Colorado College students hold town hall proposing less campus police presence

KKTV 11 News this Morning
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 8:09 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Colorado College students are holding a virtual town hall Wednesday evening to lay out a proposal, pushing for less campus police presence, more mental health support, and protections for minority students.

The push comes from the college’s student Collective for Anti-racism and Liberation, or CAL. The group formed themselves and their proposal for changed campus police relations this summer, shortly after national protests erupted demanding police reform.

“The presence of police actually negatively affects the ability of many students to learn and feel safe on campus,” said CAL Leader Sophie Cardin. “Even though we generally see the police as keeping us safe, that’s not what a lot of our most vulnerable students feel.”

Cardin said about 30 percent to 40 percent of Colorado College students are not white.

Colorado Springs Police Sgt. Jason Newton was the first Colorado College campus resource officer. He says CSPD’s relationship with the college has come a long way over 20 years, and he feels the connection is relatively healthy as is. Still, he encourages the town hall, which he will be part of.

“We should always continue dialogue because we might find a better way of doing things,” Newton said. “We are open to change. You get concern with agencies who are like, ‘We are going our way and only our way.' That is not a good way of policing.”

One request in the proposal is reduced hours for the campus resource officer. Another point is to establish a campus police oversight board, which would largely be responsible for ensuring police are only called to violent situations. Students said a lot of non-violent campus calls, such as those relating to drug and alcohol abuse, can and should be handled by a mental health expert.

Cardin said, “Students trained in mental health safety and campus safety are much more equipped to handle those things than CSPD.”

Newton added that officers have mental health training, and often already do leave some calls to students and staff trained in mental health situation response.

The police department and college partnership won a 2015 award for their relations, but students still said the contract between the two parties needs changes in order for all students to feel comfortable.

The contract generally is reviewed and renewed annually. Any changes need to be finalized by Dec. 15.

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