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Open for Business: Root & Flower

Name of business: Root & Flower

Physical address: 288 Bridge Street Vail, CO 81657

Phone number: 970-470-4189

Email: hello@rootandflowervail.com

Website: www.rootandflowervail.com

What goods or services are you offering at this time? 

We are open Mondays through Thursdays from 4 p.m.-12 a.m. and Fridays through Sundays 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. serving brunch on the weekends. To-go cocktails, wine and food are still available. All of our menus are updated and current on our website.

How have you adjusted to serve your customers during these unprecedented times?

We are still virtual! Our virtual wine tasting classes on Fridays will continue through June. Go to our website to view the classes and book your spot.

How can the community support you?

The community can best support us by coming in to see us, ordering take out or buying gift cards.

What’s the best source to keep up to date with your offerings?

Instagram and Facebook are the best ways to stay up to date with our offerings.

What’s the response been?

The response to our virtual classes, our takeout offerings and our new food menu has been amazing!

What are your plans going forward as the “new normal” evolves? 

Plans going forward are just to stay true to our brand and be creative!

As more Coloradans encouraged to get outside, summer visitation will serve as test for winter in Vail

Governor Jared Polis on Monday encouraged Coloradans to get outside, signing an executive order titled “Updated Safer at Home Executive Order to Transition to Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors.”

The Executive Order encourages high-risk individuals — people over 65 or with underlying health conditions — to start enjoying Colorado’s outdoor spaces at a safe social distance, in addition to staying at home as much as possible.

Previously high-risk Coloradans had been asked to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

“Colorado has millions of acres of accessible federal land, municipal parks, State parks, State and county open space, and other accessible areas that allow for stronger Social Distancing in our great outdoors,” the Executive Order reads. “Coloradans should Stay at Home or in the great outdoors away from others as much as possible and continue to limit social interactions, remain at least six feet from others not in their household, and wear non-medical facial coverings in public.”

Lifts turning again

The order is the latest in a series of measures aimed at making more outdoor activities available in Colorado as the state relaxes pandemic restrictions.

Last week, as the state ban on ski lifts was lifted, Polis said that no Coloradan, and certainly not the governor, could have fathomed there would ever be prohibition on riding chairlifts in the state.

“Very difficult action to take,” Polis said of his March 14 order to close ski areas across the state. “But thankfully we took it, and that helped prevent the exponential curve.”

The chairlift ban expired May 25, and by May 27 Arapahoe Basin had reopened to a limited number of skiers and snowboarders.

Vail Resorts announced the company intended to take its time in getting the lifts turning again, and despite keeping Breckenridge open to skiers all the way to June 9 last season, this season there would be no reopening of the ski lifts.

“The more we looked at it, the more we did not think it was the right timing to reopen,” Vail CEO Rob Katz said in a statement on May 21. “We know there would be tremendous enthusiasm to get back on snow one last time in North America. But we also know that enthusiasm would carry its own impacts, on us and on others — something we think will be more manageable for everybody in July, at which point we want those resorts fully focused on their new approach to summer operations.”

Katz said the company hopes to resume summer lift service by late June or early July.

In Eagle County, summer operations at Vail Resorts could serve as a good test scenario for winter operations, said Eagle County Public Health Director Heath Harmon.

Relative safety

While Vail Resorts is the largest employer in Eagle County, all workplaces will have to be extra cognizant of the health of their employees.

“Our guidance is encouraging businesses who identify two COVID-19 cases to temporarily close those businesses and rapidly contact public health for cleaning, mitigation, employee screening and reopening guidance,” said State Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy “We think that early closure of these businesses is really an important strategy to control transmission that could potentially occur following an outbreak in a workplace in particular.”

In a letter titled “Be Safe: Our approach to reopening,” Katz said the way the company thinks about safety has been at the top of his mind at the moment.

“That culture of ‘safety first’ is part of the fabric of every one of our operations,” Katz wrote.

Polis also addressed the notion of safety, saying what’s safe for one person isn’t necessarily safe for another.

“We’re issuing guidelines using science to make (activities) as safe as possible, though … depending on what you think as an individual, it may not be safe enough for you,” Polis said.

It’s a statement echoed by Eagle County Emergency Manager Birch Barron.

“Safe or not safe is probably an unsafe way to think about this virus,” said Barron said. “This is a really tricky virus, and really what we’re looking at is levels of risk, and is an increased level of risk acceptable if the consequence of not doing that is too high. This is not an exact science… if something is open and allowed, that does not make it safe. There’s no such thing as zero risk in this environment.”

Communication will be key

The summer could also bring the need for quick communication between Vail Resorts and other businesses and Eagle County should a second wave of coronavirus infections hit.

Harmon said having communication channels dialed in with be the key to a successful transition into a tourist welcoming phase in Vail.

Vail Resorts has been participating in weekly calls with the county’s Joint Information Center and business task force, said county communications manager Kris Widlak.

But Harmon and Widlak say the county has yet to hear from Vail Resorts regarding its summer plans.

“It’s a conversation we look forward to having with Vail Resorts, in terms of how are we helping to communicate with workers, while at the same time we’re having this communication and collaborative meetings with our business community as a whole, making sure that we can communicate better with guests,” Harmon said.

“We’ve got some areas where we’ve been successful in working in planning in advance, and I think we look forward to those future conversations in terms of how we can do that better with Vail Resorts as well,” Harmon added.

Widlak, on Friday, said the county expects to have a conversation with Vail Resorts about summer operations as the company continues to refine its plans. The conversation has been requested by Vail Resorts, Widlak said.

“We’ve had a high level of communication and coordination so far, and certainly expect it to continue,” she said.

Vail Valley streamflows may peak in the next few days

A just-about-average snow year in Vail is melting quickly into local streams.

Streamflows are running significantly higher than normal right now, and could peak this week. That’s bad news for water supplied later in the summer. But there are encouraging signs for local businesses that use those streams.

At Timberline Tours, owner Greg Kelchner said he’s been somewhat surprised that the company has had trips booked every day recently. Those parties are small — usually just four or six people. But, Kelchner said, that’s more business than he expected just a month ago.

Kelchner founded Timberline Tours in 1970. He’s familiar with wet years, dry years and every kind of season in between. The company has over the years acquired permits for streams all over the northern and central mountains.

Right now, the Eagle River from about Wolcott to Eagle is “great,” Kelchner said.

The flows are “high, but not too high,” he added.

Adapting to conditions

Runoff season usually isn’t great for fishing, but those companies also know how to adapt.

At Minturn Anglers, Nick Keogh said that company is leading trips every day. Given current flows, guides taking fishing enthusiasts to higher elevation streams, lakes or the tailwaters where dams empty into rivers.

Again, a company has to be ready for what comes.

Kelchner said the best way to judge the state of runoff isn’t so much by looking at data from various gage stations, but looking at the water.

Streams running with a lot of sediment are virtually opaque. That water means runoff from high elevation snow is “fully engaged,” Kelchner said. When the river is running high but more clear, runoff season is nearly finished.

At this point, runoff season seems just about at its peak.

Diane Johnson of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District said she expects the peak to come this week, or soon after. The weather forecast for Vail this week calls for warm temperatures and little chance of precipitation.

Snowpack fading fast

The winter just past had virtually-average snowpack at Vail. Snowpack at Copper Mountain and Fremont Pass, the closest measurement sites to the headwaters of Gore Creek and the Eagle River, respectively, snowpack was significantly above average. But all three sites are melting quickly.

At Vail, the measurement site is melted off, about a week sooner than average. The Copper Mountain site should be melted off by early June, a couple of days later than normal. The Fremont Pass site, the highest-elevation site among the three, should be melted off by mid-June, a few days earlier than normal.

All that adds up to what could be a dry summer, Johnson said.

The district has already ramped up its messaging to customers about outdoor water use. That use takes the most water from streams, since virtually all inside use makes it back into the Eagle River.

Johnson said the district’s message to users is constant in wet years and dry: Use water efficiently.

“We live in a semi-arid place, with landscapes that are reflective of where we live,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that she’s received more calls about water bills than usual this spring — perhaps a result of people spending more time at home.

The district has tools to help users with their water use, Johnson said. That could be important in the next few months.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.

AVID graduates are avid about improving their lives

The walk across the commencement stage is the same distance for everyone. The road leading to it is longer and tougher for some.

Erin Park and Sam Bartlett get that. They teach Advancement Via Individual Determination classes, more commonly known as AVID — a program that helps students who are motivated to go to college and beyond but need someone to light the way. Some didn’t know English when they arrived in Eagle County. Most are the first in their families to consider college.

“They knew they had to work to make things better. They couldn’t just wait for things to get better,” Bartlett said.

Working toward their dreams

AVID is a system. Like most successful systems, it works if you work it, Bartlett said, adding that “work” is the operative phrase.

“You need to find the right kids who show determination and are willing to make some sacrifices,” Bartlett said.

The AVID program recruits students who are motivated and serious about their academic futures. The class helps provide the skills needed to be successful with the ultimate goal of attending college.

Park said their goals and dreams are like most graduating seniors’ — aiming toward careers in things like engineering, business, nursing, medicine, the U.S. Marines …

In Eagle County Schools, AVID classes can start as early as sixth grade. The students stay with it as they enter high school. The class and their teachers stay together four years. Park and Bartlett have been with this year’s classes since the students were freshmen.

“It allows teachers to build relationships. Once you build that relationship you can help them stay on the right path,” Bartlett said.

Once they’re in they have to meet certain criteria, including grade point average and good behavior.

“We say they have to act like an AVID student. Their teachers should know who they are,” Park said. “Throughout the last four years, I have witnessed this incredible group of students evolve into a family.”

Some students start with the AVID program in sixth grade and stay with it through high school. Students need to show some drive. If they don’t have that drive or are a problem, they can derail others, Bartlett said.

Not always, though. There was this one kid who was defiant and confrontational. They looked beyond that veneer and saw the qualities AVID seeks. That kid is now working with a local veterinarian and is headed to college to study to be a veterinarian.

Already looking ahead

They’re done, but like everyone else their school year didn’t end with a traditional finish. Park and Bartlett hear from their AVID class members all the time.

“I’ve been really impressed. They’re wise beyond their years. They’re all level-headed about this,” Park said.

For the Class of 2020, commencement is not normal.

“I wanted to stand up there and say goodbye to them,” Park said. “Working with this class-turned-family has been the highlight of my teaching career.”

About AVID

AVID is a national program that reaches 2 million students in 7,500 schools across 47 states. They train teachers to help close the opportunity gap and prepare students for college, careers and life.

It started in 1980 amid the chaos of forced bussing on San Diego. Teachers at San Diego’s Clairemont High School had low expectations for students bussed in from disadvantaged areas. Many believed these students could not succeed.

Mary Catherine Swanson, English department head and teacher, was not one of them. She believed if students were willing to work, she could teach them the skills needed to be college-ready.

By 1986, Swanson’s AVID system was so successful at Clairemont High School that it expanded the AVID program throughout San Diego County, and eventually the country.

Bookworm of Edwards hosts free virtual event with fishing writer John Gierach

Take a walk down by the river on a warm day and chances are you will see at least one or two fishermen casting into the current. For those that have spent their lives on the river, the appeal of a slow afternoon with rod in hand is obvious. For John Gierach, a lifetime of slow afternoons has turned into a career.

Join bestselling author and streamside philosopher John Gierach for the launch of his new book, “Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers.” This virtual event, hosted by the Bookworm of Edwards, is free and open to all.

John Gierach is and has always been an outdoorsman.

“I spent most of my early childhood in the woods near where I lived in Illinois, doing whatever stupid things unsupervised kids do,” he said.

Although he has found many passions in his life, from hiking to camping to hunting, the common thread through his life is fishing.

“The earliest evidence I’ve found of me fishing is a snapshot in a family album of me at about three-feet-tall posing with a small bullhead and a cane pole,” Gierach said. “Near as we can tell, it was taken in 1950 when I was 4 years old and they say we can’t remember anything before the age of five.”

So when it was time to try and start his adult career, he decided to look at his hobby from a different angle.  

“I’d been trying to be a writer since high school,” Gierach said, “and first wrote about fishing just to make some money. As time went on, it took on a life of its own.”

This life of writing has resulted in over twenty books about fly-fishing as well as published writing in multiple magazines and publications. These have made Gierach a household name in the fly-fishing community.

His new book, “Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers,” looks at his life on the river as a whole and describes the lessons he picked up along the way. The book itself is full of wisdom for any reader, from practical advice on rods and flies to philosophical tales on the ups and downs of the fishing life.

“Everyone takes something different from a book and you can read a favorite book multiple times and get more out of it with each reading,” Gierach said. “What I get out of it is the momentary satisfaction of having said what I had to say, but don’t ask me what that is. If I could sum it up in a few sentences, the book wouldn’t have to be 70,000 words long.”

Overall, “Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers” reads like a love letter to a life spent on the river.

“I think what I love most about fishing is the idea of trying to read the minds of fish and drawing on centuries of tradition to do it,” Gierach said. “And the peace and quiet is nice, too.”

If you go …

What: A Virtual Book Launch with John Gierach

When: Tuesday, June 2, 5 p.m.

Where: Zoom and Facebook Live. Follow the Bookworm of Edwards on Facebook for access.

Cost: Free

More information: Call 970-926-7323 or visit www.bookwormofedwards.com for more information on how to join.

Haims: Social distancing is leading to loneliness and mental health concerns

The ramifications of COVID-19 are many.  If the geopolitical and financial implications were not enough, the consequences of loneliness and mental health are growing exponentially.

Worry and stress over this pandemic are exacerbating mental illness, substance use disorders, and anxiety. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation article, researchers found that about 45% of U.S. adults are experiencing dramatic negative effects. With only 13% of people believing that the worst is behind us, the looming concern that the worst is yet to come must be addressed.

Often called the bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a publication that defines and classifies mental disorders to improve diagnoses, treatment, and research. Although it is published by the American Psychiatric Association, a leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S., “loneliness” and the repercussions have not been addressed in the most recent edition, the DSM-5 published in 2013. Perhaps, when a new edition is released, loneliness may be included.

When people think of the many factors that contribute to one’s health and well-being, loneliness is probably not within the top 10 or even top 20. Social isolation and loneliness have been studied extensively and research from Brigham Young University has found that the correlation to mortality to be 29% and 26% respectively. In a National Institute for Health Care Management webinar entitled The Health Impact of Loneliness: Emerging Evidence and Interventions, Kathryn Santoro, the director of programing, stated that “loneliness raises the risk of premature death as much as smoking or obesity.”

Managing one’s stress while socially isolating and/or being quarantined can be challenging. For many people, this is a paradoxical situation — the stress of not becoming exposed may cause the body’s immune system to be compromised and thus more like to become exposed. 

Unfortunately, stress and loneliness may change gene expression and cause a potentially lethal overreaction of immune system cells called leukocytes. When this happens, the productions of cytokines increase causing a greater risk for a phenomenon called a cytokine storm.

Poor quality of sleep, poor concentration, and irritability are also associated with loneliness. In a recent International Journal of Behavioral Medicine article I learned that while the relation between loneliness and sleep is complex, there is evidence that “loneliness predicted subsequent sleep disturbance, which in turn predicted subsequent self-reported health.”

If sleep and its correlation to loneliness and social isolation is of interest to you, consider reading an article from Forbes titled, “What Is The Connection Between Sleep And Loneliness? New Research Reveals How One Affects The Other.”  Another interesting article worth reading is, “Being Alone Together: The Social Pandemic of Loneliness during COVID-19.” The article, found at lifespeak.com, contains some great information and tips for addressing loneliness.

As our communities reopen, it will be important for all of us to be aware that loneliness and social distancing may lend itself to greater sensitivity to criticism and disagreements. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy — lonely people often think the worst of situations.

If you or someone you know is feeling like the victim of unstable and changing circumstances, perhaps consider enhancing social support. If you wait around for others to reach out to you, chances are, you may end up feeling rejected when people don’t. You have to make an effort to connect with neighbors, friends, and family.

If you are feeling isolated and stressed because you don’t have anybody close to rely on and talk to, consider reaching out to a psychologist. Locally, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (844-493-8255), Mind Springs Health (970-328-6969), and the Hope Center (970-306-4673) are available to assist.

Frontline Fund Colorado helps essential workers by providing gift cards to local businesses

It’s no secret that essential workers have experienced the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether they’re treating patients or keeping things running as smoothly as possible. Two Eagle County residents created a new non-profit to help those workers: Frontline Fund Colorado.

Frontline Fund Colorado was founded by Carrie Calvin and Jill Coyle, spouses of local firefighters, and sells merchandise with local flair: stickers that say “Eagle County Strong,” tees with mountains and pine trees, koozies and water bottles with bike chains. All proceeds from merchandise sales are used to purchase gift cards from local businesses and given to front line workers.

The “Eagle County Strong” stickers are just one of several products consumers can buy. Funds from all purchases are used to purchase gift cards, which are donated to essential workers.
Special to the Daily

“We wanted to create something people wanted to wear, were proud to wear, that also pumped the dollar through our local economy and to those who need more support during hard times,” said Coyle.

The fund is using a broad definition of essential worker in order to help as many people as possible. Coyle said they want to help any individuals and immediate families who have been “negatively impacted because they are mandated to continue working to provide necessities we need in order to live during a pandemic.” That includes workers in the following industries: grocery, healthcare, first responders, postal service, veterinary, plumbing and more.

Firefighter John Bailey (left) with fiancée Jill Coyle. Coyle contracted COVID-19 and that made her desire to give back even stronger.
Special to the Daily

While work on the Frontline Fund was in its early stages, Coyle tested positive for COVID-19. She said she was sick for three weeks, though her symptoms never prompted a hospital visit. Her care providers instructed her to isolate, take Tylenol and hydrate. During that whole time, she kept thinking about those who are high-risk for the virus and those who experienced worse symptoms than she did.

“I am 31 years old, active and healthy… and it took me down,” she said. “It made it clear that we needed to do something more to help.”

Firefighter Tom Calvin (left) and wife Carrie Calvin. Carrie took the reigns on the Frontline Fund Colorado project while her co-founder Coyle recovered from COVID-19.

While Coyle was sick, Calvin took the reins on the project and started setting up designs and the website back end. Both founders work in marketing, and they wanted to the money as local as they could, so they hired Eagle-based Say No More Promotions to do the merchandise.

Now that the fund has launched, customers and those wishing to make cash donations can head to frontlinefundcolorado.org to purchase and donate. Essential workers can apply to receive gift cards from local businesses online, and get additional information by contacting the fund directly. People can also nominate loved ones they feel would benefit from Frontline Fund’s service.

Carnes: Calling out lies not the same as censorship

This entire issue of being held accountable for lying is simple, really, for those with even a limited understanding of the First Amendment to our Constitution: Fact-checking a claim, regardless of whether it is on a platform or published, is not censorship or suppression of any sort.

It is common sense.

However, if the content of a claim is removed from a social media platform, that can indeed be construed as censorship, but only to a degree, as libel laws and slander also come into play. But I’ll leave those details to Vail Daily columnist and legal guru, Rohn Robbins, as my words on legality have as much impact as attendees at the 2020 Vail GoPro Mountain Games. 

Twitter instead simply flags the claims, like Facebook has been doing for a while now, when content is highly questionable and deserves to be fact-checked, and just like any other social media outlet that chooses to, is exercising its First Amendment freedom of speech by doing so.

ImPOTUS, along with every other Tom, Dick and Karen in America, is free to post lies, just as Twitter is free to call out those lies. If questionable claims are out there for John or Jane Q. Public to consume, whether from the media, black people, white, gay, straight, left, right or a little curved around the edges, all deserve to be fact-checked.

Conspiracy theories and outright lies are peddled by different media outlets on both sides, but facts are facts — they do not change or have political allegiances nor care about your feelings or if they fit the narrative that helps you sleep at night.

In this case, the individual is a public servant, and must live up to his oath of office while being held to an even higher standard, as he is the presumed leader of the free world, with much greater responsibility than any of us. It’s hard to fathom an authoritarian power grab by conservatives screaming for more “Big Government” censorship, which would certainly lead to an explosion of frivolous lawsuits and a massive expansion of regulations.

And to think, all this time I thought this administration proudly prioritized deregulation, yet now it threatens to create a massive new bureaucracy to govern internet comments that it disagrees with.


When it comes to unsubstantiated claims, Twitter is allowing those claims to stand up to the scrutiny of facts, which in turn allows readers to hopefully think for themselves, and perhaps breathe a sigh of relief learning such claims are utter nonsense.

Besides, with all the little Trumpettes constantly spouting the “fake news!” mantra that they pretend to hate so much, why in the world are they upset that a social media outlet is cracking down on fake news?

A main facet of the First amendment is to protect the press and media platforms from the government, and just like attacks on the Second Amendment, is an attack on one of the core freedoms of our republic.

Either way, these threats of regulation are little more than the never-ending whines of an insecure narcissistic child, angry because he does not possess anywhere near the level of dictating control he thinks he deserves, and they have no real chance of becoming law.

In the meantime, I recommend he, along with anyone else insistent upon promoting false claims (cue the evil music), go on the dark web and claim whatever the hell you want. Just know that unsubstantiated claims that cannot be validated are known by the shorter word: lies.

And that way most of us will not waste time reading them.

Gourmet on Gore, Labor Day food tasting festival, canceled for 2020

This year’s Gourmet on Gore has been canceled due to public health guidelines and government direction surrounding large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The food tasting event, scheduled for Labor Day weekend in Vail Village, will return with familiar programming and updated offerings next year, from Sept. 3-5.

“Gourmet on Gore has been a staple on Labor Day weekend and a tradition for the past 14 years featuring some of the best creations from Vail Valley chefs and restaurants paired with fantastic wines, beer and spirits. Although Gourmet on Gore will be missed this year, we know the health and safety for our guests who travel from near and far is most important” said James Deighan, Managing Partner for Highline, which organizes the event.

Moore: Police and black folks — the swagger and disrespect must end

I’m a 65-year-old black man, and I have literally spent most of my life doing everything possible to avoid encounters with police.

My mother warned me when I was about 12 to beware of the police because even though I was a good boy, I could be killed with impunity. I’d be just another dead black boy supposedly mixed up in guns, drugs or gangs.

I wish I wasn’t afraid of the police. I have never had a cop live on my street.  I’ve known only two law enforcement officers socially; one is a former FBI agent who I met a decade ago and is a great guy, and the other is a black cop who I played street basketball with in the 1980s. 

The vast majority of police never fire a weapon, but the bad deeds rightly get more attention because of the suffering.

As a journalist I did some of those stories. I wrote about suburban police officers using sap gloves to beat suspects. I wrote about a white cop who shot and killed an unarmed black man, who was on his way home from a party. The police officer had numerous complaints against him and was known in the department as the “Orkin Man,” after a commercial for a pest-control company.

I’ve made it this far by being extremely careful. I’ve never hung out in bars, don’t lose my temper with authority figures, and haven’t had a fight since high school, all in an effort to avoid any dealings with the police.

Yet, I know the fear. I have been stopped at least 20 times by the police, fortunately without escalation.  

Once I was stopped on an early Sunday morning as my family hurried to church. I was admittedly speeding. But you could feel the air being sucked in by my family as I pulled over and waited for the officer to approach. 

I rolled down the window, careful to put both hands in plain view on the steering wheel.  The officer asked me if I knew why he stopped me. I quickly offered that I was late for church and was probably over the speed limit. 

He said yes sir, that was correct, took my license and registration and walked to his cruiser. When he came back, he said he was giving me a warning. Shocked, I said thank you. He leaned into my car and replied: “Despite what you think, my job is not to make your day worse.” 

There have been other encounters like that. But there have been dark moments. 

Police officers outside the State Capitol in Denver are approached by a woman Saturday during a protest over the death of George Floyd who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
David Zalubowski | Associated Press

Returning from a concert with four black male college classmates in the 1970s,  we were pulled over and ordered out of our car in the snow, some of us without our shoes or coats on, because we allegedly “fit the description” of robbery suspects. After standing in the cold for a half hour, we were let go after we checked out with no warrants. 

Then, there was the time in the early 1990s when I was traveling with my family from Boston to Vermont to start vacation. We were driving along a deserted New Hampshire road around midnight when we passed a cop sitting at a closed gas station.

My wife and son were slumped down in the car asleep, but I immediately knew it was trouble when the cop car slowly rolled out behind me. After following me for a mile or so, the blue lights and siren came on. My wife jumped up in her seat and asked what was going on. I told her I didn’t know.

I was driving the speed limit, so that couldn’t be it. The officer tapped on the window and brusquely asked for my license and registration. I calmly asked him what was the problem, but he silently stalked off as my 8-year-old son came to life in the backseat. 

As my blood began to boil, my wife and kid pleaded with me to stay calm. No other cars were on the road. After about 10 minutes, the officer came back and handed me my documents. My hands in plain view, I asked why he had stopped me. “You were driving too close to my vehicle,” he snapped. 

I sat there for a moment fuming, letting him take off before me. I told my wife that he stopped me simply because he saw a black man and suspected I was a criminal only to be surprised to find a family. 

Then, there was the time the cops showed up at my house in Golden. My wife was in the car with our two daughters, and when she buzzed herself into our gated street she noticed a police car pull in behind her.

She assumed they were heading to a neighbor’s house, but they pulled into our driveway and asked for her brother, who was living with us at the time. He is the nicest guy and has never been in trouble. 

But apparently he had gotten into a verbal altercation with a white guy after he rolled through a roundabout and cut him off as they both turned into a gas station. The enraged white guy berated him, and my brother-in-law gave it back to him.  As they both pumped their gas, the guy threatened to call the cops. My brother-in-law said go ahead, got into his car and headed home.

It’s mind boggling that two cops showed up at our house simply based on the word of a white guy over a minor traffic dispute. No witnesses, no physical altercation, no evidence of a crime. 

After my wife in a tense exchange demanded the officers get off of our property as she held her brother in the garage, they finally left. Incredibly, he was issued a court summons, which was withdrawn after I called the police chief to object. It is the only time I have ever mentioned my position as editor during a personal complaint. 

We were outraged and have no doubt that my brother-in-law would have been face down in our driveway or worse had he stepped outside of that garage. And for what?

Watching the life ebb from George Floyd on TV brought these memories flooding back. I literally said that could have been me under that officer’s knee. And very few of my white friends can honestly say they had that feeling.

That speaks volumes. Over the years, I have had many discussions with white colleagues and friends about the police, and it’s clear that we live in different worlds. 

They have run from police, driven off from traffic stops, and flung clipboards handed to them across highways without any repercussions. I can’t imagine a black person getting away with that.

Maybe that’s because for many whites they know cops as fathers, brothers, cousins, friends and neighbors. 

We, however, know them as a swaggering, disrespectful, and threatening presence.

The history of the police and black people dates back to the slave catchers and overseers. A lot of police officers in our country come to the job generationally with stereotypes and disdain toward black people that has been handed down from the old days. 

Whether they want to admit it or not, it is part of the DNA of the profession, and it really doesn’t matter what color the person is who wears the uniform. Those attitudes are ingrained in the culture.

So to fix the problem the culture has to be changed, which is no easy feat. We have had black police chiefs, and that has not made much of a difference. To change the culture you have to send police officers who murder innocent civilians to prison, plain and simple.  

Police officers who abuse their power have to be held accountable, just like in any other profession. A clerk miscounts the money, they get fired. A journalist makes big mistakes, they get dismissed. You’re sitting in the car when a companion robs a store, you go down, too.

The argument that we ask police to risk their lives and make split decisions is no excuse for them being wrong when making life-and-death decisions. They should have a higher standard to be right when using lethal force, not a lower one. 

Reforming policing in America will require changing their culture, reinventing their training and unerring accountability.

I’m exhausted watching black men die at the hands of police. I hate seeing the fear in my daughters’ eyes from knowing I could die, begging for air, under the knee of a police officer.

I don’t hate cops. I fear them. But I’m about to turn 66 years old, and I’d like to exhale for a change.

Gregory L. Moore was the editor of The Denver Post from 2002 to 2016.