is “good for everyone.”
There’s so much we don’t know. Lots to learn–166 programs around the country.
● This has to be the real deal. Stability requires substantive commitment.
● Although oversight may be initiated after a traumatic event, it should not be developed as
a “gotcha.” One size does not fit all.
● Generally good programming and research. Some disappointment with amount of
programming on prisons and jails, not as relevant. Need more complete data.
● We set a goal of five attendees and had 12 across sectors. Colorado Springs had the most
representation of any community. The diversity of participation (including two
representatives from CSPD) and the interaction within our group was valuable in building
relationships.
As follow up to the symposium, there is general agreement among attendees to move forward
with the formation of a panel or task force that would continue a period of research and study and
arrive at some suggestions of what could work best for Colorado Springs. Several volunteered to
be part of this.
City Councilor Wayne Williams and Pastor Promise Lee will present a preliminary outline to the
Colorado Springs Council at its Work Session on Tuesday, April 14. Meanwhile, the “Austin Group”
will continue to gather literature and research resources, develop a mission and charge for the
panel and begin identifying possible panel members and constituent representation.
Respectfully submitted,
Members of Colorado Springs delegation to the 2020 NACOLE Academic Symposium (the “Austin
Accountability Group”)

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