Police department making strides, chief reports | SteamboatToday.com

Police department making strides, chief reports

— The Steamboat Springs Police Department has made great strides in implementing the recommendations made by an independent investigator tasked with analyzing the inner workings of the police department, according to Police Chief Cory Christensen.

The investigation led to the resignations of the department’s chief and deputy chief in 2015. Christensen — who was hired to replace former chief Joel Rae — has been updating the city council monthly about the department’s progress in addressing the 19 recommendations made by Katherine Nuanes.

“I see this as a starting point, not the finishing line,” Christensen said. “I am a big fan of continuous improvement.”

One of the recommendations was to implement a policy that used established best practices for hiring and promotions.

In the past year, the department has used community members and police officers from other communities to help make hiring recommendations.

Christensen said the school district was able to choose which officer it wanted as a school resource officer, adding that the addition of a human resources manager at the city has helped the department address several issues.

“The hiring of an HR manager was a great move by this organization,” Christensen said.

If an employee does not feel comfortable talking to a supervisor about an issue, he or she is encouraged to speak with the human resources manager.

“I want the employee to feel like it’s OK,” Christensen said.

In most cases, the information is kept confidential, and Christensen is not told about the issue, unless necessary.

All officers have received training in sexual harassment and harassment, and the training will be ongoing, Christensen said.

Nuanes recommended assigning an officer to handle some administrative tasks, such as developing a policy manual.

That was done, but it did come at a cost.

“It does reduce the number of police officers in cars driving around taking calls for service,” Christensen said. “Quite frankly, it does pull away from my staffing.”

Christensen said he plans to return to the city council in 2017 to address staffing at the department.

A program has been instituted for recognizing officers who do good work, and the department is now keeping track of when a police officer uses force. A committee was formed to evaluate use of force and will determine where improvements can be made and what training officers should undergo.

It was also recommended that every officer attend crisis intervention training, which can be used to de-escalate situations. A majority of the officers have been trained, and the goal is to have all officers trained by spring.

Christensen said the department is in the process of developing a strategic plan, and he is constantly seeking input from the officers. Improving communication is an ongoing effort, Christensen said, and a goal is to make the officers feel more enabled. This will also lead to better interaction with the community.

Christensen said one officer has suggested starting a coffee with a cop program, which would offer an opportunity for community members to interact with police.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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