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Colorado's Bleak History with Police Misconduct

The tension swirling around police misconduct and brutality in the United States has been relentless and ever present for essentially the country’s entire history, though it has only been in recent decades that an effort has been made to bring awareness to the issue. It is not a particularly noble feeling to live in a place where it has almost become expected to be drowned in horrific stories of misconduct and violence from the group meant to “serve and protect,” our society, yet in the state of Colorado, though it is not a unique problem, it is still a wholly grave and unnerving one. 


A recent article from The Colorado Sun detailed the misconduct of a former Rocky Heights police officer named George Ibarra. Ibarra was arrested earlier this week, August 22nd, for tampering with evidence and stealing three guns that were detained from active crime scenes for himself. The Colorado Sun reported that Ibarra had quit the police force last year and in doing so, he left countless cases open as well as dozens of tickets unserved.


When I come across these tales of police misconduct in Colorado, leaving aside the blatant, stomach-churning cases of brutality and murder, the simple misconduct cases such as this story of George Ibarra are quite striking. They highlight a lack of conscience and attention to one’s job; a job that has an incredibly high amount of consequences for everyone besides the actual employed officer. These instances lead to lines of red tape, cases reopened and dismissed, unrelated parties being dragged into situations that could have been avoided if the boys in blue had a stronger sense of honor and accountability. Turning back to The Colorado Sun’s reporting, George Ibarra’s excuses for his actions were laughable throughout the page, spinning a ridiculous appeal to authority, claiming he left the department to avoid allegations as preposterous as these. 


Despite this tangent, George Ibarra’s crime is a common one amongst police officers and proves to be the least of Colorado’s problems when it comes to the horrifying consequences of our officer’s actions. An utterly disturbing case from last year dealt with 22-year-old Christian Glass. Colorado has had a tumultuous history with racially charged police killings, notably the death of Elijah McClain in 2019 that shattered the social fabric of Denver and Aurora, Colorado for months. However, this instance in the summer of last year regarding Christian Glass shed light on Colorado’s severely mismanaged and spiraling mental health crisis. Glass was a white man who was severly mentally ill and anxious. He was killed in Clear Creek Canyon inside of his car by police gunfire from outside the vehicle after calling 911 for help in a mental emergency. 


The aftermath of this incident was shocking to me because there was not a huge amount of public outcry. The situation was widely reported on, however, once an internal affairs report was released from the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department, it seemed to stamp out any controversy or outrage towards the officer’s involved. The statement released detailed Glass’ hour long episode, claiming officers removed knives from his car after breaking passenger side windows and used bean bag rounds on the 22-year-old before he “eventually tried to stab an officer as was shot.” 


Within the same week of this incident, the police body cam footage was made available to the public and it is incredibly distressing to watch. There was no point in which it appeared to me that Glass was posing a significant threat to the heavily armed police officer standing on the hood of his car aiming a Glock-22 at him through his windshield. Glass’ death marks not only another unnecessary police killing in Colorado, but also another indivudal of thousands who have slipped through the cracks of Colorado’s mental health crisis. 


In April of 2019, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill into a law that required completed police internal investigation files be released to the public for journalistic use and public knowledge. At around this same time, reporters from USA Today spent a great deal of time collaborating and creating the largest database of police misconduct records in the country. The findings they compiled that pertain to just Colorado are quite shocking. As reported by The Coloradan, findings in Colorado showed 22,924 investigations of officers using excessive force, 3,145 allegations of rape, child molestation, and other sexual crimes, and 2,307 cases of domestic violence by Colorado police officers.


Excessive force and misconduct by police officers is a problem that is not unique to Colorado, however, it demands constant eyes of accountability on the officers who have been established to protect the public to make sure that those who behave in a manner that is unfit for their responsibilities to our society.

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