Steamboat hires 3 new police officers
Despite experiencing difficulty in recruiting candidates, the Steamboat Springs Police Department has hired three new officers, one who is already certified and two who are currently enrolled in the police academy at Colorado Mountain College Glenwood Springs.
Officers in the academy go through a months-long program, which ends in December. Once they graduate, officers participate in a field training program with more experienced officers, then by May, they are able to work a solo shift.
“We’re excited for these three individuals, but we still have vacancies, and we’re still posting for hiring,” said Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen.
One of the three officers put himself through the academy after attending graduate school, and the other two applied to join the police department after earning bachelor’s degrees. Christensen said the department does not require college degrees, but most officers have them.
Steamboat City Manager Gary Suiter said it is important that incoming officers understand that Steamboat does not have high rates of serious crime, so it’s beneficial if they have an affinity for service-oriented policing.
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“We have a department that is community-policing oriented, so we would be looking for officers that embrace the community policing philosophy, officers that have good communication skills and good decision-making skills,” Suiter said. “We’re also looking for compassion. We need officers that can demonstrate compassion and use common sense when appropriate.”
Christensen said the department typically recruits two different types of officers when hiring — those who have been through the police academy and come from other police departments and those who are coming from other careers or have just finished a degree.
While Christensen said hiring officers who have not yet been through the academy is not an issue, it is sometimes difficult to find funding to send more officers through the academy, and he expected these two officers will be the only two from Steamboat who are able to attend the academy in 2021.
“One of the advantages to hiring a more experienced police officer is the financial side,“ Christensen said. ”I don’t always have the money to send everyone to the academy.“
Christensen said recruiting officers from other departments can bring in diverse perspectives and new ideas, as well as experience with general policing rules.
“If you’re hiring someone who’s been a police officer elsewhere, they bring a certain level of experience and knowledge to the job as well,” Christensen said.
While the department is still understaffed, Christensen said he has had difficulty hiring officers and saw multiple people leave their positions in 2020, which he attributed to officers wanting to leave law enforcement altogether, as well as the high costs of housing in Routt County.
“That’s challenge for all of the employers in this community — finding the workforce a place to lay their weary heads at the end of the day,” Christensen said.
The police department is authorized for 29 officers. Currently, the city employs 21 active officers with four in training.
As he searches for new officers, Christensen looks for people with a mindset of wanting to be a part of the community, rather than catching criminals.
“I’m not looking to hire a police officer as much as I’m looking to hire someone who’s interested in serving our community,” Christensen said. “It’s less about cops and robbers, and it’s more about that service.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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