New police chief talks priorities, staffing shortage with city council
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs’ new police chief will spend his first months on the job hiring several new employees for a severely understaffed department, updating an “outdated and incomplete policy manual” and focusing on giving officers and community members more opportunity to be heard.
Police Chief Cory Christensen on Tuesday spoke to the Steamboat Springs City Council about his first weeks on the job and outlined his priorities for the coming months.
He said staffing levels at the department are “fairly critical at this point,” and the situation, he added, has a negative impact on the effectiveness and morale of the organization.
The department is still down one captain, two sergeants, three detectives, a records supervisor and a school resource officer.
The detective division currently has only one employee and is without 75 percent of its normal staffing.
“One detective is not enough to handle duties in all of the city,” Christensen said.
He said several of the positions likely won’t be filled until next year.
The early focus will be on getting officers in patrol cars who can conduct the daily business of the department.
Council members also discussed what kind of benchmarks they would like to see reported by the city so the public can measure whether the culture is changing at the department.
“The absence of lawsuits is helpful. The absence of complaints is helpful. And the addition of compliments is helpful,” Christensen said.
He added there are surveys the police department can use to ask residents for feedback such as how they were treated.
“The focus will be on giving people an opportunity to be heard,” Christensen said. “That’s the first pillar I want to incorporate, for employees as well as citizens. What is your opportunity to be heard?”
Christensen plans to revamp the complaint and compliment procedure at the police department, and he said the community should expect to see more ways to get in touch with the department as early as spring.
He said he also plans to put the police department’s policy manual on the city’s Web page.
“I want the citizens to see what rules we’re going to live by,” he said.
Christensen said he ultimately hopes the city will see progress in the form of people approaching council members and city officials at community gatherings and thanking them for the work the department is doing.
“The individuals still at the police department, you should be very proud of them,” Christensen said. “It’s been a tough year, and they come in every day.”
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