To the Colorado State University community,

I write today on behalf of the Colorado State University Police Department with a message to our whole community.   

We are listening. To the voices of protesters who denounce hate and racism – both on and off our campus. To all who are outraged by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. We are listening to university voices about our own interactions and how CSUPD can be better.

We are listening, and we hear that there is much more that needs to be done. We must work intentionally every day to build, maintain and expand trust from our community. We must seek to constantly understand, be mindful of and meet the needs of our students, faculty and staff of all identities. As CSUPD Chief, I am personally responsible for the way we engage with others, and we must each be willing to grow as professionals and individuals through these efforts. Each member of CSUPD must be deeply committed to a humanitarian policing model partnering with our students, staff, faculty and guests, and to treating all those whom we serve with respect and dignity. We must partner across campus to help create an environment where all feel welcome and valued.

We all must acknowledge that racism exists in every area of our community. As police officers, we acknowledge that racism exists within law enforcement, as it exists in every segment of our society. Recognizing this, we do not shy away from addressing racism, bias, calls to defund police, or any of the other national conversations occurring right now. These are complicated conversations to engage in, but we do so knowing that CSUPD is not perfect. We look forward to having the opportunity this summer to work with colleagues across the university on President McConnell’s Task Force on Campus and Individual Safety to help identify specific improvements as a department. We also are sharing our use of force policies. As a department, we have for many years adhered to policies widely recognized by researchers, social justice advocates and law enforcement experts as best practices. We are responding to the recent change to state legislation by updating both our policies and our training practices.

In a message I sent earlier this month, I articulated to all CSUPD officers and staff that “there is a need for changes which better align law enforcement with the communities they serve, there is a need to re-establish community trust in their police departments, there is a need for transparency and accountability, there is a need for all instances of racism to cease, and there is work to be done to make these happen.  We should look at this as an opportunity to intentionally engage our community on every occasion presented, but more importantly we need to listen and learn to understand what they want and need from us. If we are falling short, if we are not listening, and if we are not open to change, it is a huge disservice to those we swore an oath to serve and protect.

The recent actions of some police officers across the country have been shameful and wrong; the officers responsible should be held fully accountable. I personally commit to doing what I can to understand and address injustice—and I also share the context for why I make this commitment. 

This year marks my 50th year in law enforcement, and I remember why I first chose to become a police officer in 1969, also a time of great national change and of conflict between society and police. That year, I made a bad choice and was arrested, and my life was changed forever because the two officers who arrested me were kind and empathetic and treated me with compassion. Their actions were pivotal in my decision to serve others through law enforcement.

My experience was admittedly different than the experiences that many people of color have had with law enforcement across the country, recently but also historically. As a career police officer, I want everyone to have the experience that I had—not the experience of being arrested, but of a positive police contact. For that to happen, changes must be made.    

CSUPD deeply values our partnerships with units, divisions and, most importantly, people, from across our university and in the larger Fort Collins community. We partner with our sexual assault prevention programs, our diversity programs, our residence halls, and many other units. And yet we need to approach those partnerships with additional skills and expanded points of view. We all must engage at every level in the work that the university does to keep everyone in our community safe, and we must make changes to better serve our people of color and all identities. We must do our part to condemn and stop racism and bias.

We are committed to listen, learn and change. It is our duty and our calling in serving others.


Scott Harris
Chief of Police
Colorado State University Police Department


June 25, 2020