Our view: Protecting, serving the community | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Protecting, serving the community

At issue:

The Steamboat Springs Police Department has been involved in several community-focused initiatives recently

Our view:

Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen has been taking deliberate and successful steps to bring his department closer to the community

We were gratified to learn this past week that Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs were one step closer to the goal of building a combined law enforcement facility on the west side of town that would be shared by the Steamboat Springs Police Department and Routt County Sheriff’s Office.

The Steamboat Springs City Council voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding with the county that dedicates $129,304 of city funds to pay for the creation of schematic designs for the new facility, which would be built on property next to the existing Routt County Jail. The county followed suit Tuesday and committed $86,202 toward the plans.

A shared facility is something we’ve advocated for in the past. We think a combined law enforcement headquarters makes fiscal and operational sense and would increase collaboration between the two agencies.

We also realize committing funds to construct this facility could be a stretch for the county, in particular, but the most progressive plans require visionary thinking, and we encourage both the city and county to continue moving forward with planning for the project.

Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen said he was “encouraged” by the actions of both governments to move the project forward, and we agree. The fact that the idea of a shared facility has made it this far is also a testament to what we perceive as a new willingness of the police chief and sheriff to work together. This kind of collaboration is refreshing and a sign of real progress.

This renewed focus on teamwork, combined with some recent community interactions initiated by Christensen and his department, continue to signal positive change for the local police force.

Last week, Christensen reported on his department’s efforts to work with Steamboat’s dog lovers to rewrite the city’s animal ordinance to make it more canine friendly. Part of the police department’s plans involve allowing dogs to legally swim in the Yampa, creating more off-leash areas in the city and providing more community education about animal interaction.

In another example of community-centered policing, local police reacted quickly to rumors that were circulating at the high school following a string of local overdose deaths. In response to this situation, Police Commander Annette Dopplick sent a letter outlining the growing problem of prescription drug misuse and abuse among teenagers to school administrators for distribution to parents of high school students.

This type of open communication about serious issues impacting our young people is an important role police officers can play in the community. By hitting these issues head-on and opening up dialogue between the police, parents, school district administrators and students, the police department provided valuable information and also used its expertise and training to calm fears and put rumors to rest.

Policing, by its very nature, is reactive, so it’s nice to see our local police department embrace opportunities to work toward collaborative solutions to community challenges — such as constructing a new shared law enforcement facility or working with a citizens group to make the city more dog friendly.

These types of initiatives signal positive change and convince us that Chief Christensen and his department are committed to protecting and serving local citizens through policies, and, maybe more importantly, actions that demonstrate a true alignment to the principles of community policing.

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