Oak Creek's police woes

Interim chief can't get certification; another officer fired

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— Oak Creek is down one more police officer after Interim Police Chief Jason Lunnen failed the Colorado certification test for the third and final time.

The exam is administered by the Colorado Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, and all officers must pass the exam to serve in Colorado.

Lunnen took the test Wednesday morning. He is already certified in Missouri and Florida but will no longer be allowed to work in law enforcement in Oak Creek.

"I think he second-guessed himself on a few questions," Oak Creek Mayor Cargo Rodeman said.

"He has been in law enforcement for 11 years and I don't think the test proves his ability or inability to do the job."

Rodeman said Lunnen earned a score of 69 on the test. Out of a possible 100 questions, the officer must score at least a 70 to pass, Officer Kelby Kenney said.

"It's a tough test," Kenney said. "There are a wide variety of questions dealing with Colorado statutes, verbal judo and hazardous materials."

The announcement comes as a heavy blow to a reeling police force, which has lost a police chief and an officer in the past month.

Oak Creek Police Chief Tom Ling submitted a letter of resignation June 12, citing a need to be near family in Florida. At the time, Ling supervised two police officers Lunnen and Sgt. Dave Miller.

At a Town Board meeting June 14, Lunnen was appointed interim police chief. Miller reacted by losing his temper.

The board suspended Miller and required him to take a psychological evaluation.

Rodeman said Miller has been terminated.

"A letter is written to notify him of his termination," Rodeman said.

"He has been fighting fires and I don't know if he has received it yet."

That leaves Oak Creek with one police officer Kenney. Kenney served as a police officer in Oak Creek for a year and a half before resigning six months ago, he said. After Ling's resignation, Kenney stepped forward and offered his services.

As the only officer, when Kenney is not actively patrolling, he is on call at his home.

"There is still 24-hour police coverage in Oak Creek," he said.

With so many changes in the police department over the past week, the Town Board has called an emergency meeting for 7 p.m. tonight at Town Hall.

The board will make a final decision on the size of the police force, the wages of the officers and will name another police chief.

Oak Creek interviewed an applicant for the empty police position Thursday afternoon. His hiring will largely depend on how the board votes on the police department size.

Rodeman would not reveal his name but did say he is a graduate of Soroco High School, though he does not live in Oak Creek. His Colorado certification is current.

Rodeman plans to push for higher salaries at tonight's meeting.

"We pay way too little," she said. "I wouldn't clean houses for that."

The meeting is open to the public, but residents will not be allowed to comment on the issue. "They are welcome to listen," Rodeman said, "but if they keep us from doing business, we will go immediately into executive session."

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