Romer: The intersection of business and public safety
This year, more than at any other time, the intersection between business and public safety has reached a critical inflection point. It is important to recognize and to bring light to the economic consequence of the staggering crime rates increasing across Colorado — in every type of community in our great state.
The Common Sense Institute recently released an update to their “Crime Wave Report” to reflect numbers from 2021. The correlation of increasing crime rates to the public policy decisions of the legislature in recent years is unquestionable. The result, of course, is unhealthy communities across the state — unhealthy economically and an unhealthy sense of security — resulting in an overall diminishment of quality of life.
Much like we’ve seen in the layered effect of the onerous public policy and regulatory decisions passed since 2018 against our industry sectors and economic landscape — resulting in a drop in Colorado’s competitiveness — policies affecting community safety, law enforcement and diminished consequences have correlated directly to the current trends.
The passage of legislation in 2019 that downgraded possession of Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances, including fentanyl, from a felony to a misdemeanor removed critical tools from law enforcement to keep fentanyl out of our communities. Over this same period, fentanyl deaths have risen in Colorado at a staggering rate. The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police — with the County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Fraternal Order of Police — are demanding change and reversal of key policies that are contributing to the numbers.
The legislature needs to undertake the difficult work to help us reverse course. Unfortunately, whether the Governor’s Public Safety budget package or the Speaker’s just announced fentanyl proposal, all fall short of interrupting the devastating trend and putting our state back on track. Politics — as is typical — is playing an outsized role in determining the policy direction to prevent meaningful policy change.
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Statewide, police chiefs and law enforcement have stood firmly, unwilling to play the political game when our public safety is at stake, boldly rejecting invitations to join the governor and the speaker in a show of support of policy proposals that, in Denver Chief Paul Pazen’s words, are “mere political window dressing”.
There is no doubt that the business community should stand with our public safety officers and police chiefs. We stand aligned to encourage our legislature and state government to address policies and narratives that have resulted in a climate that discourages public service in law enforcement, hindering the recruitment and retention of qualified and seasoned professionals.
We support budget proposals that provide sustainable, ongoing funding commitments to address core needs like training, recruitment and wellness programs. And we oppose unfunded mandates on policing procedures, reporting, equipment, and other issues that effectively remove funding from law enforcement and reduce the ability to have officers in the community.
We must work together — across party lines — to ensure future legislative approaches to address crime and policing factors in the unique needs of Colorado’s urban and rural communities. This isn’t an urban problem, as evidenced by the recent story that potentially deadly pills were found on a playground in Dotsero or the bike thefts from a man with an extensive criminal history.
Our quality of life in Eagle County and the state of Colorado relies on a safe, welcoming environment. It is incumbent on our legislature to listen to our police chiefs and their needs to help ensure we can deliver on the promise of a great state to live, work, and play.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.