The concept of the Bureau of Professional Responsibility is to utilize the various Sections and Units to set up a framework to increase public trust by ensuring accountability and transparency. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is pledging to our community that we are serious about building trust and partnership between our Office and the community we serve.
Beginning in 2021, we will begin an outreach effort called Community Conversations. Community Conversations bring people in El Paso County to the table with members of the Sheriff’s Office to discuss topics of concern. The Conversations start from a place of listening to build understanding and develop a level of trust between our Community and the Sheriff’s Office.
The goals of the Community Conversations are:
- To build trust and mutual respect between members of the El Paso County Community and law enforcement, especially the Sheriff’s Office;
- To understand, through dialogue, what challenges our Community has with law enforcement;
- To develop a means for communication so that our Community can work with the Sheriff’s Office developing a list of community-based priorities to serve the public good;
- To help inform our Community about Sheriff’s Office training and policies around issues of community concern such as Use of Force and disciplinary processes;
- To discuss Jail operations and the impact these operations have on our Community;
- To provide a mechanism for proactive response from the Sheriff’s Office to concerns raised by our Community to alleviate fear, particularly from people of color, during contacts with the Sheriff’s Office.
Action Item #1
- We need to do more outreach to the minority communities.
- There was a high level of interest from the community members in what the Community Conversations Project was about.
- The consultant will be sending out an email, prior to each session, to all Planning Team members requesting they take an even more active role in reaching out to their contacts to increase the diversity of participants who respond to our requests to attend the Sessions.
- We have completed the creation of the Community Conversations page on the Sheriff’s Office external website and that will be live to the public the week of March 8, 2021.
The next Community Conversations session will be held in June. More details to come.
Based on the discussions from this Community Conversations session and subsequent discussions, the leadership team intends to update the Office’s public facing web page to include the number of community members participating, highlights from each session, lessons learned and proposed or possible responses to citizen’s concerns, questions and suggestions.
Action Item #1
- It is important that law enforcement be educated about cultural differences.
- EPSO needs to do more to engage communities of color; communities of color need to experience freedom without stereotypes and the influence of implicit bias and structural racism.
- It is important for law enforcement officers to know the historical implications of policing and minority communities.
- We intend to begin creating short roll-call presentations for our employees.
- We will discuss citizens’ concerns and educating our employees more on issues of diversity, anti-bias and anti-racism, historical perspectives regarding law enforcement and communities of color.
Action Item #2
- Law enforcement agencies in this community need to have a cohesive and consistent message to build trust across the board. Many community members feel the EPSO is more trustworthy than law enforcement in general.
- Media is a factor in whether we are seen in a more negative or positive light by the community.
- We will consider creating social media information that more clearly identifies the differences between the Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Springs Police Department.
- We will also be able to recruit for our future Citizens Engagement Programs (CEP) from the participants of the Community Conversations.
- At the end of each Community Conversations session we will invite the participants who want to engage further and learn more about our agency to consider joining us for a CEP and an opportunity to become a part of our Community Advisory Board or one of the sub-committees, thereby helping us to turn their suggestions and ideas into concrete action.
Suggestions from the Community Conversations, and actions that the Sheriff’s Office takes regarding those suggestions, will be posted on the external facing Community Conversations webpage and will be distributed to participants in the Community Conversations via email.
The next Community Conversations session will be held on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, from 6-8pm. The target area will be the Cimarron Hills Community; however, this will still be held virtually over Zoom.