The Durango Police Department is launching a new policing-focused community advisory committee with the goal of bringing unheard voices to the table.
The police department has been ramping up its efforts to address community concerns since social reform protests swept the nation this summer. Communities raised concerns about use of force tactics, police funding and transparency, and called for alternative ways to keep people safe.
Durango Chief Bob Brammer sees the advisory committee as one way to address those concerns.
“Our mission is to reduce crime and the perception of crime. We hear all the time there’s members of our community that are victims of crime, but they have a silent voice,” Brammer said, particularly people who distrust or fear law enforcement. “That’s the bridge that I want to start crossing, so they do have a mechanism to be able to feel safe in their own community.”
The Durango Police Department Community Advisory Committee was designed to bring in community members, community leaders and other stakeholders from schools, churches, businesses and social service organizations.
The committee would meet quarterly, would have an unrestricted number of members and would include more diversity. Brammer particularly emphasized bringing in people who are traditionally marginalized, such as the immigrant, LGBTQ, Black, Latino and Indigenous communities.
The committee could help promote community safety, build relationships and help the department bring down crime rates, Brammer said.
“Community policing is our backbone. The relationships we have with our community allow us to do our job,” he said. “Can we do better? Is there room for improvement? There always is.”
The advisory committee is a reboot of an advisory panel formed by former DPD Chief Kamran Afzal. That panel met three times a year and mainly consisted of 15 to 20 community representatives. It was a way to establish relationships and address safety, transparency and other community issues, Brammer said.
“I don’t think we were very broad in our approach of who we had included in that process,” he said.
Brammer is working with the Durango Community Relations Commission to reach out to its network of community members and gauge interest for the committee.
Tirzah Camacho, a member of the CRC, said finding the right model to reach more people will take time.
“In addition, making sure all processes are transparent to the community, and that we have inclusive measures in place to hear from all community members interested in providing input – to me, those feel like the best first steps when considering how to do this work right,” Camacho said.
The first task, Brammer said, is to see who is interested in joining by reaching out. The next step is to start the process of setting goals as a group.
“That’s my ask: If there is community representation out there that is being missed, I think this is our opportunity to bring those members to the table,” Brammer said.