Police chief misconduct accusations cast cloud over police station project
Steamboat Springs — The upcoming investigation of Steamboat Springs’ top two police officials over allegations of misconduct is poised to complicate the city’s police station project that has already been roiled in recent years by a string of controversies.
At their first meeting on Monday, members of the newly-seated citizens committee that is helping to build a new police station said the damaging accusations against Police Chief Joel Rae and Deputy Police Chief Bob DelValle will make the committee’s job more difficult.
Some also fear the station will now be harder to sell to the community.
“I think (the accusations) will make (our job) a bit more of a challenge,” police station committee chairman John Kerst said. “It’s going to get very controversial.”
Kerst called the accusations against the police leadership that surfaced last week in a letter from a former police detective the “900-pound gorilla in the room.”
In the letter, Dave Kleiber accuses Rae and DelValle of creating “an atmosphere of fear and intimidation” and “a hostile work environment” at the police department, among other things.
The accusations came just days after the Steamboat Springs City Council seated the committee that will help decide the best scope and location for a new police station.
Committee member Charlie MacArthur said he thinks there is a “high likelihood” that at the end of the committee’s planning process, there is going to be “less of an appetite” for the station in the community than there was a week ago before the accusations surfaced.
Council member Walter Magill, who serves on the police station committee as a non-voting member, said he felt it was going to “get loud,” but it should not derail the committee.
“I don’t think it changes the need” for the new station, Magill said. “It changes the flavor a little bit.”
The committee ultimately resolved to not let the accusations and the pending investigation impede its work.
The committee will meet again Monday.
Before the accusations against the police leadership surfaced, other developments had already complicated the police station project.
The city’s decision to hire the close relative of a sitting council member to investigate police station building sites drew criticism from the City Council, and a proposal to build the station in Rita Valentine Park upset a number of community members.
At the meeting Monday, members asked Magill and Council President Bart Kounovsky for some more direction on the role of the committee.
The committee resolved to meet at least twice a month through August.
The Steamboat Today will provide updates from upcoming committee meetings.
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