Brust: Fort Collins body camera expansion should lead to progress in police accountability

Allec Brust

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

This month, the Fort Collins Police Department expanded their body camera program. From July onward, 134 officers who interact daily with the public will be required to wear and undergo training regarding the cameras.

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I commend the police force for expanding this program. Nationally, police brutality and riff between the public and law enforcement has been nothing less than a media motif. Locally, the story has been no different. The viral video of a CSU student being thrown to the pavement, Chief Huttos resignation, and two back-to-back officer related shootings earlier this month have made 2017 a hard year for our police. Body camera expansion is a very relieving sentiment. The only hope I have following these new implications, is that we do not stop here.

Body cameras are becoming an evergreen means of protection. Most major Colorado cities have been implementing body cameras at some level. This year alone, body camera footage from Fort Collins two cases will be released to the public prior to the case conclusion. It is excellent that we as a community enforce and expand on these issues– we must be progressive in a progressive world. However, while body cameras will help both officer and civilian in the case of any mishap, but they cannot ensure safety.

If we wish to be an example for other local governments, we must be proactive in our protection, not only evergreen. If Fort Collins police wish to have the public support they need to actively protect, they cannot fall into the crowd of equally advancing entities. Body cameras ensure an objective view in the case of a mishap; now, we must focus on avoiding a mishap all together. We must continue to increase public safety so we can continue to thrive as a safe city.

Now, I do understand that Fort Collins is no crime capital, but we have seen spikes in officer related crimes that can not be disregarded. Also, I believe Fort Collins must react to these incidents of violence with active participation. Cameras will protect after the fact, but do not help us avoid violence. New training programs are essential for the times. We must remain progressive for neighboring jurisdictions. Weld County has had its share of horrific police vs. civilian incidences in the past few years. However, in weld county body cameras are not used by police. In order for neighboring cities to be progressive, a standard must be set. The only way is up.

We must also follow examples set before us. Salt Lake City police have gone almost two years without shooting a single civilian. Although Salt Lake is generally a non-violent city, their police force has undergone new training to ensure both civilians and police are safe. Officers are trained to de-escalate even in instances where it would be justifiable to use force. Since the new training began in 2015, there have been no shootings.

Seeing as Fort Collins is a generally safe, small community, I see no road blocks in introducing new training to help save as many lives as possible. I believe new body cameras and new training are excellent ways to begin restoring public safety and trust in our police force. There is still work to be done, but I am excited to see new changes emerging from within the police department.

After pushing for accountability in the midst of officer involved violence, our police department is responding the way they should. It is a blessing to see justice taking its toll; we must continue to move forward.

Opinion editor Allec Brust can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @allecbrust