Boulder City Council begins series of race talks following viral video

BOULDER, Colo. – Boulder residents packed in to City Council chambers and an overflow room Monday night wanting to get to the bottom of racial profiling allegations against the police department.

City Council called a special session on race Monday night following a viral video of Boulder Police confronting a man outside his home on March 1st.

According to Boulder Police Department, the officer approached Zayd Atkinson around 8:30 a.m. because he was in an area behind a ‘Private Property” sign.

“The officer detained the man to investigate further and made a request over the radio for additional assistance to respond indicating that the person was uncooperative and unwilling to put down a blunt object,” Boulder Police said in a news release following the incident.

Atkinson told police he lived and worked on the property and gave them his Naropa University identification card.

It turns out the “blunt object” was a trash grabber and a bucket. Atkinson had been picking up trash around the property where he lives.

“I had guns pointed at me because of the color of my skin,” Atkinson said during a special session of the City Council.

Boulder city leaders say they are taking the incident very seriously.

“We already knew that we had work to do on racism in our community,” Mayor Suzanne Jones said.

“Our largely white and privileged community will continue to fail at dismantling racism until we recognize that the advantages most of us enjoy are not available to community members of color,” Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam said.

City leaders vowed to open the line of communication with the community on race and actively work toward solutions. Monday’s special session, they said, is intended to be the first in a series of community meetings focused on race.

“While the Boulder government is trying to create an appearance of racial sensitivity, this stance is for the sake of appearance only,” Atkinson said.

He believes real change in the city’s race relations will take a long time and a lot of effort, as well as a shift toward service.

“The problem will not and can not be solved by a single town hall meeting,” he said.

Atkinson is also upset about his calls for an independent review of the incident. Former District Attorney Stan Garnett has been appointed to conduct the review. Atkinson believes it is not truly independent since he served the Boulder community for nine years.

Boulder Police is also conducting its own internal affairs investigation.

“On behalf of the police department and the city, I would like to apologize,” Police Chief Greg Testa said in a news release. “Our officers are trained to treat every individual with respect. [The] actions by an officer furthered fear in our community and impacted a Boulder man who did nothing wrong. Going forward, the police department will do better. We will increase training on racial bias and emphasize training around community values to ensure this does not happen again.”

The findings from Boulder Police Department’s review are expected to be released sometime in May. Chief Testa said the city will also release the video from the officers’ body worn cameras at that time.

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