WESTMINSTER, Colo. — On Thursday, members from the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and the Westminster Police Department (WPD) presented a united front, with the goal of preventing violence against those in the AAPI community.
The efforts follow the deadly Atlanta spa shootings that killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent.
"It's sad when loss of life is the only thing that gets people's attention," said Howard Chou, first vice chair of the Colorado Democratic Party.
Chou and other leaders in the AAPI community spoke alongside Westminster Police Chief Tim Carlson with action items they hope will keep Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and other communities of color safe.
"We will diligently investigate all crime perpetuated on any race, ethnicity, gender, belief, religion, language, skin color or any other factor where hatred or bias contribute as a reason for victimizing people in Westminster," said Chief Carlson.
When asked if Westminster had reports of anti-Asian crime, Carlson said they've had it reported before.
"One is too many," he said. "One is too many, so we are taking some proactive steps now to get out in front of those things and identify those underlying issues of prejudice and bias and all those awful things that often spin up into violence."
Carlson said he hoped Thursday's conversation could help establish more trust between members of the APPI community and law enforcement.
"We believe also that there is a significant amount of under-reporting," Carlson said.
Clarence Low, a member of the Colorado Asian Chamber of Commerce, explained some of the challenges the AAPI community face when reporting to law enforcement.
"The under reporting of crimes and situations that happen particularly among the Asian community can be partially cultural," Low said. "There is certainly an understanding and appreciation that many of our refugees and immigrants arrived in the United States from countries where they didn't have the benefit of having a voice. So (they) come here with that inherent challenge and distrust, whether it's local or federal government — anybody with a uniform or badge. That's understandable, and we strive to change that picture by outreach to our communities. That dialogue and level of trust takes time. It takes effort. There may be some steps backwards, but that's OK. The level of effort to try and reach out is ultimately what will change that picture."
Chou said responsibility also falls on elected leaders and community members.
"When you have hateful racist and xenophobic rhetoric, this is what happens when it goes unchecked. Over the past year we’ve heard some of our high elected officials use hateful, irresponsible rhetoric. Words matter," Chou said.