Oak Creek police force goes down to 1 officer | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek police force goes down to 1 officer

Seasonal Oak Creek officer ready to leave for winter

Zach Fridell

Chief Administrative Officer Lance Dunaway, left, and Senior Officer Eileen Rossi go over some paper work inside Rossi's office at the Oak Creek Police Department. Rossi will head to Arizona for the winter after her contract with the town expires Wednesday.
John F. Russell

— Through his first summer in Oak Creek, officer Lance Dunaway has been learning the ropes of the town and the 800-some personalities within it from longtime officer Eileen Rossi.

Come October, with his new title of chief administrative officer, Dunaway will be on his own as Rossi makes her seasonal migration to Arizona.

Rossi, who took the title of senior officer, said the summer training with Dunaway has been a success. The Oak Creek Town Board voted to hire Dunaway in November, and he has been working on his own and with Rossi as guidance since then.

"We bounce things off of each other and use his experience and mine and make a good department and good decisions," she said.

Rossi said she and Dunaway have spent time patrolling the streets and being more proactive by doing traffic patrols and serving warrants.

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She said Dunaway also has used creative problem solving to bond with people in the town.

"He has a good personality, he doesn't get overexcited about things, he just works through problems creatively," Rossi said.

For example, after having a few juvenile problems in town, Rossi and Dunaway have been attending the weekly movie nights in the park, "making popcorn and hanging out with the children," Rossi said.

At first, there was a problem with trash left over in the park, but after the officers talked to the youths, "They just start volunteering to pick up trash in the park, and it's great," she said.

Rossi is under contract for 30 hours per week, but that contract expires Wednesday. She'll remain on the payroll until she leaves town, working part time and doing mostly volunteer work, she said.

"What I'm going to be doing is handling stuff by phone and computer," she said, and she will be able to work any major investigations or, during the winter, work in Dunaway's place as he takes holiday time.

She said that by having both officers on duty during the summer, Oak Creek relied less on other agencies such as the Routt County Sheriff's Office to handle calls.

"Between the two of us, we were pretty self-sufficient," she said. "There were only a couple days this summer that either one of us were not available."

She said the town would not have as much police coverage when Dunaway works on his own, but that doesn't mean he will be by himself.

Dunaway said the Sheriff's Office and the Colorado State Parks department have offered backup and assistance when he's not available — which isn't often.

"I mean, if you want a number, between on-call hours and hours I'm available, it's probably … I'm probably available to this town over 100 hours per week," he said.

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