A tense public meeting in Laramie Tuesday morning sparked frustration as elected officials and community members struggle to find common ground following an officer-involved shooting.
Voices were raised and tears were shed at the Albany County Commissioners meeting during a discussion about how elected officials and community activists have handled themselves in the months following the death of Laramie resident Robbie Ramirez last November.
Some say his death could have been avoided had more law enforcement training and stronger procedures been in place. Others say Corporal Derek Colling with the Albany County Sheriff's Office was justified in his use of lethal force.
Elected officials have not been involved with public conversations about how to prevent future officer-involved shootings because of the County's insurance provider the Local Government Liability Pool (LGLP) prohibits actions that could prejudice the defense in the case of litigation.
Commissioner Terri Jones read a statement from the LGLP at the meeting reiterating this policy.
Attorney Jennifer Curran is researching the possibility of litigation on behalf of Ramirez's family. She said she's not sure what will happen, but they will have to decide whether to litigate within two years of the incident.
In the meantime, community members and county officials are eager to find a venue to discuss possible changes to policy and procedure. Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent suggested at the meeting that the county form an ad hoc committee to facilitate dialogue on the issue.
"In order to look at issues and shootings that occur in the state of Wyoming, providing a report and statistics and recommendations potentially to our legislators to bring forth to the state of how processes may be changed," said Trent.
She'd like the county's work on this issue to help catalyze action on this issue at the state level.
Trent said the committee needs to be comprised of individuals who are not elected officials because of the limitations presented by the LGLP. She suggested retired law enforcement who have worked in Wyoming, as well as other states, serve on the committee.
Ramirez's mother Debbie Hinkel supported the idea of a committee but expressed to Trent that she wants other perspectives to be included.
"I was kind of concerned when you said just former police officers or law enforcement people. I think it's important that there be some community members, not just law enforcement," said Hinkel.
Commissioner Pete Gosar supported Hinkel's suggestion saying the inclusion of diverse perspectives could help restore trust between law enforcement and the community.
Commissioners Heber Richardson and Terri Jones sided with Trent's opinion that retired law enforcement should take the lead on the committee and solicit input from community leaders and mental health experts.
Trent said she will draft a resolution for commissioners to consider.