Nell Salzman reports for Westword on a “debrief” webinar hosted by Colorado Christian University on the recently passed landmark legislation in Colorado tightening accountability for police who commit violent crimes of their own in the line of duty–featuring two local hard-right conservative public figures, Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler and GOP House Minority Leader Pat Neville.
Neville, who was in on initial discussions of the police-reform bill, said he wouldn’t have endorsed it without certain amendments, but he ultimately supported it, as did the vast majority of the state’s legislators. Even so, the law primarily addresses a “big-city” problem, he explained, adding that many of the state’s police departments won’t be affected by it. “Most of the police forces out there are doing what’s in this bill as passed,” he said. “By and large, if there were any issues, it was usually in Denver and Aurora, places like that.”
It’s not the first time that Neville has blown the “big city” or “urban” dog whistle in order to make his point that a given problem is faced by, you know, “others.” Like Neville’s mistaken racist supposition about where COVID-19 was hitting hardest in the state, with the highest case rates actually occurring in rural and agricultural areas, Neville is wrong about where police brutality happens too. It happens everywhere.
As bad as that is, Neville managed to make it even worse:
Neville, too, said he’s bothered by the power of political pressure. Back in January, he noted, protesters interrupted the governor’s State of the State speech and the Denver district attorney decided not to prosecute them. How, he asked, is this different from not prosecuting the Aurora police officers involved in the Elijah McClain case? [Pols emphasis]
“We like to criticize Dave Young [DA for the 17th District] for not prosecuting, but then on the other hand we see when Beth McCann, a liberal DA, doesn’t prosecute people for a crime, they’re cheering that,” he said. “It’s rather disturbing.”
Minority Leader Neville is referring to a brief and nonviolent (though admittedly noisy) protest that occurred during Gov. Jared Polis’ State of the State Address back in January. A total of 33 people were arrested in that incident for chanting slogans from the gallery in opposition to human-caused climate change. The closest this came to a violent act was one individual who super glued his own hands together around the gallery railing, necessitating a stern yank from a state trooper to separate them. Because the protesters in most cases spent the night in jail for their trouble, Denver DA Beth McCann decided they had been sufficiently punished.
This is where we realize with no small amount of revulsion that the Republican leader of the Colorado House has just equated the killing of Elijah McClain by Aurora police, which has sparked nationwide controversy and helped inspire Colorado’s new law to combat police brutality, with a nonviolent political stunt pulled by a few climate activists during a political speech. Whether you’re a Black Lives Matter activist or a civil liberties-loving Rand Paul Republican, the comparison is so outrageous that it would be laughable–that is, had it not been claimed in all seriousness by one of the state’s highest ranking elected Republican officials.
All we can say is, it requires a deeply twisted view of the world for this to make any sense.