Brighton could consider public safety committee

Discussion in May could come in light of deadly October police chase

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/12/22

Brighton could create a public committee to monitor the Brighton Police in the wake of a deadly October police chase. Councilors agreed at their April 5 meeting to discuss creating public safety …

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Brighton could consider public safety committee

Discussion in May could come in light of deadly October police chase

Posted

Brighton could create a public committee to monitor the Brighton Police in the wake of a deadly October police chase.

Councilors agreed at their April 5 meeting to discuss creating public safety committee.

“We just want to make sure we have a good discussion about public safety and gather those best practices we can apply in our community,” Mayor Greg Mills said. “I know there is an active case out there that is questioning some practices involving our police.”

Nicholas Villarini, 27, faces two counts of first-degree murder for his involvement in an October police chase that began in the late morning near Gaviota and Goldfinch streets. Police were responding to reports of a suspicious vehicle and discovered the vehicle had been stolen.

Villarini allegedly rammed a police vehicle and then fled the scene with Brighton officers in pursuit. It came to an end two minutes later. The stolen vehicle ran a stop sign at Bridge and Mount Bierstadt streets when the stolen car ran a stop sign and struck another car. The stolen car continued on Mount Bierstadt Street, and the driver lost control of the car and struck a male pedestrian, police said.

A female passenger in the victim’s car was thrown clear and was transported to the hospital with critical injuries, according to the police statement.  This male pedestrian was also transported to the hospital in critical condition.

Both victims died at an area hospital, police said.

The Brighton officer involved in the chase was later fired.

Mills said that councilors could not discuss the specific matter, which is still under investigation.

“But we can find ways to move forward and see how we can be a better community and be better steward to support our police,” Mills said.

City Councilor Jan Pawlowski noted that Brighton had a public safety committee at one time and it might be a good idea to bring it back.

“Maybe a broad spectrum of brains could sit down and spell out the right steps to take whenever there are situations,” Pawlowski said.

She said such a committee must have limits, however.

“The one thing I don’t want is at all is for our city, for everyone to say ‘Come do what you want. Come steal all you want, because Brighton won’t do a thing about it,’” she said. “I do not want that out there.”

Councilor Matt Johnston said he has no doubt that the Brighton Police leadership acted correctly in the matter or that the department itself is good.

“We have the best police department in the metro area and that is not as known as it needs to be,” Johnston said.

He noted that there are criminals in Brighton and that the city — and police — must respond.

“The big problems that have happened and the tragedies that have happened, we can begin to end them today,” Johnston said.

He said it’s important to have staff, the public and councilors involved in keeping public safety in Brighton moving forward.

“I think the best thing we can do moving forward is to sit down and go ‘What does this committee consist of’ and create this committee,” he said. “We can have that committee look at things and bring them to council.”

Not everyone agreed. Councilor Mary Ellen Pollack said public safety is not something that can be covered by any public policy.

“Yes, it’s sad that these accidents happen,” Pollack said. “Officer was trying to do his job, which is to protect the public. And the accident happened, which is sad, but it was not caused by him.”

She said she is tired of people blaming police officers when bad things happen.

“Quit looking for ways to come after them, ‘cuz you don’t have me on your side,” Pollack said. “We need to figure out a different way to help them. Maybe we can add some more officers.”

Councilor Clint Blackhurst, a former city police officer, said he’s not in favor of having a citizen makes no sense to him.

“If we have a problem in police administration, then we need different administrators,” Blackhurst said. “But any time you have a police department in this day and age, the better communication and the more open communication you have with the public, the better. If this could facilitate that, I’m all for it.”

City Manager Michael Martinez said staff would likely bring the matter back to a City Council study session for more discussion in May.

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