Steamboat police chief announces retirement
After 32 years in law enforcement, Steamboat Springs Police Department Chief Cory Christensen announced Wednesday he will be retiring Sept. 4.
“Being the police chief in Steamboat Springs has been the highlight of my 32-year career in law enforcement,” Christensen said in a news release. “It has been a privilege to work beside the men and women of the Police Department as we provided professional law enforcement services to our community.”
Christensen was hired to Steamboat from the Fort Collins Police Department in 2015, after an investigation found evidence that the city’s former top police presided over a hostile work environment. In particular, the investigation revealed instances of hazing, bullying and gender-based harassment that likely occurred for more than a decade.
Christensen released a summary of the investigation’s findings to the public for the first time shortly after being hired.
Following a directive issued by city leaders, including Steamboat Springs City Council, Christensen set out to make changes in the department, primarily by hiring more women and people of color.
“I feel we, as a team, have been working hard on (diversity, equity and inclusion),” he said in an interview. “I feel there is more work to be done, and we continue to move forward to best represent our community.
“Not sure there is a finish line to improvement. I believe in continuous improvement,” Christensen added.
In addition to increasing diversity within the department, Christensen implemented cameras for all patrol vehicles and body cameras for officers, and initiated a peer support team and co-responder program with Mind Springs Health. He also completed the selection, design and construction of a new police facility with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office.
Outside the department, he served as a board member for Advocates of Routt County for four years, was appointed to the Police Officer Standards and Training Board for four years, was selected president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and was a member of the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs.
As for finding Christensen’s replacement, City Manager Gary Suiter, who oversees all city employees, said he and the city’s human resources team will be sending out a request for proposal to work with a hiring firm in the next several weeks. Suiter will direct the firm to launch a nationwide search, and from there, the process of interviewing candidates will take about four to five months.
“These thorough processes are what produce quality candidates,” Suiter said.
Suiter said in addition to qualities like experience and a good track record, the city looks for traits specific to policing in resort communities due to the number of visitors it gets each year.
“You just need a certain attitude when you’re dealing with the tens of thousands of visitors we get every year,” Suiter said. “If one of our cops pulls you over because you’re driving erratically, they should assume you’re a tourist rather than driving drunk.
“In a resort community, you need that approach with the public, there needs to be a level of tolerance and a sense of public service that we’re here to help and protect the public,” Suiter added.
Suiter also said Christensen’s retirement was unrelated to the resignation of Cmdr. Annette Dopplick, who said she was “profoundly sad about the circumstances that led to my retirement.”
“He’s been hinting at this for well over a year,” Suiter said. “I was not surprised to get his retirement email.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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