Our view: What a difference a year can make | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: What a difference a year can make

At issue

A recently released survey of city employees shows growing employee satisfaction in nearly all areas relating to the Steamboat Springs Police Department.

Our view

The survey is tangible evidence that new leadership at the police department and City Hall is beginning to erase the damage caused by years of a militaristic police philosophy.

The city of Steamboat Springs’ 2016 internal employee satisfaction survey — conducted in May and released June 29 — shows that, collectively, city employees are more satisfied with their jobs and work environment than they were a year ago.

And while the survey was not all good news (the results suggest lingering doubts among city staff with regard to City Council’s leadership) we were particularly encouraged by one distinct bright spot in the results — the growing level of employee satisfaction at the Steamboat Springs Police Department.

According to the survey, police department employees think their work climate, communication and work-life balance, as well as departmental leadership, have improved significantly in the past year.

This, we believe, is perhaps the most compelling evidence so far that Steamboat’s new police chief, Cory Christensen, is making good on his promise to heal the fractured department he inherited only eight months ago, as there are few better barometers for gauging the overall health of an organization than the satisfaction of those who work within it.

It is perhaps obvious — but important, nonetheless — to note that this remarkable turnaround did not come about by itself, nor did it arise in a vacuum. Rather, it is the direct result of positive changes initiated by Christensen, including the hiring of Annette Dopplick, formerly of Vail, as Steamboat’s first female police commander; a vast improvement in communications, both internally and externally; and, perhaps most importantly, a fundamental shift from the militaristic philosophy which had for years characterized the department to a new emphasis on community policing.

This weekend, local police officers — particularly seasonal community service officers and our new river rangers — will be highly visible to our guests, and these officers are, in a very real sense, emblematic of our police force and our city as a whole; it is reasonable to assume that officers who are, by and large, satisfied with their jobs will do a much better job in their role as ambassadors for our community.

We recognize that years of engrained negativity cannot be erased in a single year or by a single survey. Change is a process, and processes require time. But to see such a dramatic turnaround in such a short period gives us great hope for the future, and that hope is anchored in the knowledge that the changes we’ve seen through the past eight months are only the beginning.

“For me, it’s pretty exciting,” Christensen said of the results. “I’m happy to see improvements in pretty much every area at the city. And when it comes to police services, I’m pretty excited about that. But just because there are improvements doesn’t mean we are done.

This is yet another example of the forward-thinking attitude the police chief has demonstrated in the opening months of his tenure.

We can hardly wait to see where that attitude — and the positive changes it has brought and will continue to bring — will take us in another year.

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