DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Police chief and Colorado attorney general joined an auditorium of concerned families for a community conversation on youth gun violence.

A panel of those in charge of protecting Denver’s youth, supporting them in school and studying their minds took part in the discussion at New Hope Baptist Church Tuesday night. 

The panel formed to answer questions following the latest double shooting at East High School and included:

  • Phil Weiser, Colorado attorney general
  • Ron Thomas, chief of police, City and County of Denver
  • Kym Perkins, dean of students, East High School
  • Dr. Marjorie Lewis, PhD., D. Min., LMFT, LAC, behavioral economist/public policy analyst, Behavioral Health Academy
  • Dr. Anthony Young, president of Denver-Rocky Mountain Association of Black Psychologists 
  • Herman White Jr., chairman of the Board of Pirates Youth Football Program
  • Lakeisha Hodge, founder of Struggle of Love Foundation
  • Members of the Young Black Men group at East High School

“I’m less concerned about who’s responsible, but whoever’s responsible, I need them to be responsive,” Colorado Black Roundtable Director John Bailey said. 

Bailey, who was moderating the discussion, asked panelists about the root of the youth violence and different ways to keep students safer.

“I think it’s important to say that this needs to be a youth-informed, community-led decision,” Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said. “I don’t think we need to leave it up to a rash decision to just throw officers back in schools and think that we have created a safe environment. I don’t think that that’s the answer.”

Thomas said he supports SROs as a part of a solution but he wants officers in school to work on building better bonds with students, not serving as intimidation to be effective in keeping schools safe. 

“I don’t intend for these officers to be going around and issuing citations,” Thomas said. “I think that there are alternatives to citations that we have already explored and already have engaged in where we really want to be more supportive of youth and not in at issue citations for misconduct.”

Attorney General Phil Weiser brought up Safe2Tell, the anonymous tip program created following the Columbine mass shooting.

“In the case of East High School, the shooting that just happened, it was a Safe2Tell tip about this shooter that led to a situation in an earlier school being addressed,” Weiser said. “Safe2Tell is a gun violence prevention tool. It’s a school safety tool. That’s one tool.”

Weiser, echoed by several panel members and parents in the crowd, stressed the importance of de-stigmatizing mental health conversations and focusing more on students’ mental well-being.

“I don’t believe that we’re too far gone,” Thomas said. “I really think that there are enough people who care, enough people who have influence over decisions that I think that we can create something that is safe for everyone.”