Our View: Offering a warm welcome to Steamboat’s new chief of police | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Offering a warm welcome to Steamboat’s new chief of police

Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs’ first female chief of police, Sherry Burlingame, was sworn in Monday, Jan. 24, and we want to welcome her to the job and welcome her to town. It’s a beautiful city, and we’re so happy she’s here. The work ahead is considerable and the road full of uncertainties, but we think she’s the right person for the role.

It’s no secret law enforcement is a male-dominated profession. Coming into the chief’s position, Burlingame said less than 3% of the nation’s police departments are led by women. We found some studies suggesting that percentage might be even smaller.

We don’t want to make too much of any one person’s gender, but we’ve always felt like Steamboat is a unique, special place that values diversity. While we wish the glass ceiling at the police department had been broken sooner, it’s worth recognizing that Burlingame has smashed it, even though the work for her is just beginning.

Burlingame comes to Steamboat after most recently serving as the assistant chief in Tempe, Arizona. She has a decadeslong career in law enforcement, having worked as an officer, sergeant, lieutenant, commander and assistant chief in Mesa, Arizona, following her time as a captain in the U.S. Air Force. That experience should serve her well as she steps into a department that could use a fresh perspective and leadership.

Sherry Burlingame.
City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy

Our police officers are so valuable to our communities. From the school resource officers to the patrolmen and patrolwomen who police our streets, the relationships they have with residents go far beyond their initial interactions. Meeting our officers one-on-one in the community is a great way to bridge gaps, and we hope to see them out and about as often as possible.

Steamboat’s population is about 13,000, but over the course of an officer’s career, they will serve far, far more. Sometimes, our guests can be a handful, even downright rowdy. Some will need to be arrested, charged and adjudicated, but for others, education can be more effective than punishment.

Delivering teachable moments through quality community policing while maintaining the highest standards for public safety is a delicate balance. For us, it’s important our city’s police officers work to understand and deescalate tense situations before they get out of hand. As much as possible, we want our police to bestow teachable moments on our residents and our guests.

It’s a nice sign to see our new chief being proactive on social media, too, already having updated her Twitter account with her new title. We hope there’s a renewed push to reach out to the people the department serves. We think that communication will be key to Burlingame’s success, and we encourage her to keep using avenues like social media to make connections and help keep the public informed.

Society doesn’t say it enough, but good police officers are worth more than we can quantify. It doesn’t matter if they are a man or woman; there are dangerous moments during the course of police work, and we pray for our officers’ safety and health.

Sherry, we’re glad you chose to come to Steamboat, and we look forward to seeing your work at the department and in the community. Good policing can move a community and a department forward together, and that’s the kind of commitment needed here.

It’s not always about crime and punishment. Good police work requires a commitment to service and integrity. We’re expecting a lot, but we’re looking forward to seeing where Burlingame takes the department. Welcome to Steamboat.

At a glance

At issue: Steamboat Springs has hired Sherry Burlingame as the city’s chief of police, ushering a highly experienced individual into the role and making her the city’s first female police chief.

Our View: There’s a lot of work ahead, but we want to welcome Burlingame to the department and Steamboat Springs, because we think she’s a great fit for the job.

Editorial Board

• Bonnie Stewart, publisher

• Eli Pace, editor

• Cuyler Meade, assistant editor

• Ana Gomez, community representative

• Kelly McElfish, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or epace@SteamboatPilot.com.

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