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Opinion | Susan Knopf: Nothing says it like food

Susan Knopf
For the Record
Susan Knopf

Waving flags and shaking signs is fine, but if you really want to show somebody you care, you cook! This week, Summit Colorado Interfaith Council dished up 150 brats and chicken sandwiches to feed Summit County deputies, police officers and staff. 

Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said, “It’s nice to feel the love.”

We do feel the love here in Summit County. We are proud of our law enforcement. That’s why law enforcement officers serving Blue River, Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco, Silverthorne and Summit County as well as the Colorado State Patrol all received yummy meals Wednesday. We feel grateful the horrific incidents happening elsewhere aren’t happening here.

FitzSimons says it has a lot to do with training. He says Colorado requires just 24 hours of training and his Summit County deputies get more than 100 hours. That’s a quality difference you can feel in the tone of our community.

“The Interfaith Council wants to show our appreciation of law enforcement for their service to our community and for their support for the Summit Safe Parking Program at Agape Outpost,” said Bob Martinelli, of Father Dyer United Methodist Church.

The Interfaith Council, in cooperation with the Church at Agape Outpost, runs the overnight Safe Parking Program. It’s an opportunity for working people to have a safe place to sleep when they don’t have roofs over their heads. The Interfaith Council qualifies people for the program based on working status and other factors.

The overnight Safe Parking Program succeeds because FitzSimons and his deputies support the program. They’d tell you they don’t do much. That’s because the Interfaith Council does a good job of vetting participants. It’s a great example of addressing community needs with public-private partnerships that work.

Peter Schwinn, a Safe Parking Program volunteer, who helped assemble and deliver the officer appreciation meals said, “We need to build community.” Another volunteer, Steve Slater of Father Dyer, said, “We need to build bridges, not walls.”

Synagogue of the Summit volunteer, my husband, Jonathan Knopf said, “Anytime we provide a mitzvah (a blessing or good deed) for the community, we serve God. Serving our women and men in blue is something we can all do because they serve us.”

The Safe Parking Program is one of myriad ways FitzSimons addresses community needs with support instead of tactics. The sheriff often has been quoted, “On almost every call, if you scratch deep enough, you’ll find a mental health issue or a substance abuse issue.

For the record, well before there was a Black Lives Matter movement, before Senate Bill 20-217 became law, FitzSimons initiated and implemented the SMART program that pairs mental health workers with officers. Lt. Daric Gutzwiller, who commands the program, told the Summit Daily News, “I think this program is the future of law enforcement.”

Think of how different things might have gone in Rochester, New York, if a SMART team responded to naked, drugged Daniel Prude, instead of conventionally trained officers using military-style tactics?

Oh yeah, we feel the love in Summit County. Breckenridge Resort Executive Chef Erik Ruminski and volunteer Vicki Holcomb cooked the food for the officer appreciation meal, much of which was donated by Vail Resorts. Ruminski said, “I love it! It’s awesome how Vail encourages us to give back and support the community. We’re building relationships with the community.”

These bridges don’t build themselves, and they’re not free. SB20-217 is Colorado’s response to police brutality — not elsewhere but in Denver metro communities. The new law requires all deployed officers to wear and activate body cameras. There’s a lot of new record keeping and reporting required. More training and tracking requires more software, equipment and personnel.

FitzSimons says he has a “constitutional office. I have to follow the law.” And the law mandates department upgrades that are going to cost us money. We can pay and get the accountability we want. Or we can choose not to pay and loose enhancements like the SMART team that keep our community safe.

The Interfaith Council partners with law enforcement to keep our community safe. We’re all in this together. So the next time you want to show appreciation, you might want to steer clear of demonstrating in the street. Maybe just order some sandwiches. And keep the faith.

Agape Pastor Rick Backlund agrees: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf has worn many hats in her career, including working as an award-winning journalist and certified ski instructor. She moved to Silverthorne in 2013 after vacationing in Summit County since the 1970s. Contact her at sdnknopf@gmail.com.


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