Fort Collins police chief addresses protests and accountability

Laura Studley

Many protests have been happening across the Fort Collins area in the last week.

These walks of solidarity and nightly demonstrations outside the police station are in response to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody May 25.   

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The Fort Collins police department released two statements on May 28 and June 2 from Police Chief Jeff Swoboda. 

The first addressed the anger and grief the community is experiencing from the killing of George Floyd, stating that safety deserves to be felt when encountering law enforcement. 

“Nobody should have to fear those who have taken an oath to serve and protect them,” read the statement. “In Fort Collins, we work for our community, and we respect the human dignity and value the life of every person we meet.” 

A safe community requires open communication, diverse perspectives, and a foundation built on trust. Let’s keep having the important conversations, even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult. Stay safe and call if you need us. We’re always here for you.” -Chief Jeff Swoboda, Fort Collins Police Department

Swoboda discussed how the Fort Collins Police Department works to bring the feeling of safety to the community and its members through explaining their hiring and training processes. 

Accountability and trust were also brought up in the final paragraphs of the statement. It stated that early warning systems, body cameras and an external Citizen Review Board help keep the department responsible for their actions. 

“The trust and partnership of our community is incredibly important,” read the statement. “The heart of our work is not writing tickets and making arrests.” 

A Fort Collins Police Officer kneels next to a crowd of protestors laying face down in Old Town Square June 2. The march to The Square followed a week of protests after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis Police custody. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

Through problem-solving units such as the Neighborhood Engagement Team and an agencywide focus on community interaction, the FCPD hopes to maintain trust with the community.  

In the second statement, Swoboda said he is proud of the community for exercising their right to speak for change; however, inciting property damage and violence will be greeted with action on behalf of law enforcement.  

Additionally, the statement addressed removing items from the memorial site — because of the volume of items, the promise of more gatherings and daily inclement weather, a choice was made for nightly removal. Swoboda said the decision was not intended to disrespect members of the community.

“A safe community requires open communication, diverse perspectives and a foundation built on trust,” read the second statement. “Let’s keep having the important conversations, even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult. Stay safe and call if you need us. We’re always here for you.”

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Laura Studley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @laurastudley_.