Our view: New chief, new culture

At issue: The latest Steamboat Springs police recruits are two female patrol officers who graduated at the top of the class in the academy. Our view: Police Chief Cory Christensen was tasked with changing the culture of the local police department, and we think he’s made huge strides toward that goal and the most recent hires are testament to that.

Editorial Board • Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Tom Ross, reporter

• Alice Klauzer, community representative

• Cameron Hawkins, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or

When Cory Christensen was named police chief of the Steamboat Springs Police Department in November 2015, he was tasked with changing the culture of an agency that had been the focus of an outside investigation, which found evidence the city’s former top cops presided over a hostile work environment. In particular, the investigation revealed instances of hazing, bullying and gender-based harassment that likely occurred for more than a decade.

It was Christensen himself who released a summary of the investigation’s findings to the public for the first time shortly after being hired. In his summary, Christensen described an organization that was being “run by fear and intimidation,” and he blamed it on a “top-down leadership issue.”

Following a directive issued by city leaders, including Steamboat Springs City Council, Christensen aggressively set out to make changes in the department. He hired Annette Dopplick, a seasoned officer, as police commander in June 2016, and then announced the addition of two more female patrol officers to department ranks last week.

It should be noted these female officers graduated at the top of their class at the police academy and their training was paid for by the city. All of this seems to us to underscore the department’s commitment to gender equality and provides tangible proof of how the interior workings of our local police department has drastically changed for the better during Christensen’s short tenure here.

The leadership shown by Steamboat’s new police chief goes beyond the hiring of three female officers. His professionalism, community involvement and a desire to conduct police business as openly and transparently as possible has provided the department with a steady hand.

Christensen leads by example and has established a policing strategy that focuses on community, which we think is particularly important in a mountain resort town. We have noticed more Steamboat police officers out and about in our community, not just stopping people for speeding or handing out tickets, but interacting with locals and visitors at various events and venues. This type of engagement is an example of positive policing, and we believe this is a mark of a strong department.

The stated mission of the Steamboat Springs Police Department is “to serve the community by building relationships, implementing proactive crime reduction strategies, providing a safe and welcoming environment, and to be courageous and responsive to the needs of everyone in order for Steamboat Springs to be the premier city to live and visit,” and we think the department is living up to those goals.

Thank you Chief Christensen for tackling the challenges you faced when you first arrived in town and for rising above the past. We appreciate your professionalism, your almost three decades of experience, your dedication to community involvement and your commitment to communicating openly with the public and the press. We also salute the officers who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving the Steamboat Springs community.

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