Faces of the Frontlines: Police officer accepts changes, maintains the role
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sure there are fewer cars on the streets these days, the busy pace of downtown nightlife has disappeared and most residents in town are spending their time at home, but Steamboat Springs Police Officer John Miller said his role with the department remains the same.
“Yes, there’s a pandemic going on with a virus here, but we are still out there doing the day-to-day activities that we do normally do,” Miller said. “The only thing that has really changed is, you know, you see us officers wearing masks and gloves.”
Miller has been with the Steamboat Springs Police Department since 2017 and recently was named school resource officer.
“I was going on my 11th year of being a patrol officer,” Miller said. “I’ve done SWAT. I’ve been a field training officer and a use force instructor. I wanted to do something to further my education in law enforcement, and so being a school resource officer was a totally different side of it.”
Miller spent the past year getting to know the students at the schools and becoming a recognizable face in the community. But in early March, when the schools were closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19, his role quickly changed. He was moved back to patrol. He also has worked several community testing days where he directs traffic, maintains order and keeps people safe as testing for COVID-19 takes place.
Miller, who spent most of his career in Minnesota where he grew up playing hockey and working for his father’s tree removal and landscaping company, said he is proud of being able to serve the community during this time, along with others on the frontline.
Patrolling requires him to stay in contact with the public, and while the department is doing its best to limit contact when possible, there is no way to do that completely. He said the Steamboat community has also been good to show its gratitude to first responders, including law enforcement officers and firefighters.
“To have the community actually reach out to us and say ‘thank you’ is humbling,” Miller said.
One of the most rewarding parts of his job these days is taking part in drive-by birthday celebrations.
“A 6-year-old doesn’t understand why he can’t have a birthday party,” Miller said. “So we all lined up, and we had the whole patrol team go out there and hit the lights, the sirens and the air horn. It was just a way that we can try to bring light in that child’s day.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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Sheila Symons’ son got COVID-19 around Labor Day. He has since missed about five weeks of school, spent five days at Children’s Hospital in Aurora and has seen more doctors than an 11-year-old child should.