“Thank you to the Loveland police department, whose incompetence paid for this building.”
This is written on the plaque outside the office of attorney Sarah Schielke of the Life and Liberty Law Office.
However, as much as I love seeing terrible police work being called out in such a public way, it’s important to never forget the massive amount of bullshit that had to unfold for this plaque to become a reality.
Time and time again we see the same news headlines appear: another cop has violated the law in some fashion, causing the need for both them and their department to get sued. Sometimes the offending officer is found guilty, sometimes they aren’t.
No matter the outcome, the psychological impact of constantly being witness to these violations of the oath these officers have taken to protect the public is finally causing blowback in the form of low recruitment/retention numbers. And of course, the state of Colorado has decided to handle the problem by using the worst possible method—outright deception. This is done by lying to the public through an online form meant to be used for the purpose of weeding out bad cops.
In a recent Denver Gazette piece, it was found that a June audit report from the City and County of Denver said its police department had lost more officers than usual. The agency typically loses about 70 to 80 officers a year. In 2021, it was 145. Other police departments in the region also struggle to recruit and retain staff. The Aurora Police Department has 748 authorized police positions but currently employs only 672 sworn officers, putting the agency’s staffing level at about 90%.
Arapahoe Sheriff Tyler Brown pointed to higher liability for peace officers as a main reason driving down the interest in joining law enforcement. Specifically, the passage of legislation in 2020 that made sweeping changes to policing.
The passage of the law has irritated the enforcement community for some time now. In 2021, sheriffs and police chiefs pointed to negative public perception of law enforcement and increased concerns about exposure to litigation or discipline as common reasons for leaving their departments.
Yes, you read that right; keeping police officers accountable for their actions has been named as a main culprit for cops not wanting to either join or remain on, the force. To be honest, quitting a job over being forced to perform your tasks well is just a bitch move.
Of course, since the thin blue line is actually pretty robust, the state decided to rectify the concerns of these public servants by making some terrible changes—with one of the most egregious coming in the form of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board.
To help combat negative public perception, the state created the POST board in 2022 to maintain a database containing a plethora of information related to a peace officer. Some of these materials include untruthfulness, termination for cause, certification of passing all state training, revocation of those certifications, and being the subject of a criminal investigation for a crime that could result in revocation of certification.
Unfortunately, an Axios Denver report found that the board has shielded the identities of most law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing prior to its activation, allowing them to move from job to job, and has failed to sanction local agencies that don’t report misbehavior.
One malfunction that POST has known about for a year displays “certified” next to the names of multiple officers who lost their certification. These include the officers involved in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain being listed as having no disciplinary histories—again, because the database doesn’t contain any reports prior to 2022.
What this translates to is fairly straightforward: if you are a cop who committed murder while in the line of duty in 2019, you will continue to be held in good standing for all to see.
The Global Law and Order Report found that our support of law enforcement is falling. Due to the proliferation of high-profile police shootings, confidence fell from 82% in 2020 to 74% in 2022. When you look at how much of an effort Colorado is using to keep the boys in blue from being molested by accountability (thereby decreasing confidence further), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that nobody wants to be a cop.
If an officer commits a horrific act that becomes a news headline, the public is going to need to see justice of some kind carried out. When justice doesn’t come because the safety nets in place are useless at best, it’s going to lead to an even higher distrust from the public. Higher distrust from the public is going to lead to a greater law enforcement decline, which is going to leave fewer cops that are incredibly stressed from the over-workload, thereby potentially causing the birth of another horrific act.
At the end of the day, you are left with a snake eating its own tail. And sadly, it seems that Colorado’s leaders want to keep it that way.