Police misconduct alleged | SteamboatToday.com

Police misconduct alleged

District Attorney may investigate reported brutality

An incident with an Oak Creek woman riding a horse in town and allegedly refusing to dismount on the request of a police officer is drudging up discontent among some South Routt residents, which could result in a district attorney’s investigation of the event.

Eve Louise Balazs climbed onto her horse July 24 and rode to downtown Oak Creek. At about 9 p.m. an emergency call was made, claiming Balazs nearly caused an auto accident. Oak Creek Police Officer Dave Miller responded, stopping Balazs and the horse at the intersection of Main Street and Moffat Avenue.

“I told Eve I was not going to give her a ticket for riding a horse on the sidewalk. I told Eve to get off her horse and walk it home,” Miller wrote in the police report.

Miller states Balazs appeared to be drunk, refused to get off the horse and began to ride away from the scene.

Miller then grabbed the reins of the horse. “She kept kicking the horse, trying to run me over,” he stated.

She allegedly kicked Miller in the chest. He then pulled her down from the horse to arrest her. But Balazs fought against Miller, who reportedly pepper sprayed her to get her under control.

Balazs was charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest.

Oak Creek Police Chief Tom Ling said a complaint was filed by Balazs, claiming police brutality by Miller at the event.

On Friday, Ling said he is considering contacting the District Attorney’s Office to request an independent investigation of the event to determine if Miller acted responsibly.

“These allegations are disturbing,” Ling said. “But so far from what I have seen, there has been no abuse.”

However, on Wednesday night, about 25 Oak Creek locals gathered in the back of the Veterans of Foreign Wars building, forming a loose-knit group with the name Citizen Down. They shared stories claiming that the event with Balazs was uncalled for and that it wasn’t the first time the Oak Creek Police Department has stepped over the legal line to enforce the law.

Stories ranged from illegal searches, trespassing and faulty investigations leading to arrests to singling out some people to arrest over others who have better relations with the police department.

Many stories were about run-ins with Miller. Kathy Rodeman led the meeting and is collecting statements and stories from locals documenting wrongdoings by police officers. She also suggested people in Oak Creek should abide by a buddy system. That means always having someone with them to substantiate stories about future police misconduct.

“At some point and time there has got to be enough to make a difference,” she said.

The Citizen Down group also plans to do a peaceful protest at the next Oak Creek Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, asking for the elimination of one police officer’s position preferably Miller’s.

Only one complaint from a Citizen Down member has been filed with the Oak Creek Police Department, but the group is in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union, which protects citizens’ civil rights.

The one complaint was from Rodeman, which she filed after being arrested July 27 for retaliation against a witness or victim. Police say she verbally assaulted two witnesses to Balazs’ run-in with Miller. The witnesses pressed charges and Rodeman was slapped with a $20,000 bail bond and will appear in court Aug. 29, the same date Balazs will appear in front of a county judge. Her complaint was against the arrest from taking place.

The decision to arrest Rodeman came from the District Attorney’s Office, not the Oak Creek Police Department, Ling said.

He said he stands behind the decision.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner caught wind of the meeting Wednesday. He said he believes people in Oak Creek may not be used to the type of law enforcement they are receiving.

Since former longtime Oak Creek Police Chief Reggie Mays left in 1998, Ling is the second to hold the position.

Ling, who started on the job in June, is holding people accountable for their actions, Warner said.

“It’s a higher level of service than people are used to,” he said.

Ling said he will not stand for any police misconduct, especially police brutality.

“If I find there has been some improprieties, I will take responsibility for it,” Ling said.

However, he said he will not step down law enforcement, but that doesn’t mean Ling and his officers aren’t compassionate toward locals in Oak Creek.

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