Overexposure: On the 15th Street side of the Denver Dry building, a dusty Waxman's window display showcases the city's Kids, Cops and Cameras program, started back in 1992 by Denver police officer Steve Rickard. Working in conjunction with the photo store and the Denver Housing Authority, Rickard, then a technician in the Denver Police Department's gang unit, distributed cameras to kids in DHA housing, who then documented the neighborhoods where they lived. The results were frequently stunning, each picture much more telling than the hundreds of laudatory words the program received in the local press. Those newspaper clippings, as well as a few of the photographs and assorted citations saluting Kids, Cops and Cameras--including a Denver City Council resolution dated August 31, 1992--are on display in the case, along with a note that says for more information, call Rickard at the DPD gang unit, or to see more photographs, visit a larger display on the third floor of City Hall.
Time for a little window white-washing.
Although the store's signs still say Waxman, the business is now owned by Wolf Camera. And the Kids, Cops and Cameras show at City Hall is long gone; in February, Mayor Wellington and First Lady Wilma Webb dedicated a new permanent exhibit in that space: "Gallery of Denver's Mayors," complete with portraits of the city's 38 mayors--everyone from "Yes I'll Complete This Third Term" Webb to 1859's John C. Moore. (Brass plaques detailing each mayor's accomplishments, such as they are, are still pending.)
The real development, though, involves cameraman cop Rickard. After 29 years on the force, Rickard resigned last month--shortly after he was arrested on charges of third-degree sexual assault, forgery and official misconduct. Apparently he took his photography hobby a little too seriously: Assigned to supervise a nineteen-year-old female miscreant from Arapahoe County who reported to the gang unit for her community-service commitment, Rickard reportedly offered to trim a few hours off her work if she'd pose in a swimsuit for his camera. Which she did, whereupon he pulled down the bottom of the suit and fondled her. Allegedly.
Not surprisingly, Rickard's unseemly exit leaves Kids, Cops and Cameras in a state of arrested development. According to DPD spokeswoman Mary Thomas, the program is now on hold, since Rickard was the one who ran it, and "no one else has the information and insight."
Or the same special relationship with a camera...and with kids.
More snap judgments: The cameras sure love Jefferson County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Davis, who's spent a lot of time before them since the Columbine shootings, his skin getting tanner and his hair more stylish by the second. And while Jeffco may not want to play post office for Eric Harris's parents, refusing to deliver Kathy Harris's letters to the families of her son's thirteen victims, it has no problem making some very special deliveries to Davis.
An unexpected side effect of all the national coverage, he recently confided to local reporters, has been a flurry of mash notes--including marriage proposals--from female fans around the country.
Rock 'n' roll high school: Was it 300 high school students at Monday's MTV-sponsored forum on youth violence, as the Post estimated, or merely 200, the number reported in the Rocky Mountain News? Since the Post was one of three co-sponsors, it's no surprise that the paper might have been inclined to take a rosy, inflated view of the proceedings inside Littleton's Ascot Event Center.
But some teens had a hard time convincing themselves they weren't participating in an episode of The Real World.
The forum began with a screening of Warning Signs, an MTV documentary that followed the story of a school shooting (not Columbine), where a very pretty and hip interviewer, backed by an excellent soundtrack, provoked emotional testimony from "real people" in "real-life situations." When the teens reflected on what had been an indication that one of their peers was preparing to go on a violent rampage, a graphic (looking suspiciously like the balloons on VH1's Pop Up Video) with the words "Warning Sign" blurped onto the screen. Gee, would those warning signs include arrest records, Web sites threatening to kill people and English papers about love affairs between guns and bullets?
Panelists eagerly grabbed the mike to respond to student comments, many of which were earnest and emotional, but the afternoon's biggest applause came when one student, in a comment Beavis and Butt-head would be proud of, remarked on how the NRA has Washington's "nuts on a string." Heh heh, he said nuts.
That won't come as news to another group of kids, who flew to Washington last week to lobby for tougher gun-control laws and to visit several members of Colorado's congressional delegation, including Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
Campbell likes to point out that he is "a rubber stamp for no one," and he made that point again while defending his position on guns to the 95 students from three colleges and 31 high schools in Colorado and Wyoming, including Columbine. The senator, who still cultivates his outsider image despite his many years on the inside, told the crusading students he opposes tougher gun laws because they would create an illegal black market for gun sales.
Since the Columbine massacre, Campbell has used his "outsider" excuse to deflate criticism of his pro-gun stance. But during the reception for the students, Campbell managed to reveal just how far outside he really is.
"Before Columbine, there had been one bomb threat in the D.C. schools in the last year," the senator reportedly said. "Afterwards, there were twelve in the next few weeks. The newspapers have a responsibility here. They don't accept that. When it's all said and done, we might be better off with some restrictions" on freedom of speech.
Campbell's spokesman Chris Changery says the comments were made tongue-in-cheek (everyone knows what a cut-up that Campbell is), and that the senator "went on to say you can't do that because [freedom of speech] is protected by the Constitution."
But Campbell does believe newspaper coverage of violence is often sensationalistic, Changery continues. "In the wake of the coverage [of Columbwine], you had bomb threats," he says. "He's not making a judgment about that particular coverage, not suggesting anyone sweep it under the table. But there's always somebody dying. It's something to consider. He's just putting some ideas out there into this important national debate and discussion."
One thing's for sure: If there were no newspapers, we might not have read that Campbell was one of the top fifteen beneficiaries of the gun-lobby's money between 1993 and 1998. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Campbell received $14,400 from gun-rights groups during that time.
Campbell has a ponytail and a motorcycle; he says he's an outsider, but as every high school kid knows, it takes more than appearances to make someone different.
Minor mistake: An article in the July 13 issue of the Rocky Mountain News revealed that former Broncos quarterback John Elway would appear in four commercials for Coors. But the real surprise was the company's reported strategy that by using Elway, it was targeting the eighteen-to-thirty age group.
The article certainly startled teenagers, police and a few Coors execs, since all of them know you have to be 21 to drink in Colorado. Was Coors--a longtime favorite among underage drinkers--admitting an underhanded strategy to lure teenagers to beer?
Oh, dry up. A correction appeared in the next day's News: "A story on page 2B Tuesday gave the incorrect age group of the main audience targeted by a Coors advertising campaign featuring John Elway," it read. "Males age 21 to 30 are targeted."
Off Limits is compiled by Jonathan Shikes. If you have a tip, call him at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.