Police chief will create new summary of police investigation for public | SteamboatToday.com

Police chief will create new summary of police investigation for public

Community member Brian Berry asks the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night to release more information about the recent internal police investigation. Several other community members asked the council to reconsider its Dec. 1 vote not to seek a more thorough summary of the investigation.
Scott Franz

— Responding to a public outcry and calls from community members for more transparency, the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night reversed a previous decision and voted unanimously to give the public a more thorough summary of a recent internal police investigation.

Council members said they believe the new summary is needed to bring closure to the investigation and restore the public’s trust in the police department, the council and city administration.

The council on Dec. 1 voted against such a summary in a close and controversial vote, but the public outcry against the decision led the city’s elected officials to change course.

“We’re not going to make everybody happy,” Councilwoman Kathi Meyer said. “But we need to restore trust and come up with a strategy that puts this to bed as best we can knowing it may never fully go away.”

New Police Chief Cory Christensen will produce the summary of the investigation’s findings and present it to the council in an executive session on Jan. 12.

The council will then review it and consider releasing it to the public as soon as that night.

Christensen and council members said the summary would be comprehensive and could address the wide range of allegations that were made against the police department’s top officials who left at the conclusion of the investigation.

The investigation was launched in April after a former police detective and police officer accused the city’s top police officials of creating a hostile work environment, among other accusations.

The vague summary of the investigation’s findings, which was released to the community in July, failed to satisfy many elected officials and community members.

“I’m absolutely committed to helping the community, this council and the police department move forward,” Christensen said. “I feel it’s my responsibility. I’m fully capable of creating a summary capable of doing this.

“It’s why I’m here in Steamboat now,” Christensen added.

Christensen’s statements and the council’s decision to seek the summary were met with rounds of applause in Citizens Hall.

Right before council’s vote, several community members went to the podium and asked the council to reconsider its Dec. 1 decision and provide either all of the reports from the investigation or the more detailed summary.

“You have a black cloud hanging over you,” Steamboat resident Bill Peck told the council before it voted to seek the new summary. “You can do something about it. I would like to see a little light.”

Read the reports?

The council still is trying to decide whether some or all of the council members should read the investigative reports themselves so the community can be assured the city has provided a complete summary of the investigation.

The council tabled a vote on whether to have members read the full reports.

“I want to give the city manager and the chief the benefit of the doubt on this first,” Councilman Jason Lacy said.

Council members said there could be legal ramifications to reading the reports themselves.

Some council members feared that by reading the investigative reports, they could be violating state law regarding criminal justice records.

Councilman Tony Connell said such a release could violate the confidentiality that was promised to witnesses who testified during the investigation. He also worried council’s reading of the reports could make it more likely the full reports would be released to the media and the public.

Council members Scott Ford and Robin Crossan and Council President Walter Magill expressed support for having a council member or all council members read the more detailed summaries of the investigator’s reports before Christensen presented his summary.

“That’s going to help lift this cloud,” Magill said, adding that the $300,000 the investigation has cost the city was a large sum, and someone on the council should read the reports.

Councilman Ford came to Tuesday’s meeting with a list of questions he still wanted answered about the investigation.

His questions included whether an investigator found a paramilitary culture, what the scope of the probe was, whether a ticket citation quota existed and whether training occurred that stressed violent tactics as a preferred method.

“I am very hopeful with the changes being made by the new police chief,” Ford said. “However, let’s not fool ourselves that relying soley on ‘hope’ is not a responsible plan to action.”

Ford has said he needed to know more about what happened at the police department to help ensure the mistakes won’t happen again.

Councilwoman Heather Sloop stepped down from the discussions about the police investigation because it was revealed she has been taking flying lessons with former Deputy Police Chief Bob DelValle, who was a main subject of the probe.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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