SB217’s Blind Spot: Colorado’s Police Should Return to Unencrypted Scanners

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers inspired one of the most widespread and heroic uprisings in modern United States history. Two weeks of rioting and protest have opened a dialogue about the nature of police and spurred more efforts at reform, or in some cases outright abolition, than years of voting and token civilian oversight efforts ever could have. This is a reckoning years in the making – rampant police brutality has persisted nationwide for decades and between the police unions making any accountability or policy change all but impossible, a “Thin Blue Line” “warrior” culture that has deliberately placed cops above the citizenry, and both peaceful protest and representative democracy failing to rectify the problem, it was only a matter of time before things finally exploded. The brutal, indiscriminate response from police all across the country exposed them as an occupying force with contempt for the populations they purportedly serve rather than a profession existing for conflict resolution; an extortion racket for the wealthy existing to crush dissent and keep systems and institutions failing the vast majority of people afloat to maintain revenue streams.

Unsurprisingly, Colorado law enforcement was in rare form. With a long history of protest suppression, the response to initial demonstrations in downtown Denver as well as Colorado Springs was a strategy of overwhelming force and intimidation. Mirroring the conflicts that played out in most major American cities, it was obvious that the police were starting the riots, but the segment of demonstrators willing to fight back – rightfully fed up with police overreach and invulnerability – was significantly higher than usual. A police murder and the subsequent efforts to crush any outcry should always be seen as a breach of the social contract, and a critical mass of people justifiably and righteously made that breach a two-way street by opening up a conflict with the police that raged for days and still shows very little sign of stopping.

Local efforts to diffuse the tension have ranged from nefarious, with a seemingly AstroTurf “activist” organization emerging overnight in Denver that focused immediately on tone policing, sowing division with a lack of respect for a diversity of tactics, and staging photo-ops for local politicians and the police department, to suspicious – there’s been speculation that the Denver Police stood down not just to deescalate, but because the department was running out of crowd control weapon munitions and had exhausted their manpower. It’s also likely the mayor’s office pulled them back after realizing the DPD handled everything terribly and was primarily responsible for escalating the situation. An officer was fired for posting himself and two other police officers in riot gear and captioning it “Let’s Start a Riot” on Instagram.

Token symbolic measures, like the painting of Black Lives Matter in front of the capitol building and some changing of street signs, were taken this week. Quite quickly, a flurry of activity at the statehouse to get some legislation on the books and hopefully quell anger was engaged, giving Coloradans SB217, a reform bill that’s already passed in the House and will be voted on imminently in the Senate. State Republicans and law enforcement groups (naturally) object to many of the proposals and will likely neuter key provisions in an already relatively toothless bill that seems, on its face, full of “reforms” that are nebulously enforceable.

Continue reading “SB217’s Blind Spot: Colorado’s Police Should Return to Unencrypted Scanners”

Could Coronavirus Kill the Regional Sports Network?

It might seem a little callous to speculate on implications for entertainment industries while thousands of people die every day from the COVID-19 pandemic and millions lose their jobs, but as Major League Baseball tries to figure out a way to restructure a 2020 season, the NFL opts to draft from Roger Goodell’s basement, and the NBA throws together a H-O-R-S-E tournament, I’d argue that the issues are out there and worth exploring. A disclosure: I work in broadcasting, and so much of the following article’s main points certainly fall under my personal livelihood just as much as my interests as a sports fan. There’s absolutely a conflict of interest here, but I have zero ability to change anything about the present status quo within the industry, so this is merely an opinion of someone within the trade. I’ll also be using Colorado as a bit of a microcosm for the rest of the sports broadcasting industry, as it’s my understanding the business model is generally similar to most other areas.

Since MLB Spring Training was halted, not a day has gone by where I didn’t mourn the lack of baseball or think about my beloved New York Yankees. After last season, I’ve spent the off-time oscillating between chomping at the bit for the fellas to get back on the field and worrying about injuries and contracts, like any fan. I count myself lucky that this virus has yet to touch anyone close to me and I’m an “essential worker” that’s thankfully avoided layoffs, so it feels okay to lament about how much easier a quarantine would be if there was a realistic and safe way to distract a terrified, shut-in America with a couple of its favorite pastimes. A big part of feeling like things have “gotten back to normal” will be having sports and their corresponding large gatherings back again.

I splurged on seeing the Nuggets this year and was excited to get back to Coors Field and see the Rockies more regularly than my three or four games a season. The Avalanche were on a dominant tear that undoubtedly would’ve led to a playoff run, and like every year, I had resolved that the 2019-2020 season would finally be the year I got into hockey and follow the NBA closer than highlights and playoff games. Unfortunately, a contract dispute between Colorado’s regional sports network, Altitude Sports, and every major cable or satellite provider in the state meant games from the Rockies, Avalanche, or the Nuggets would have extremely little opportunity to be televised outside of national network showcases. This is still ongoing and has led to both a potentially landmark antitrust case and local bars pirating streams to keep up traditional revenue.

Before I go on to make the case that professional sports should be broadcast on local over-the-air signals, it bears mentioning that I side with Altitude in the contract dispute with the telecommunications infrastructure providers. Regional sports networks (RSNs from here on out), have their own employees and contractors for production and reporting and are giving cable and satellite providers one of the last products cord cutters can’t legally and reliably find an alternative for (yet). To squeeze the networks for a larger share of revenue when it’s only a matter of time before RSNs start fielding streaming deals independent of cable and satellite providers a la the YES Network’s presently-in-limbo arrangements with Amazon Prime seems extremely irresponsible and short-sighted.

Altitude was already likely taking a huge financial hit with its contract dispute before the pandemic hit. It’s not available over-the-air, with YouTube TV or other streaming platforms, and costs extra on top of the base cable package. This is the case with most RSNs. Other than the NFL, most professional sports are carried exclusively on a “premium” channel. Starving for content with sports cancelled, how long could an RSN remain solvent, and could they float for months or years until society is able to safely turn a corner on COVID-19? Broadcast television production and sports journalism are both specialized trades, and there’s surely been employee furloughs and layoffs, and non-renewals for workers on contract already. Those workers and personalities, vital to the quality of the network’s product as well as at the very least partially responsible to viewer retention, might not be back.

A larger question regarding the potential of floundering RSN might be should we even have them?  Continue reading “Could Coronavirus Kill the Regional Sports Network?”

Arvada Police’s Feel-Good Vest Copaganda is Trash

As if Super Bowl 53 could’ve gotten worse, the shitty town I’m imminently moving out of at the end of this month was given the national spotlight in a prime-time commercial slot! Was it the civic failure saga of the “Ghost Train to Nowhere” being highlighted to the entire country, perhaps as a cautionary tale of the dangers of allowing private contractors to ruin public transit projects? No, it couldn’t be, unless I’ve hit the lottery and started running vanity ads like Tom Steyer. Maybe an ad trumpeting the area’s diversity and representation after Brianna Titone became the state’s first transgender lawmaker in a traditionally republican-held district? Not in a million years, like Pats fans need any more hate crime fuel.

It was in fact an advertisement paid for by Ford Motors for Colorado Springs nonprofit SHIELD616 featuring an Arvada Police officer hawking for donations for body armor:

Let’s put aside that Colorado police pulled $21 million just in marijuana tax revenue last year and that Arvada is consistently rated as one of the safest cities in America, seeing just 27 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2017,  or that they are a great example of totally overstocked and overmilitarization in the first place, with quick access to the Jefferson County “BearCat” armored vehicle as well as the assault weapons I see slung around the backs of uniformed officers responding to apparent traffic incidents.

https://twitter.com/coopsie_doodle/status/1090289132121640960

Never mind that the Arvada Police Department, until an officer was hit by a car in 2009, hadn’t experienced an officer fatality since 1961. This is a town that was literally rocked by a crime wave of teenagers breaking windows and grabbing a couple of things just a few months ago, not quite the epicenter of lawlessness and flying bullets that necessitate a $5+ million commercial spot during the most-watched television event in the country.

The Police Department received 20 vest kits in a publicity ceremony last week, quick to hearken on the three officers killed last year but conveniently neglecting to point out the rampage Colorado law enforcement has been on in the early months of 2019. As of March 5th, there have been 19 officer-involved woundings and 9 fatalities, including an incident where a man was killed and a woman was wounded after police and federal marshals opened fire on a vehicle with two toddlers in it attempting to arrest the man on a probation violation. Several other officer-involved shootings involved incidents in which the police reported being allegedly hit by suspect’s cars, which is an awfully remarkable coincidence for six of those altercations, and something that the Denver Police Department had to revise policy over after paying nearly $1 million to the family of Jessie Hernandez in 2017, a teen shot to death by police while sitting in an allegedly stolen vehicle with several other children in 2015.

It seems a little odd that the officers reporting that they were struck by fleeing vehicles didn’t need to be hospitalized, and that by claiming they were struck, were able to completely usurp a citizen’s right to due process and execute the alleged suspects, especially since the largest city in Colorado changed policy regarding shooting at fleeing vehicles. A lot more cops seem to be “hit” by vehicles these days as a correlation. An interesting connection is also the relentless pursuit of charges against a man recently acquitted of killing Colorado State Patrol Trooper Cory Donahue after two mistrials in two-and-a-half years. Once again, Colorado law enforcement have positioned themselves as vindictive against the public and reinforced an us-vs-them mentality against a man who by most sane accounts was involved in a highway accident. Continue reading “Arvada Police’s Feel-Good Vest Copaganda is Trash”

Huge Pay Disparities Mean Denver Public Schools Should Strike, Too

As the first teacher’s strike in 30 years kicks off in LA today, Denver Public Schools looks poised to strike as well if a deal isn’t reached by this Saturday after narrowly avoiding a strike last year. Like most teachers around the country, most cannot afford to live in the districts they teach in and one in five DPS teachers work a second job. Long-standing issues in funding, particularly in regards to property taxes, mean school funding and teacher pay is an obvious issue of racial discrimination and class warfare.

49192823_10217817406336860_5954797213296099328_n
Administrative and executive salary documents

District salary documents circulating on Facebook detail a massive pay disparity between the average DPS teacher and administrative officials. While a first-year teacher makes less than $45,000 a year, a rate the union is fighting to increase by up to 10% and with the rapid rising costs of living in Denver amounting to basically an inflationary wage raise, executive directors are pulling nearly a quarter-million dollar salary. Anyone that has ever worked within a school system could tell you the teachers are being hosed. The distribution of labor between even a school principal, making upwards of $85,000 per year, and that of a teacher is astronomical: pouring through the documents, DPS has one administrator to manage every 7.5 teachers, yet one teacher for every 40 students. Couple that with the fact that teachers pay hundreds of dollars per year to supply their own classrooms, work countless hours of unpaid over-time grading papers and preparing lesson plans, and without a doubt spend the most time educating and supervising children, it’s no wonder DPS teachers are ready to form picket lines.

Despite initial record profits and promises that the legalization of marijuana would provide an influx of funding for school districts across the state, that is largely not the case. Construction projects (notoriously nebulous processes) and programs like substance abuse prevention or adding counselors are funded through grant programs from marijuana sales taxes, however, teacher’s salaries aren’t addressed because the grants are not a consistent source of budgetary income for the schools and districts. While voters in Colorado likely had issues like this in mind when voting to pass Amendment 64, the nuts and bolts of the funding limitations mean teachers, one of the last widespread unionized professions in this country not connected to health care or law enforcement, get the shaft. Continue reading “Huge Pay Disparities Mean Denver Public Schools Should Strike, Too”

An Autopsy of the Denver Bronco’s 2018 Season

Roughly three years ago, you probably could have floated a ballot initiative in Colorado about renaming Denver International Airport after John Elway. After wining the Superbowl with a crippled Peyton Manning and one of the most historically lethal defenses ever seen in the NFL, Elway was riding high, going on to sign long-term deals for Von Miller, maybe the best pass-rusher since Lawrence Taylor, and Emmanuel Sanders, the league’s most underrated and consistently productive wide receiver.

That goodwill is long, long squandered.

Today, Elway finds himself without a head coach, having fired Vance Joseph after months of presumptive anticipation. There was some speculation last night, after losing to division rivals the LA (SAN DIEGO) Chargers by a score of 23-9, that because Joseph was allowed to speak to the press and state that he wanted to return next year to “make things right,” that Elway might hold off on his termination after all. The logic behind this is actually pretty sound and definitely what was parroted by a lot of people last year after calls for heads to roll went unheeded: it’s very difficult to attract coaching talent to a franchise if the GM could throw you out after a single losing season. Nobody wants to relocate their family, teach their playbook, and develop a staff if you’re a few bad games away from the chopping block without being given any real time to gel within a franchise.

That said, Joseph was proven to be absolutely abysmal at clock management, timeout strategics, and calling for challenges. Basic game management skills eluded him and penalty flags were called constantly based on his ineptitude. Vance, despite being a basically affable guy, well liked in the locker room, that seemed willing enough to take risks and had a playbook that seemed to work for a Broncos team shedding veterans and rudderless without a stable quarterback situation into at least losing games by a closer margin that the blowouts of 2017. After a short winning streak, it even looked like he might have locked down the job for next year, but then they lose to both of the Bay Area’s sorry offerings and shut down by Phillip Rivers, villainized by Bronco fans everywhere. Vance had to go. It’s the third non-interim head coach in eight years, but he had to go. That’s not great for any franchise.

Continue reading “An Autopsy of the Denver Bronco’s 2018 Season”