BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) – Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold has had a challenging first year on the job.
She started on April 20, 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, in a year of a national policing crisis and reforms, and led the department through the King Soopers mass shooting where one of her officers was killed in the line of duty.
“This is the first opportunity I’ve had to focus in on how important the community support since March 22 has been to me, the police department, all of the victims of King Soopers,” Herold said.
“I have never (had) in my 29 years of policing, and I’ve seen a lot of bad things in my career, a lot of critical incidents in my career; I have never seen such an outpouring of support by the community. And when I say community, I’m talking Boulder, the region, Denver, across this country and internationally.”
She said she stopped counting after about 1,000 cards and letters. She said they have come from around the world. The lobby of the police department is filled with mementos, posters and artwork.
“It’s been a constant. It has helped me lead, it’s definitely helped this police department, and I know it’s helped the victim’s families of this. All I can say is thank you for allowing me the opportunity to thank the community because it’s a big part of the healing process, even for me. I’m struggling with this on multiple levels, and to receive cards, letters, food, people coming to the police department, kids standing out front of our gates with candy bars for the police officers, parents bringing their children in, all across this whole region, people have brought support animals in for the officers to pet,” said Herold.
Herold added, “This goes beyond policing. This overwhelming support has gone to all the victim’s families. Something I have never seen before and so for that, thank you very much to the community.
I have attended the ceremonies and celebrations of life if they wanted my presence. It’s meant a lot for me to be there and to read about the other victims. Obviously, I know Officer Talley, Eric. But it’s been hard, yet I’m really glad. At least I feel like I know them on a different level. That was very important for me.”
She shared one of the letters she received.
“The front of it says, ‘You are not alone.’ It has two hands holding each other. On the inside, it has ‘Hope.’ It’s just a handwritten letter that says, ‘Dear Chief Herold, sending my sincere condolences to you, your officers, the entire Boulder community for the loss of Officer Talley and all who lost lives in the recent tragic event. My heart is breaking with you all. I will be praying for your continued strength, resilience, and healing. May hope and peace be with you all. Sincerely,’ and this is what is so touching, and I think it’s so important to look at it like this, ‘Sincerely, a fellow human from the East Coast.”
“It just made me think. That is how we should look at life. We are all humans. That one touched me differently,” Herold said.
Herold has lost colleagues and good friends before in the line of duty, but she said this time it was different.
“I’ve had a couple of really close friends die in the line of duty, which was devastating. But this incident feels differently. I couldn’t tell you specifically why, but I think it has a lot to do with innocent people trying to shop and being gunned down as a daily part of life. It just has a different feel for me. It’s impacted me differently than in the past. Obviously, Eric was just such a good guy, such a good person and kind. As we’re all the victims. As I got to know some of the other victims, they were all on their own journey, all seemed kind and good people. I’ve never been a part of this type of incident where an active shooter goes into a grocery store and I’ve seen a lot of violence in my career, this one was just different.
“I feel like I’ve lost a big part of me,” Herold added. “I know we will get through this, we will. But it’s been really challenging and hard. I know if I’m feeling this level of grief and the process, I know all the police personnel that responded, and dispatchers and all of our civilian staff is feeling the same way. The community is feeling the same way. We will get through this. There is a grieving process we are all in right now. The more we are aware of that, the more we are honest, I think it all helps us heal together.”
Herold also wants to thank the dozens of law enforcement agencies that rushed to Boulder to help in the moments, days and weeks since the tragedy. She said initially, she thought the text message was an error, but quickly confirmed what was happening.
“When I called the deputy chief, it confirmed my worst nightmare. But as soon as I arrived on scene, I cannot tell you the feeling of support from other agencies that day. This is important because when I went to the command post, when I knew we had an officer killed and these other victims, I had the chief of Denver there, I had the command staff of the Colorado State Patrol, I had the Colorado Bureau of Investigations director. I had the FBI, the attorney general’s office. I had Sheriff Pelle in the command post with me.
It was like we were a family trying to figure out the best way to move forward, and I’ll never forget that. That doesn’t happen in other cities. This time, I think everyone knew the magnitude and the suffering, and I think we all got together and collaborated on the best way forward and that is something I will never forget in my career. I’ve never seen it before, and I am so appreciative of people’s willingness to partner, collaborate and get through this incident. I think at one time, we had 26 agencies involved, thousands and thousands and thousands of investigative hours. And having equipment from the FBI on crime scene management, it would take us weeks to do what the FBI and state partners and our police department; it would probably take us months to process.”
She could not discuss details of the incident, to protect the prosecution of the case. But, she said this incident should serve as an example of how agencies and the community should come together to prevent future harm.
“When I was deciding to leave the City of Cincinnati, which I loved, I did not want to see any more gun violence. I chose Boulder because I thought it was a good place to be part of an innovative city, do some innovative police reform. This is the last thing I wanted to see, this horrific incident. To have this happen, it’s been overwhelming. That’s why I can’t tell the community enough. Thank you for your support, it means everything when you are trying to lead through crisis and change and transition. It really matters. It really matters.
I think we have to continue to have really good conversations, I think we have to understand each other’s perspectives and collaborate. You know to me, policing is at a critical juncture. I’ve always believed policing should be seen as a part, a fabric of the community and we need to work together to come up with solutions about crime and disorder and we really need to come up with a way to prevent harm from happening in our community. So I just want to partner and be honest and transparent with what’s going on. We’ve had success. I’ll be honest with you. This recent tragedy is an example of how we should all partner and collaborate to prevent future harm. That is how I see policing, it’s about preventing harm. The better we get at that, the better we are transparent with the community, we are all in a better place because we are all in this together.”
Herold said the department has a team of professionals on hand to help them through the next several months.
“We have put together a tremendous support system with psychologists, psychiatrists, peer support. We have a heck of a faith-based team coming to the department daily. That structures in place. At the end of the day, it’s a grieving process. Right now is a critical time. 30-90 days for the police officers. It’s really important we continue to support each other. I think it’s the first time in my career, it’s ok to say, ‘I’m hurting’. Because when I first became a police officer, it was not even acceptable to even say you were grieving. I think it’s healthy, I want everyone to know that’s ok and there’s help available,” she said.
“This next time period is very critical, but my message is we will come out of it, and we will be OK and we will be stronger than we were before this happened. Knowing Eric, that is what he would’ve wanted,” said Herold.