GUEST SPEAKER

Chief Doug Shoemaker

Grand Junciton Police Department

the full report

Greg Olson (00:04):

Well, hello, my name is Greg Olson and you’re with the GROWL Agency storytelling series. And today we’re here with the Civil Conversations Project and with the host Wayne Hare. Hey Wayne, how are you doing today?

Wayne Hare (00:19):

I’m good. I’m doing well. If it’s a fine sunny winter day in Grand Junction.

Greg Olson (00:24):

It is that also, well, I’m excited about our guests today that, you know he’s graciously joined us from a very busy day. But before we get started and I’ll let you introduce him. But let’s talk, can you just give a little for if we have any first time listeners about a little who you are and the civil conversation project, and then we’ll get into a right into our guests?

Wayne Hare (00:47):

Yeah, I’m Wayne Hare. I retired from the park service six or seven years ago as a back country ranger. Yeah, I guess, you know, long story short, you know, the country started to divide part, or maybe I should say, continue to divide a part that bothered me a lot while there’s me a lot. And so, I started doing some writing about it. I call it the civil conversation project, trying to try to put out information there that would allow people to have the knowledge to be able to communicate with each other with some background rather than just emotion. And then when, when George Floyd died really kind of took off and some other things attach themselves to this project. So, so here I am. Yeah,

Greg Olson (01:45):

And we have a lot of the recordings already up on our website at growlagency.com/connectex and we’ve had fascinating discussions about civil war monuments and various history with race and racism. And so there I’ve learned a lot by, so thank you very much for being a storyteller with us. Well, let’s get right into it. Wayne, why don’t you introduce our guests and started having our conversation?

Wayne Hare (02:18):

I will I will just give a very brief introduction to the chief Doug Shoemaker. He’s a chief of police here in grand junction, where, where you and I reside in the in Western Colorado. He’s got, he’s got a pretty extensive background. I think the chief’s background is unique and ideally suited to the challenges that law enforcement is, is facing across the country today. I know enough about chief Shoemaker to know that we could him doctor chief Shoemaker cause he has a, an advanced degree. I’m going to let, I’m going to let the chief just fill us in if you would keep Shoemaker on where you came from and what your background is and international chief of police association, that sort of, that sort of thing. If you wouldn’t mind, sir.

Greg Olson (03:19):

Yup. Thank you chief for being on the show today. We really appreciate it. Let’s tell us a little bit about yourself. And I know you’ve been on the force here for a little bit and a lot of positive accolades about everything you’ve been doing in the community. So thank you for that.

Doug Shoemaker (03:35):

Well, thanks for having me and it’s great to see you both. It’s a pleasure to be here, so I don’t go too much into my background. It’s sort of funny to talk about myself, but I for, I guess, for there, for your purposes here you know, this is 30 years for me in law enforcement. It doesn’t seem like 30, but it has been 30 and most of those years were in Jefferson City, Missouri, where I went through the ranks before I took the job out here in Grand Junction of the two and a half years ago. So I feel really lucky to be out here, great community, great area, and obviously love the, the area itself. So really pleased to be here. My background really is certainly in policing for all these years, but also academically I’ve, I’ve been able to achieve a few things, which I’m proud of those things. I got a bachelor’s degree and of all things, English Lit, Master’s in criminal justice and then a doctorate in organizational leadership that I just finished this year. So I also work a lot with the international police chiefs association. I happened to be one of 27 committee chairs for the organization, which is about 40,000 strong worldwide. So we’re really fortunate to have the president of ICP put me put me in that position and really working hard to deal with issues of you know, where we’re going and policing overall. So it’s been a great career and I look forward to the next several years as well, and certainly doing that here in grand junction. So thanks for letting me, let me be here today.

Greg Olson (05:04):

Yeah, thank you. With that Wayne, why don’t we get into the show? And normally we have a lot of back and forth with that. You know, Doug and, and we’re comfortable if it’s not a convert, if it’s not something we want to dig into, if we go a little too deep, sometimes there might be background information. We want to explore later, which we can get from you. So with that Wayne once you kick it off with some of your first questions.

Wayne Hare (05:31):

Yeah. I’m going to maybe backtrack just a little bit to say that my years in the park service as a, as a non-law enforcement back country ranger, we’re in the law enforcement division. And so, all of my coworkers were law enforcement. My supervisors were law enforcement and my friends were law enforcement. And so that’s kind of it just carried on you know, now that I’m not in the park service, I still have many of those same friends. And I have friends in law enforcement in, in what I would call civilian agencies and chief, some of those people who are really going to be very committed. They’re really good people. I wouldn’t be friends with them if they weren’t right. But some of them feel like there is not an actual, that law enforcement has not created any problems in black communities. They feel like it’s politics has woven in there and, you know, media, and it’s just presenting inaccurate story to the public. And I’m curious do you feel chief, like, like and then we’ll kind of come back maybe to, to locally, but nationally, do you feel like there is a legitimate that the minority communities, black communities in particular that express having a problem with law enforcement in their communities, is any of that legit, or is that are we just kind of being led down a you know, some path by, by I don’t know, black lives matter or the media?

Chief Doug Shoemaker (07:36):

Well, I think it’s a multi-pronged answer quite frankly. You know, law enforcement has had a unique history throughout its time here in the United States. And as we all kind of base our work back dating back to 1829, when Sir Robert Peel founded the London metropolitan police and started what was called community policing way back then the foundational principles of those of those beginnings began with the words, the police are the public and the public of the police. And that was back in 1829. So nearly 200 years ago. Since that time as policing has evolved it’s gone through a lot of stages, some of which weren’t pretty, you know, you look during the early parts of our, of our, of this last century, sorry, the century. And you talk about civil rights movements and things of that nature where police the job wasn’t as, what is it, wasn’t what it’s like today. And there were some problems there, particularly with working with minority communities. So there’s a story there that goes back a long time, and it’s not always a pre-story look at but it’s one we must, we must understand to say, all right, here’s the history and how do we move forward together? I will say that, you know, there’s, there’s things with national media that, that doesn’t necessarily ring true on, on some levels because we all know that the, the happy stories don’t sell first and policing, everybody loves to have some sort of involvement with policing. But we’ve, we’ve not always been our own best friends. We’ve had many times in policing that our own worst enemies, and we’ve not done as good of a job of, of outreach or, or looking to really understand what our communities expect from us, particularly minority communities as to how they want to be policed. So there are a lot of challenges there in history, and, you know, our opportunity to hear as we move forward is to say, what’s that look like? And then how do we really move forward together and have conversations much like today to say, how do we do better collectively? And what’s that, what’s that look like for everybody? So the goal, I think now is to move forward and to try and figure out really how policing evolves. And some people would say, I suppose, that policing is going through a radical transformation. And I don’t know that that’s accurate. I think that it’s constantly transforming if the agency is progressing anyway for agencies that are stagnant and lie in the last 30 years, and this is how we’ve always done it, then I would, I would agree that, that the, that the things that are happening now are going to be radical transformations because they’ve been stuck in reverse or a neutral the whole time, as opposed to continuously moving forward and trying to do things and try and do them better. So, we’ve not always done a great job in policing. And then I think those of us in leadership positions have to acknowledge that, but by the same token, I think we also have to acknowledge that we have some opportunities to do some things and make it better. Yeah.

Wayne Hare (10:55):

Chief, I heard you kind of allude to something that I’ve heard sometimes from other law enforcement officers. And that is that over time and in the history of this country, that the relationship between law enforcement and minority communities as that minority communities had some justification for speaking out against police presence in their community, or the way police are treating them or so on and so forth. And that, and that some of what we’re dealing with today, or, or, or I’ve actually heard express that all of what we’re dealing with today is really, you know, kind of still trying to overcome the past. But I don’t, I, is that, what is that what you’re saying? I don’t know if it is not, I don’t think it is what you’re saying. Could, what, could you clarify that for me a little bit?

Chief Doug Shoemaker (12:03):

Sure. Yeah. I think, I think when you look at the past and you look at how law enforcement has evolved, there have always been law enforcement professionals doing good things, but there have also been periods in our, in our time as, as law enforcement within the United States where it hasn’t been that great at all and challenges have come particularly in our communities of color for example. So it’s, it’s, I think those things do build up to where we are now. These aren’t just overnight things to just happen. I think there are reasons for them happening. And I think a lot of those reasons are the fact that there’s, there’s not enough outreach to talk about, you know, how we police our communities and what, what the expectations are, because as we’ve seen in, in surveys minority communities want to be policed, but they want to have an understanding as to what the expectations are and have a voice in that. And I think that’s appropriate. Absolutely. I think that’s what we should all work toward in the first place. The issue is, is some law enforcement agencies. And I think through history have, have failed to perhaps listen and take that into account when they do those types of things and when they administer policing. So you know, it’s a mixed bag and, and you can’t, if you paint them with a broad brush, then that’s unfair to people that are doing the right thing at the right times all the time. But I think acknowledgment of some of the challenges we’ve had in our past is certainly part of this.

Wayne Hare (13:43):

Thank you for that chief. Let’s, let’s circle around to this community Grand Junction, Colorado I don’t have the stats, I think you do, but this is predominantly you know we’re kind of a mid, a small to mid-sized city in the midst of a very rural you know, Colorado area you know, to get to a big city from Grand Junction, you have to drive a long way in any direction. Agriculture oil and gas and agriculture have been probably the bedrock of this area and, you know, obviously agriculture before oil and gas. So, it is probably predominantly a white area. I would say that our largest minority group was probably Hispanics. And then and black Americans are very small part of the community. So having said all that, for whatever reasons I said it how are relationships between the police department here in the community and then specifically the minority communities?

Chief Doug Shoemaker (15:03):

Well, you know, you’re, you’re right in terms of, it’s a, it’s a very, it’s a mid-sized city in a rural setting, and that we are so distanced from Denver or Salt Lake and has better effect with the largest city on 70, between Denver and Salt Lake. So it’s a ways to go anywhere. That’s a quote unquote, big city that presents some unique challenges and opportunities, particularly in a community that is probably roughly 80 plus percent for whites. And in terms of you know, our, our makeup and, and you’re right, the next largest group of individuals would be our Latino population, our Hispanic community, which is roughly around 13 or 14%, I think. So as we look at our community and we look at how we police, I will say that through the years. I think we’ve done a really good job working with, with all members of our community. You know, I say all this with the caveat that, of course there’s always room for improvement with everything, but I think that, you know, how we negotiated this year in particular with George Floyd and how we’ve, we’ve gotten through some things has been different than maybe how other agencies have, because we’ve built some level of trust that leads to this point, trust building is not for the time of the crisis it’s for the time well before. And you build up those, those levels of trust and have conversations. As we talk about our Latino population, for example, our agency has specifically conducted several outreach programs. We had what was called the law enforcement Latino Alliance, which was a cooperative effort between us and various law enforcement agencies, along with the members of our Latino community. Talk about how we work together, how we bridge those gaps and find solutions to figure out what that looks like for them, how we police the Latino population those were successful, but as, as with everything, those things need to evolve which led us to having conversations smaller conversations with different groups within our Latino population. We, within our agency alone, we’ve had, I think, three now graduations and classes of our Latino citizens police Academy, specific to our Latino population. So you have outreach and then talk about why we do what we do. And I think that story is very important. You know, our black population is much significantly lower than what I’m used to being from Jefferson City, Missouri, where we were 23% African-American and our, our largest number of African-Americans within our community certainly fall well within the confines of the student population at CMU, our local university as opposed to within the community. So everything is different in terms of how we, those relationships, but, you know, for the most part, I think we’ve done really well. Again with the caveat that there’s always room for improvement, but overall, I’m pleased with that, but I, I attribute the culture of the organization and how we train and who we hire as having a big play in that.

Wayne Hare (18:08):

Chief, you and I spoke about the culture of your organization just a few days ago. And, and the values that, that, that you, that you hold actually, that you try to you know, push out to the troops. Could you talk about what that culture and what those values are, and then if you think that if, and then if you think that you could, if you could transpose that culture and those values to a city that has a much larger African American population, if you think that would be a step in the right direction.

Chief Doug Shoemaker (19:02):

Well, I, you know, I, I I’ll try and do my best with what I think you’re asking on that, but in terms of, of our culture you know, I, I credit certainly Chief Camper, John Camper, who’s now the director of CBI, who is the chief, or I was here Chief Camper was here for roughly eight years. Initially there was a few challenges when he started, but I think John tried to foster a culture of, of really true community policing and, and getting into people’s why as to why they do this job because it does take a certain type of individual to want to be a police officer, particularly in today’s culture. So that said, I think that, that the groundwork was laid there. And a lot of that has trickled through the organization to accept others who are wanting to be progressive in how they do things who want to do it for the right reasons who are ethical, who possess integrity and have some level of compassion and why they do this job, because this is not, this is not a robotic type of job. We deal with human emotions and human issues on a daily, hourly basis all the time. And so we have to have people that understand how to relate best to those challenges within the community. And I think we continue that to this day, certainly. And we continue to, to even push forward, but those types of things law enforcements changed a lot since when I was, was hired. You know, in terms of when we first were hired back in 1990-1991, hiring people looked a lot different than it does today. And then when we hire people on board, when we went to bring them onto our agency, specifically, what we’re looking for, people that know how to communicate, that’s a play in things, because they have to be able to talk their way through things, to deescalate situations more often than not. And you just understand why they’re responding to certain calls and figure out what people are expecting if you transpose what we’re doing here to other agents or to another city. I think it just boils down to communication and talking and, and you know, we are not nor have we ever attempted to be an occupying force in an area that’s not what we do take case in point the protests that followed from George Floyd and earlier this year here in Grand Junction. And you may have noticed if you’re paying attention, that when we had those issues, we didn’t have officers standing on a line and riot here that was purposeful specifically to try and talk to folks that had challenges or issues maybe with policing as a profession, maybe with something else wasn’t with us. And it wasn’t personal, but we certainly had conversations with people that had different views than we have that we hold. But we did it on a level that we, that we weren’t. And like I mentioned earlier, an occupying force there, we had no incidents throughout all the protests of any issues of property, destruction, or violence and anything of that nature. And I think it’s because we were able to just have conversations with people and talk about our perspectives, their perspectives, and then how we meet in the middle to work this thing through. And I think that’s paid off really well for us.

Wayne Hare (22:21):

Hmm. So, to be you know, completely forthright and open and honest with our audience I went to a Memorial service for George Floyd and I guess, I don’t know how many black people you have in the Valley, but, but they were all at that Memorial service, all 20 of us plus a lot of white people too. And you know I had zero doubt that it would be anything other than a peaceful Memorial. I don’t know if it even entered my mind that there might be some violent trends like that. But what I did notice was that there was only two police officers there in uniform. Maybe, the chief had some undercover folks there. But there was only two, two police in uniform and one of them was a woman. And so, it was a man and woman in uniform, and they stood about a block and a half to two blocks away from Memorial. And clearly, they were, they had no designs at all in stirring the pot. And I was just you know, I took note of that, you know, somebody had told them here are the two of you that are going and stand a block and a half to two blocks away. So I said, I, I sent an email to the chief. I said, man, I, I love living someplace where this is the kind of police department we have and he responded. So the chief and I I’ve had correspondence since then. So, he’s right. And what he just said about coming in as, as an occupying force. But that does bring me circling around a chief to white communities by and large, I think, feel like the police are their friends and they’re in their communities to serve and protect. Like it says on the side of most patrol cars around the country, I think black communities don’t feel like that black communities feel like it’s an occupying force and that police are there to contain them in their communities. You know? So I guess elaborating upon that a little bit is you talked about you feel like police, Oh, that that minority communities do want to have a police presence and that’s, and that’s true, you know, in this era of defund the police the perception is being perpetrated that black communities want to defund the police and not have police. But if you listen to the interviews and listen to the people in the street that they’re saying exactly the opposite, you know we want to have a police presence. And in fact, we might even want to have a, more of a police presence, but you were saying earlier that that that minority communities, and really, we’re actually, we’re actually going to talking about African American communities, black American communities do want to have a police presence, but what they want it to be listened to. But some people would say what they want is to not be treated violently. They want, what they want is to not be shot and killed out of proportion to the white community. If they’re from New York, they would say what we want is to be able to walk down the street doing nothing illegal and not be stopped and leaned against the wall for each spread and frisk. So I think what I’m asking chief is that that sense of the police being an occupying force in, in, in some black communities. Is there any is there any truth in that? Is there any validity in that? Yeah, I guess that’s my question.

Chief Doug Shoemaker (26:44):

Sure. Well, you know, I provide perspective from a realistic point of experience and my experiences are with two police agencies and that’s Jefferson City, Missouri, and here. And so, it’s, you know, I, I’m not a part of in NYPD. I certainly know some in NYPD folks. I know how hard working and what the job they do and the job they’re up against particularly right now. So, you know, I think blanket statements can be dangerous because II do remember specifically working within my previous agency as, as a recruit officer or a newer officer and being assigned to an area that had a much higher African American population than the other districts within the city. But quite frankly, it was all about relational policing. It was about getting out of the car and talking to people and making contacts. And by that, I mean, how’s it going? You know, I’m officer such-and-such and this is kind of my district, and you’ll see me around if there’s problems or something, let me know. And that’s how it all starts. And then eventually when they see you walking around and just talking to kids or talking to whomever with no real, I don’t have an agenda that I’m not trying to shake people down or anything, but as you walk around and just talk to people, eventually you start building trust within those communities. And after a while you become the officer that they trust. So, if there is an issue within the community there’ll be the first one to tell you, and then you can deal with those issues because they don’t want to live in a crime zone either. They want to be safe and have the right to be safe in their neighborhoods. Just like anybody else. So why not try and figure out what that looks like for everybody and how we best place. But again, it goes back to the conversations as to how we do what we do and why we, and why we do it, and the transparency of, of use of force or policies or those types of things you know, are all really important. And always, really have been one thing I think, as police across the country, I think we’ve done a very poor job on quite frankly, is telling our story for years. And I, and I worked in media relations. I was the public information officer for Jefferson city, Missouri and actually was the elected vice-chair of the international police use PIO section, public section for two years. And one thing that we’ve failed terribly on is talking about the good things that we do and the why of what we do we do. Because once you explain things as to why, why are there two officers on a traffic stop? Well, here’s why we do that. And so when you explain the why to people, Oh, now I get it. And for many years, policing was well because we’re the police and that’s why, and that’s all you need to know. It’s like the parent who tells the child why the child says, why can’t I go down the street and hang out with Jimmy? And you’re like, cause said, so, and I’m the dad. And it’s not a reason. Right. And in policing, we owe those reasons to say, okay, well, here’s kind of the why. And I think that’s something that we’re working on that we continue to get better at, but you know, a lot of those positive interactions, then the problem is, is there, as you look at almost, you know, a million police within the country or thereabouts, and so many agencies and the interactions we have on a daily basis we don’t see a lot of the positive things that happen. And that’s a real challenge for us, particularly as we continue to recruit and try and bring people into the good of law enforcement, are there problems? Absolutely. We’ve got some people that shouldn’t be cops. They should probably be in jail. And that’s the problem of rooting those folks out or never letting them get in the first place. That’s the hiring process that we have locally, which is extremely strict. Is it a hundred percent perfect? No, nothing is because of human nature and other human factors, but we’re really good at it, quite frankly. So there’s a lot of things that are going on there, and a lot of things in the play, but you know, understanding the community that you serve is essential.

Greg Olson (31:11):

You know, think I’m going to add in a question here, we’re going to wrap up here in just a couple of minutes and I’m going to let Wayne formulate his thoughts for another question. I have a question for you, and then as we close out, if you think of a couple points that you want to clarify, Doug for our listeners, as we close out our talk today. So just to give you kind of a heads up, you know, my question is kind of around, you know, how do you teach our police Academy? You know, I grew up with a father in law enforcement as well. I know he went through constant training. I didn’t get to go to those training out course I, you know but I know that there’s always all kinds of training happening. So I think about, you read things about implicit bias training, which I was like, okay, what is this about? And it gets more complicated because people want to be police officers, you know, how do you teach about race or racism or, you know, and those things, I mean, those are, to me are challenges that, you know, you have all these things that you have to teach that maybe we didn’t have to cover, maybe in my father was going through law enforcement training. And now you do, is that something of the future, or, you know, how do, how do you see that happening? You know, much like we’re having this discussion now, but now you have to put that into an Academy or ongoing training, I guess.

Chief Doug Shoemaker (31:54):

Well, you know, it’s already in an Academy has been for some time. But that said, I, I think locally and Wayne and I’ve had the conversation and I’ve mentioned it to some folks that I’ve worked with at CMU to say that I don’t, I don’t, I’m not a fan of the current standard. As I feel, it’s not an input that’s just talking and I, I certainly wouldn’t want to speak to the other chiefs, but nonetheless for our agency, I don’t think it’s adequate. So, if we look at bias let’s be honest. We all have biases. Yes. To say that you’re unbiased is just to be an absolute denial. It’s how we work through those biases to, to still do our jobs and to do them appropriate and ethically and professionally. And so admitting that we have them and then figuring out, okay, this is how it impacts me. And then how do I get through that to make sure that I don’t let that let that hurt what I’m trying to accomplish as a professional law enforcement officer, both is the biggest challenge. So for us, it’s an increase in the hours and it’s a change in how we’ve approached the training. And I see other agencies in the state and quite frankly, with the passage of Senate bill 217, this, this year you know, that that’s been changed to every agency ultimately has the responsibility to be what they feel is right for their agency and make some positive steps.

Greg Olson (33:22):

Yeah. Well, I appreciate that. Cause you know, one thing knowing Wayne in that whole bias training, I really didn’t grasp that, you know, being how I was raised. I just didn’t think I had any of those kinds of bias, but really Wayne helped me uncover some biases I may have had, you know, just, just thinking about this and not understanding. So I just bring that up because I’m always learning and I think I’m running a business. You know, it’s a much easier when you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but we still have to, how do we lead by example, how do we educate, how do we move forward with that? Wayne, I want to wrap up with one more question because I want to let the chief get up, get onto his next task. So go ahead, Wayne

Wayne Hare (34:06):

Maybe you feel lucky, but I think the community is lucky to have you know, to be as far as I know, fairly divorced from the, the problems and the issues that we’re reading about across the country. So, I know that I know I’m grateful for that sort of you know, community policing or whatever it is that we have here that, that you know, it just seems like it’s just seems like there’s a good you know, a coming together of citizens and police. I guess I don’t know that for sure, but that’s just my observation. And you know, I could certainly have this conversation for hours. There’s so much, there’s so much to unpackage here when it comes to black communities and police, although maybe not so much in grand junction, but we don’t have, and you don’t have hours and hours. So, I’m going to just wrap up and just thank you very much for being here and taking the time. I can’t, I got to think that being a chief of police in a mid-sized city is don’t give you a lot of downtime to drink coffee and to chat on podcast. So thank you very much.

Chief Doug Shoemaker (35:31):

My pleasure. Thanks for letting me be here and I didn’t even drink any coffee during the podcast. So there you go.

Greg Olson (35:38):

Chief, I really appreciate you taking time. Thank you for all you do and your officers. And it’s, again, it’s a wonderful time take time with you today and just learn a little bit more about what you’re thinking and help our listeners. And my job is really, I’m a Wayne handler at this point. I try to break them down into 30 minutes time slots to have very hard kind of sometimes difficult conversations which is what civil conversation is all about. Our job is to help people think. We talk about biases. We talk about racism, we talk about policing. We talk about all different things out there, and we’re not here to really, you know be the experts or to solve it, but we want to bring community leaders like yourself into the conversation to help us understand the things that you may be facing and what you’re learning like that. So any closing thoughts chief before we sign off here?

Chief Doug Shoemaker (36:36):

No, I appreciate it. For those of you that don’t know, Wayne and I actually worked together on the Grand Valley task force law enforcement working group, Wayne has agreed wholeheartedly and excitedly to be my co-chair on that. And so I appreciate, you know, Wayne’s questions and involvement and it means a lot. So yeah, thanks for letting me be here.

Greg Olson (36:58):

Yep. Well, I’m look forward to another conversation with you in the future with that. Thank you and have a great rest of your day.

Chief Doug Shoemaker (37:08):

You too. Thanks gentlemen. Thanks so much.

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