Public safety officials stress approachability at town hall

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AURORA | Local and state officials met with about 50 Thursday at a town hall meeting focusing on how residents can cope with  the aftermath of the July 20 Century Aurora 16 theater massacre.

The town hall meeting, hosted by four state lawmakers, offered informational pamphlets from representatives of organizations including Aurora’s fire and police departments, Aurora Public Schools, Aurora Mental Health Center, and Rural/Metro Ambulance.

“This meeting is really an opportunity for us to be mindful that no one asks to be a victim,” said state Rep. Rhonda Fields. “It’s about giving you information you can take with you at the end of the day to be safe.”

Fields said she can relate to the pain of the victims’ families because her son was killed in 2005.

“For me this is personal because I know what it’s like to be a victim of a crime,” said Fields, whose son was killed in 2005. “I know what it’s like to have someone be snatched from you immediately.”

The four state lawmakers whose districts cover Aurora publicly thanked three Aurora police officers who attended the event for their service during the shootings, which left 12 dead and 58 wounded.

“We cannot thank you enough and tell you how proud we are,” said state Sen. Morgan Carroll flanked by Aurora state Reps. Su Ryden and Nancy Todd, who also made remarks.

TJ Campagna, an Aurora police officer who was at the scene that day, said it’s important for people to attend events where they can meet police officers and ask them questions.

“I think it puts a public face on the police department,” he said. “A lot of times the public feels that police are unapproachable when we’re really not. We are happy to speak and converse and be among people as people.”

He encourages residents who have questions about anything regarding public safety to call the Aurora Police Department’s public information officers or leave messages for the police officers directly on their voicemail.

If there was one point Campagna would want to get across to the public, it’s this: “Be aware. It’s unfortunate that we live in a day and age where we have to be aware of more, but I think awareness would lead people down a safe path.”

Longtime Aurora resident Gary Beasley said he appreciated the town hall meeting that lawmakers hosted.

“I think especially with police and firemen, a lot of times the only time the general public gets to see them is if it’s an emergency,” he said. “So it’s good to see them at a more casual event.”

Tips from Aurora Mental Health Center on how to take care of yourself during times of crisis and trauma:

  • Take care not to isolate. Talk openly about your feelings.
  • Be prepared to spend more time with your children at bedtime. They may need more reassurance at this time.
  • Regular exercise is the most important anti-stressor. Be active — take a walk, ride your bike, get out in the fresh air.
  • Make personal health a priority.
  • Connect with others and spend time with supportive friends and family.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol and caffeine.