“Examining the Divide” Town Hall Explores Policing Disparity

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COLORADO SPRINGS — When 19-year-old De’Von Bailey was shot on August 3 in southeast Colorado Springs, it sparked protests, town halls, and overall unrest.

Those feelings, according to the people that live in that area, have been there long before Bailey’s name made headlines.

“My truth is that I’ve never called the police to help me. I don’t ever trust them to help me,” said Jenna Kempton, a community activist apart of a panel in the latest town hall. “If you live in K-Land we’re not going to call the police because what are they going to pin on you.”

Other activists from the community brought their concerns to the campus of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs as part of the institution’s “Just talk” series.

The series aims to have an “honest dialogue about equity, diversity, and inclusion” about topics on campus and in the larger community.

Organizers of Tuesday’s discussion say, part of the frustration of people living in the southeast area, feels like police respond, interact, and patrol their community differently, thus leading to a different perspective on police depending on where someone lives.

“We’re seeing things from different spectrums,” said Shaun Walls, one of the community’s activists, “It’s affecting us the same ways. So, we’re hoping that we can get off of social media, get off of the news headlines and talk to each other face to face.”

Dozens of people crammed into an out-cove in the UCCS library for the discussion. On the panel:

  • Dr. Stephany Rose-Spaulding, a professor of women’s and ethnic studies at UCCS and candidate for U.S. Senate
  • Kevin Mitchell: Community activist and director of the empowerment solidarity networks
  • Dr. Henriikka Weir, a professor in the Schoool of Public affairs who is a former police officer and has earned her doctorate in Criminology
  • Jenna Kempton: A community activist
  • Sierra Brown: A senior at UCCS and school’s previous Student Government President

Organizers say, they reached out to Colorado Springs Police on Wednesday of last week to attend the event. No one from the department attended, though, in a conversation with FOX21 News, they expressed interest in a later interview discussing some of the community’s concerns. CSPD also maintains they police every area of the city the same.

“You can’t ask for one party to be accountable and available and not show up yourself, ” Said Dr. Rose-Spaulding,” So, right now we are literally living in the space of no access.”

The people from the southeastern area, where they call K-Land, say it’s drastically different from the rest of the city.

“You don’t see [CSPD] in the Broadmoor policing the same way they police southeast Colorado Springs,” said Jonathan Christiansen, a lecturer pursuing an Ph.D in Humanities and Sociology at UCCS, “There is far more poverty in southeast Colorado Springs, it’s where most of the people of color live in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is kind of a segregated community.”

The disparity, to some, is also apparent to those who don’t live there.

“When I see police in my neighborhood, they’re there to respond to someone in the neighborhood or the community that needs help. If they’re policing in southeast Colorado Springs, that’s not their mindset,” a resident attending the discussion said. “I don’t worry about my 17-year-old son, I’ve never had a conversation with him about watch out how you talk to the cops. Never even had to think about it. If I weren’t at an event like this, I wouldn’t have to think about it. I have no reason to think about it.”

One of the solutions to come to the meeting is a long-standing effort to create an independent monitor to investigate law enforcement involved shootings.

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