BLM in the Billionaire Wilderness

Our new group joined around a hundred people who stood on the grass and the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. A counter-protest formed on the sidewalk across the street—they numbered around ten, all men, all white, some with assault rifles strapped across their chests. Together they held one sign, a large piece of cardboard with Sharpie letters that read ALL LIVES MATTER FCK SOROS AND ANTEFA [sic]. It was mostly silent—a modern-day Western standoff, with two opposing factions staring each other down and a man in a MAGA hat on horseback circling both groups.

A channel for movement at the grindingly slow pace of government

Photograph by Joey Sackett.

In the peak tourism seasons locals in Jackson know not to go anywhere near the town square, where elk-antler archways become choked with visitors who slash the air with selfie sticks. For $6 a head, they ride around the four-block downtown, enjoying Old West architectural flairs like wooden sidewalks and knotty pine exteriors that make the town seem a lived-in theme park of a benevolent past. A drive to the grocery store, which might take six minutes in the off-seasons, can take half an hour with tourist traffic during winter (ski season) or summer (national park season).

In the winter, many Jackson residents wake up before the sun rises and stand outside in single-digit or negative temperatures to catch a ride up the ski mountain on the first tram of the day, because once the visitors finish their eggs Benedicts and lash on their rented plastic boots, the wait can be hours long. Typical tourist-town dynamics are strong here: locals resent visitors for crowding the slopes and braking in the middle of the highway to take photos of moose or pronghorn antelope (the squirrels of Wyoming). Yet, without the tourists, Jackson would have no economy to speak of—the two main arterial highways are often closed for days in the winter because of heavy snowfall, and cell phone signals grow weaker and then disappear the farther one gets from the center of town. “Jackson Hole” is an affectionate nickname for this place, because, ringed on all sides by jagged mountains, it is literally a hole in the earth.

Locals gleefully hate the celebrities who sometimes can be spotted around town. Kanye West recorded and held the release party for Ye in Jackson, and had a soft spot for a particular local barbecue joint. (I don’t know why; the food is not very good.) Harrison Ford and Sandra Bullock have homes in Jackson, and every other local who’s lived here long enough has some story about how Ford is a lousy tipper. Once I met Chance the Rapper at the grocery store while buying Hot Cheetos on my lunch break. He slipped out the exit after we introduced ourselves (Him: I’m Chance. Me, stammering: I know) while his friends stayed behind and half-heartedly invited me back to their hotel to party. I could not go—it was the middle of a weekday.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner came to Jackson for fundraising events on multiple occasions, and even elusive Melania made a visit. She stopped by the Grand Teton National Park visitors’ center, where Jackson kids sat cross-legged on the ground while she loomed above them in heeled ankle booties and a puffy coat, handing out drawstring bags printed with the inscrutable words “Be Best.” Such grand charitable gestures are common here, where millionaires and billionaires make their second homes. In his recent book Billionaire Wilderness, Wyoming native and Yale sociologist Justin Farrell looks closely at the incoherent environmental and political commitments of Teton County’s philanthropists. Farrell attends an event at a large estate with a four-car garage and a slew of valets and caterers. It is billed as a “grassroots meeting of local environmental advocates,” and attended by a bevy of CEOs, political figures and the “founder of a multi-billion-dollar oil and gas company” who is also the chairperson of a wildlife art organization. The estate’s owners are partial to Western-themed decor, and the space is replete with images of moose, elk, grizzly bears and other wildlife alongside images of Native Americans, some of whose tribes were displaced from the Jackson Hole region and others who never lived here. Farrell is struck by a portrait of an “impoverished Navajo girl prominently displayed on a four-foot-high marble base,” and a life-sized statue of a stoic Lakota man. The absurdity of fossil-fuel millionaires discussing the concerning oxygen levels in the streams that run through their private land while being served hors d’oeuvres in rooms bursting with appropriated Native American imagery is so blatant that it feels like the buildup to a bad punch line. But it’s not, it’s just Teton County.

Wyoming is one of the most uniformly Republican states in the nation, and so it is predictably anti-tax—one of nine states with no income tax. This, in addition to the abundant natural beauty and recreation opportunities, makes Teton County the location of choice for millionaires and billionaires to buy up huge swaths of land for scarcely used vacation homes, which they list as their primary residences. They often allow their land to be used for conservation easements to receive yet another tax break. During the pandemic, many of the elites who call Wyoming home on paper have fled their usual urban dwellings and, for the time being, have begun to treat it as such.

Among the non-elite, most residents of Jackson Hole don’t have a sustained involvement in the town’s politics. Our seasonal workforce has not historically gotten involved with long-term town matters. Kids who grow up in Jackson often leave town after high school and don’t come back—there are few viable career paths and the cost of living is exorbitant. Most of the young people who do live here are like myself, college graduates who come from all over the country—but mainly the coasts—to cram ourselves into single-family homes with too many roommates in order to play outside. In this sense, I’m an entirely typical resident of Jackson Hole. Most of us leave after a few months, some of us a handful of years. Occasionally two ski bums with family money meet, stick around, and start a family of their own. The older, more conservative residents tend to be those whose families bought property in Jackson Hole when it was dirt cheap. These are the dude ranchers and business owners, the ones who remember Jackson when it was still a tourist town (because it always was) but before its popularity grew to Disneyland proportions.

In the rest of Wyoming, Jackson is considered basically California, a blue bubble in a state populated (not very densely) by people who could have stepped out of an Annie Proulx story—windburned and rugged individuals who ride bulls, herd sheep, survive the bitter winters, and struggle to make ends meet in the state’s near-dead mining and ranching industries. But the people in power, those who write the laws, pay for the politicians, and run the nonprofits, have more in common with John D. Rockefeller—for whom a nature preserve and highway in Teton County are named, due to his love for the area and resulting philanthropy. In this remote, rural, mostly white, red-blooded Republican state, grassroots movements arrive slowly, if at all. Until recently, even in Jackson, with its pothead ski instructors and its collectors of Native art, BLM stood primarily for the Bureau of Land Management.

In the days and then weeks after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, I watched as my friends in New York, Boston, and Seattle took to the streets and emailed their governments en masse. They shared stylish social media toolkits produced by local abolitionist organizations, featuring protest safety tips and templates to contact city officials. None of this seemed directly applicable to Jackson, where protests would form briefly and tentatively and local government operates at a much smaller scale, but I was inspired to write my own email urging the mayor, Town Council, and Board of County Commissioners to defund the police. I saw a graph that compared the police budget in Los Angeles with their budgets for public health and other social services, so I used a graph-making website intended for children to produce a similar visual for Teton County. A long green line representing the “public safety” budget extended to the end of the graph, while the budgets for affordable housing, public health, and a local preschool appeared as tiny nubs in comparison. I posted the graph on Instagram with an offer to send an email template to anyone interested in contacting the local government. I was having a slow day at work, discharging books in the circulation room of the county library. Over the next week I shared that template with around fifteen people, nearly all of whom were strangers to me. They circulated it through their networks as well, and a small but robust email campaign was born.

Around the same time, my friend Sophia sent me and six other people a text message asking for our help in creating a proposal to pressure our law enforcement and county government to enact a zero-tolerance policy for police brutality, decrease police funding, and increase funding for anti-violence programs. She reminded us of an incident two years before, in 2018, when an off-duty officer from out-of-state who was on vacation in our town held a Latino teenager at gunpoint after she saw him running down the street. The officer believed, based on nothing, that he was fleeing the scene of a crime. Local officers came to the scene, detained him, and searched his belongings. The teen had been running to catch a bus. Two years later, at this singular historic moment, we hoped there was enough momentum to pressure the community toward change.

As the summer progressed, there would be BLM actions in every state in the country, some evolving into sustained, daily protest movements. In those earliest days, there was a single three-hour protest in Jackson’s town square and then, for a while, nothing. We couldn’t join protests in our town, because there weren’t any more. We couldn’t volunteer for or donate to existing activist groups, because none existed. If anything was going to happen, it would have to be started from scratch.

On November 4, 2018, Laramie, Wyoming resident Robbie Ramirez was shot three times and killed by Albany County Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Colling. Colling had previously been involved in two other civilian killings while he was on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police force (LVMP)—one in 2006 and another in 2009. In both cases, his actions were deemed justified. He was later fired from the LVMP in 2011 for a separate police brutality charge, after which he returned to his home state of Wyoming, where he continued to work as a police officer. Many Jackson residents argue that the kind of police violence that may happen in the larger city of Laramie doesn’t exist here, but in Wyoming, where it’s normal to drive several hours to get to the nearest Walmart, Laramie might as well be “here.”

Anyway, to be a police and prison abolitionist means demanding abolition everywhere. And Jackson police have their own history of violence against people of color. Jackson is far less white than Wyoming as a whole: town census numbers show that at least 25 percent (advocates put this number even higher, at over 30 percent) of the population is Latinx immigrants—most of whom come from one small state in Mexico called Tlaxcala and work in the tourism industry, staffing kitchens and cleaning the second homes of the rich. Jackson’s dependence on immigrant labor is no secret; neither are the police-assisted ICE raids. ICE comes to town unannounced and often makes multiple trips around the community, detaining people as they go and using the Jackson Police Department’s jail as a holding zone.

The largest and most extreme of these raids occurred in 1996; federal agents and local police officers went to hotels and restaurants demanding papers from any worker who fit their profile of an immigrant. When they were about halfway through their list of locations to hit, the officers found that their vehicles were already filled to capacity. They’d arrested so many people that some of them had to be transported to the local jail in a horse trailer. Their efforts resulted in over 150 immigrants being detained, 120 of whom were deported the next day. Afterward the town’s industries were in shambles; hotel and restaurant managers found themselves working in kitchens and making beds. While Jackson’s deported individuals were figuring out how to get back to their homes and families, tourists reported incredibly long waits at restaurants and fast food joints. Things returned to functioning when the exiled population reappeared a week later.

Since then, ICE’s tactics have become stealthier, although they reliably roll into town about once a month. They come in unmarked cars of various makes and models, though a trained eye can spot the “S” on their license plate, for a state-registered vehicle. They come with arrest warrants, many of which are not signed by a judge but by an officer, making them non-binding but tricky to differentiate, especially for someone who is terrified and whose first language is not English. ICE officers show up at workplaces and homes, sometimes pulling people off the street. Often they pick up people for whom they did not bring a warrant, like pulling a box of cookies off the shelf when you only went to the grocery store for eggs. They typically take no more than a handful of people with them, but exact numbers are hard to come by. Usually, family members do not know where their loved ones are being taken until after they’ve arrived at a faraway detainment center. Most detainees end up being driven as far away as Denver, an eight-hour drive. There is one immigration law firm in town.

Those of us who’d received Sophia’s text met for the first time in late May to discuss how we could convince our local government to decrease police funding. The annual county budget was due to be ratified at the end of June. In the interim, a handful of protests were held in the area. The first our new group attended was in the town of Pinedale, an hour and a half drive to the southeast of Jackson. The organizer, a college student, had grown up in town. After posting the event on Facebook, she received death threats from other Pinedale residents, and though she decided not to cancel the event, she herself would not attend until it became clear it was safe to do so.

Our new group joined around a hundred people who stood on the grass and the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. A counter-protest formed on the sidewalk across the street—they numbered around ten, all men, all white, some with assault rifles strapped across their chests. Together they held one sign, a large piece of cardboard with Sharpie letters that read All Lives Matter Fck Soros and Antefa [sic]. It was mostly silent—a modern-day Western standoff, with two opposing factions staring each other down and a man in a MAGA hat on horseback circling both groups. A police cruiser parked itself a block away and watched from afar, never coming closer.

Shortly after, Jackson’s largest protest sprang up, organized by another brand-new group called Teton People of Color & Allies. The group, like ours, had formed rapidly, and purely in response to the national protests. The organizers made it clear that they were not in support of defunding the police; they named the event “March for Unity.” At their instruction, protesters were not to carry signs or chant as we marched from the rodeo grounds to the town square. The event’s Facebook page specified that we were not meant to ask for or demand anything in particular, only to display our solidarity by walking quietly through town. We were frustrated by the timidity of the protest, but used it as an opportunity to hand out fliers with an updated version of the budget graph I’d initially posted on Instagram. We wove through the crowd with clipboards in hand, signing over a hundred people up for our email list.

No one in our group is Black, which is indicative of the demographics of the town itself; less than one half of one percent of the town’s population is Black. Shortly after our group and Teton People of Color & Allies formed, a third coalition of Black and Latinx residents banded together to form an association meant to “educate, address, and discuss minority issues to further reach our community and celebrate our cultures.” They are our friends, and while they support our work, they have stated officially that their association is not strictly political. Clearly, plenty of Jackson locals have been waiting to band together around racial and social justice. Though our town has gone very quickly from having none of these groups to having three of them, it isn’t yet clear how, or if, we can all work toward some common goal.

Members of our group are Mexican, Korean, Iranian, Puerto Rican, white, queer, cis, hetero, millennials, and Gen X. I am Jewish and Puerto Rican. We share experiences: getting pulled over in our cars and on our bikes. Being stopped by game wardens in the wilderness to check our fishing licenses. These things happen often enough that we feel nervous in the great outdoors, even when we are not breaking any rules. The older white residents and long-time locals don’t share this feeling as they stand in the middle of a river with their fly rods or creep along a hill with their rifle strapped to their back, in pursuit of antelope or elk in the early morning light. It’s a small town; the wardens know them.

All of those defending the police in our town have been white. There is a clear distinction among age groups, with younger residents, most of whom did not grow up in Jackson, fighting to defund and older residents, whose families have been here for generations, opposing them. (At protests, this distinction was less obvious; the marches’ vague demands and big-tent approach brought out a more age-diverse crowd who seemed to feel more comfortable walking down the street in nebulous support of Black lives and “unity” than openly fighting to defund the police.) It became clear that the locals who supported defunding were almost all millennials when, using our new email list, we asked supporters to join us in making public comments at County Commissioners meetings. Nearly everyone who showed up on those days was young, and the racial diversity in the room was profound for Jackson.

Leading up to the city’s final budget meeting, our cadre of millennials spent every Monday in June pressuring the local government of Teton County by making in-person public comments at County Commissioners meetings. One of our group members works for a local conservation-policy nonprofit, and she taught us the basics of public comment, which we then taught to the public in a class we held in a local park. We learned to mine our lives for evidence we could present to a panel of four older white men and one slightly younger white woman, that might help convince them that some people have indeed had unfavorable interactions with police officers, even in Jackson. In front of Commissioners and reporters, commenters recounted some of their worst experiences—sexual assault at the hands of police, blatant and unapologetic racial profiling. One of our few older allies, a middle-aged mother, spoke about her son with developmental disabilities who, after setting fire to some toilet paper in a Port-a-Potty at 10 years old, became a target of the Jackson police. After a series of escalating interactions over the course of years, the entire family felt so terrorized and maligned by local law enforcement that they moved away, only recently having returned to town many years later.

We also made demands: first and foremost that the county defund the police and allocate more funding to social services that are consistently overlooked by the town’s government and its philanthropists. Also, that the local jail stop cooperating with ICE by holding residents in police custody when they are snatched off the streets and out of their workplaces. Much of this felt like common sense, like cutting the $10,000 that went to firearms and ammunition every year, despite the fact that for decades Teton County officers have only drawn their weapons to shoot wildlife that have been hit by cars, or to serve “high-risk” arrest warrants. Ultimately, though, we were asking for our County Commissioners to think critically, and do the research that we’d been doing, to understand that there are alternatives to policing when it comes to public safety. We suggested some obvious ones—government-funded medical and mental health experts who could respond to non-violent 911 calls rather than armed police, or a free “Tipsy Taxi” service that could drive intoxicated locals and visitors home or to their hotels, mitigating Jackson’s exorbitant DUI numbers. We held up the Commissioners’ meetings by forty minutes, an hour sometimes, with our comments and demands. After each comment the Commissioners said nothing more than “thank you,” but in emails and meetings we later had with them, they told us that no one had ever come to comment on the budget before, and in fact hardly anyone came to comment on anything, ever. Our show of force, so unlike the lobbying and donating they were used to, was unprecedented and therefore unignorable. As the weeks went on the press wrote, mostly favorably, about our momentum and message.

The loudest negative reaction came from the trolls. When the local papers started reporting on our efforts, there were always a few people in the comments section who gleefully called us idiots, children, outsiders, brainwashed, antifa, and the like. Nearly all of these comments were written by older, wealthy white residents—the CEO of a business that helps manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices apply for FDA approval, a real estate agent who is also a member of the Community Mounted Patrol (a group of volunteers who ride police department horses through town, patrolling the streets and directing traffic). The white owner of a local store that specializes in selling “Indian” antiques instructed us to “Leave this paradise, go where it’s fraught, and make change there. Otherwise, you’re just chickens.”

We made a website and took out online ads on the local paper’s website. Our ads displayed the name of our organization in bold white letters that redirected to our website when clicked; we wanted attention, but not too much attention. We hadn’t wanted to list our names, but the newspaper—only after the ads were live—insisted that we do so (after we’d rejected their erroneous request that we register as a PAC). For our safety, though, and because we believed this request was not legally legitimate, mine was the only real name listed—the rest were misspellings or random combinations of our first and last names. As expected, my personal social media pages were inundated with comments and messages. One particularly dedicated troll read everything she could find about me and tagged my employer, the Teton County Public Library, in a Facebook post meant to get me disciplined or perhaps fired. She didn’t tag them correctly, and nothing happened. She found my website and posted a link to it. “She comes from New York and is now pushing that BS here. Go home,” someone commented. She found a post on my Instagram page, which I’ve since made private, a topless mirror selfie. “Sell it. All day long,” she commented. There was also pushback from the more moderate crowd and the local GOP, who used Facebook to try and rally supporters to make public comments in support of the police. None of them, the local Republicans or the trolls, actually appeared at the town hall or county meetings, where their words would have mattered.

In addition to showing up for public comment every Monday, some of us met the Commissioners individually for coffee at our request. These meetings were frustrating and numerous—I personally attended four, but there were about ten or twelve. At these coffee dates, we reiterated our position in shortened terms (by then the Commissioners had heard the spiel many weeks in a row) and pressed them with questions. We were trying to negotiate, to determine what might be accomplished and how. They politely sidestepped any sort of commitment or position for or against what we were proposing. They recognized the importance of the national conversation, they said; they were real progressives and they understood. After all, one of them was married to a Korean woman!

The Chair of the Commissioners—the sole woman, as well as the youngest member—was the only one who explicitly told us she was interested in the idea of defunding the police, or at least examining their budget and efficiency. As the chair, she has the power to set agendas for meetings, and she told us that if we wrote a report on defunding for them, she would put it on the agenda, thereby forcing the other Commissioners to digest our information and discuss it seriously. The report we produced, entitled “Path to Defunding,” gave a detailed account of the proposed county budget, broken down by department— law enforcement would receive twice the funds of the next largest department budget, a difference of about four and a half million dollars.

During our coffee talks, the Commissioners had suggested that there was no precedent for defunding the police in small towns like ours, which made them reluctant to even entertain the idea. This was of course not true—our report included information on several locations with population sizes similar to Jackson’s that had indeed made policy and budget changes toward defunding their law enforcement. Northampton, Massachusetts decided to slash their police budget by 10 percent; Winona, Minnesota voted unanimously to remove police officers from schools; Helena, Montana was poised to do a thorough, critical review of its police practices and policies. I spoke on the phone with the mayor of San Leandro, California, where the city council was reallocating $1.7 million from its police force into a new fund whose purpose would be decided with community input. She told me that a recently formed coalition of activists had protested outside her house until she was forced to flee elsewhere. In Jackson, our untrained and unpaid group of activists was doing the work of an ad hoc consulting firm.

On the day the report was added to the agenda, members of our group stepped into the county chambers or logged onto Zoom to hear what they had to say. They discussed our report for less than ten minutes, and in the end declared they would take it into consideration when deciding the final county budget. Was that a victory? It didn’t feel like one.

At the end of June, the county budget was ratified. Law enforcement saw no significant cuts. The Commissioners did, however, set aside $10,000 to create a task force that will hire a consultant to assess local law enforcement and social services, to eventually produce an official report that lawmakers will use to inform future budgetary and staffing decisions. If it sounds confusing, it is. If it sounds painfully slow, it feels even more so. If it does not sound like an abolition-informed decision, it’s because it isn’t one. Still, it is more than Jackson had before, and it opens a channel for movement at the grindingly slow pace of government.

In July, with the town and county budgets ratified, we focused on preparing for the task force, the shape and scope of which was not yet clear. The idea of a local government-led task force, staffed with members of the police force, directors of nonprofits (who are beholden to wealthy part-time residents and their narrow interests), and employees of social services, many of whom are the very pillars of the status quo we sought to disassemble, felt like a trap, or a carrot on a stick meant to keep us occupied and tire us out. Hoping to preemptively influence the nature of this task force, we produced a second report that outlined our fears: that the task force would be a lengthy, costly process that would be run by all the wrong people, would exclude all the right people (namely, members of the local Latinx population), and would end up as empty virtue signaling, creating no tangible benefit to the lives of those most impacted by the police in Jackson Hole. We submitted it at the end of July. No one knew when the task force would be assembled, or when it would have its first meeting, and so we waited.

In mid-August I more or less relinquished my position in our group by moving to Oregon, after three and a half years in Jackson. But a couple days after the move, my phone blew up with texts and calls about a pro-police rally going on in front of the Jackson Town Council chambers. Around seventy Wyoming residents, all white, mostly baby boomers or older, some wearing masks and others with bare faces, gathered in and around the Town Hall with signs that read Back the Blue and Keep Our PD to protest what they believed to be a meeting in which the Town Council planned to vote on whether or not to defund the local police department. The group of protesters included Tea Party members as well as Evangelical business magnate and former Wyoming gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess, whose position on birth control is that back in his day “the gals put [Bayer aspirin] between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Defunding was not actually on the agenda, though, nor was anything remotely related to it, and in fact the Town Council meeting they crashed was being held virtually in order to comply with public health regulations, so there were no council members in the chambers. The pro-police protesters filled the room and gathered on the lawn, peeking through the windows at a completely empty set of council seats. The actual item on the agenda: a discussion of the financial contribution from the Jackson Hole ski resort to the municipal bus line, which shuttles locals and visitors to the resort from town and back throughout the winter. Public comments on anything not on the agenda, such as defunding the police, were not allowed at the meeting.

The timing was bizarre: where were these people earlier in the summer, when we were working so hard on the county budget? Where were they at the end of June, when the local government funded the task force? They’d gathered, it turned out, because they received automated text messages and robocalls sponsored by Turning Point Action, the far-right political organization founded by Charlie Kirk, notorious for spreading misinformation and paying young people to act as trolls on the internet. The robocall featured a woman’s voice that told listeners, “Our law enforcement officers are there for our families. Now they need us. Let’s show up tomorrow, Monday, 3 PM at Town Hall and make sure the town of Jackson knows that Jackson will back the blue. We stand in support of our police.” As they milled about the lawn, the Jackson Police Department Lieutenant came out and gave them a big thumbs up.

In November, Turning Point reappeared to get their hands into Jackson’s local elections. The organization sent a mass mailing of flyers all over town in support of a local Republican mayoral candidate and two Town Council candidates. In the end, only one of the three candidates backed by Turning Point won his election, but local Democrats were distraught at the invasion of a national right-wing organization in what have historically been low-budget, low-drama small town politics.

During that election season, our group worked with others to educate the Teton County voter base. People wanted to know where candidates for mayor, Town Council, County Commissioner, and even the school board stood on the issues of public safety and racism, and they wanted us to help them find out. We co-hosted a candidate forum and wrote questions about systemic racism and police funding, all of which were answered in customary political side steps that lacked substance or fact. These candidate questionnaires were my last official act with my group, which I helped with from my Oregon home over Zoom, missing the camaraderie we’d worked up in the raw, high-altitude Wyoming sun. By the time we cast our ballots we were all exhausted, and collectively confused as to the direction the group had been heading throughout the fall, which didn’t feel like a direction at all, but more a random tugging by outside groups into various arenas, none of which were taking us closer to where we’d started. The group has been meeting and discussing its mission, refining its goals, figuring out which of these outside requests to say yes to, and which to deny. My group, my friends, are sharpening their focus.

In late November, five months after that hard won $10,000 was allotted to a murky law enforcement task force, the task force came together for the first time. I learn about it through Signal messages, Google Drive documents, and brief check-ins as the group does their work. One of our group members is on the task force, and the rest of the membership is composed of the county sheriff, the fire chief, the police chief, the heads of three nonprofits, and a few private citizens whose names have not been released. The sheriff, fire chief, and police chief are the only people who are paid for their time on the task force, as it is considered part of their job duties. Everyone else is a volunteer. At its inception, no one on the task force was a member of the local Mexican immigrant community. Some of the pitfalls we anticipated have already appeared. There is a confusing lack of transparency—the press is forbidden from attending meetings, and the only information they are given is a list of quotes with no names attributed to individual task force members. The county has hired a consulting firm to work with the task force, and it appears that the current plan is to meet over the course of three to four months in order to develop a plan to hire yet another consulting firm, that will then, allegedly, begin the actual work of evaluating law enforcement. The sheer bureaucracy and wheel spinning should by now not surprise me, but it does. In Jackson Hole, my group continues to meet with government officials, social services directors, and non-profit employees. They attend webinars and discuss readings. They will keep on writing reports that almost no one reads. The task force slowly goes about its work.

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