(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Colorado Springs voters will soon decide if the city can keep excess Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) dollars to go toward a new police training facility. Ahead of the November election, a coalition of community members gathered on Monday, Oct. 23 outside City Hall in opposition to the ballot measure.

Stop Cop City COS continues to stand up against ballot measure 2A and make their voices heard.

A ‘Yes’ on this measure would retain nearly $5 million in TABOR refunds to put towards a proposed $50 million police training academy. Many community members are against 2A and cite 14 lawsuits for excessive use of force against the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) since 2020, while those in support say additional training would relieve those concerns.

“We really want the same thing, we want a safer Colorado Springs,” said Jacki Othon, co-chair of Colorado Springs Democratic Socialists of America.

Othon is one of several community members who are concerned about the city’s approach to training police officers with a new academy.

“We disagree on the best way to go about creating public safety,” Othon explained. “All we’re asking is that citizens and city leaders and even the police take a moment to look at the science and to invest our resources and our faith in that.”

If approved, the plan would use excess tax revenue instead of refunding Colorado Springs Utilities customers under TABOR.

“We thought this was very much rushed,” said Chauncy Johnson, Colorado Springs community member in opposition to 2A. “I think it’s very sad to ask people that have been oppressed by the police to then fit the bill for the police, to then continue some of the things that have been done to them or could continue to be done to them.”

The group wants to see a change in policies, practices, and procedures at CSPD and is calling on the city to invest more heavily in crime prevention measures such as housing, food assistance, and mental health and addiction resources.

“The safest communities are not those with the most police, they are those with the most resources,” Othon said.

As more people move into the Pikes Peak region and begin to call it home, Mayor Yemi Mobolade says he ran on the platform to improve safety, and as Mayor, intends to deliver on that promise. He provided FOX21 with the following statement.

I urge residents to join me in supporting ballot initiative 2A, an investment in our community’s public safety needs. As a mayoral candidate I ran on the need to improve our community’s safety, as the mayor of our great city, I intend to deliver on that promise. Our city is only as great as it is safe, and this new training facility will help our officers who are asking for better training, and answer the call from our community members who are asking for better training around de-escalation techniques. I support the women and men who proudly wear the badge, putting themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe. I am also in support of our social and behavioral health services that support our public safety needs, including the local nonprofits, and leaders who work to prevent crime. It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to public safety. This initiative is about good stewardship as our current training facility has become a financial liability to the City, and it is our top facility need. Being able to invest $4.75 million into the facility will greatly impact our ability to maximize taxpayer dollars as we build the financing to cover the entirety of this project. Work is actively underway to secure a location based on the needs of our officers and community, and we have a plan in place to fund the rest of the project. A ‘yes’ on 2A supports our police officers and supports the safety of our neighborhoods.

Mayor Yemi Mobolade, Colorado Springs

FOX21 also reached out to Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Velasquez for comment. CSPD cannot comment on a current initiative, but Chief Velasquez recently talked about the challenges of policing a growing city.

CSPD’s mission to safeguard our community is rooted in the vital partnership between the members of the Colorado Springs Police Department and the citizens we serve. We are proud to be a part of a growing and thriving community. However, population and land growth require additional resources to maintain city service delivery which includes the need for additional public safety personnel and infrastructure. This is why our focus on retention and recruitment is one of my main goals for CSPD. With retention in mind, we consistently seek the best ways to support our people’s wellness and training, understanding they serve in a complex and demanding profession. Additionally, we have recently shifted to a continual hiring process for officers, with new academy classes starting every 15 weeks. We believe the frequency and flexibility of these academies will help attract the officers we need to meet the needs of our growing city. Our goals to retain our current employees, and attract new officers are supported by Mayor Yemi Mobolade, who recognizes the importance of a well-trained and properly staffed department. In addition to meeting our personnel goals, we are also working to meet the needs of our community, with public safety infrastructure. We are pursuing a new training academy that will allow us to not only attract and better train new officers but also provide improved and additional training opportunities for our current officers. As an example, these opportunities include scenario-based de-escalation and crisis intervention training, which we know our community and our officers want. While a growing community does bring some challenges for public safety, these are just a couple examples of the steps we are taking to better serve a growing and diverse population. Regardless of the size of our city, CSPD will always strive to serve with honor, humility, responsiveness, and excellence.

Chief Adrian Vasquez, Colorado Springs Police Department