Tuesday, November 25, 2003
The Steamboat Springs Police Department wants to hear from you.
Sparked by concerns residents made at City Council meetings earlier this fall, the police department is holding a community meeting Dec. 4 to answer residents' questions.
"A perception of a problem is a problem," Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing said. "That is what we are going to work on, improving the communication between the community and the police department."
The open house will be very informal and allow residents to ask questions about everything from drunken-driving and drug enforcement to the status of police cases.
Director of Public Safety J.D. Hays will be at the meeting, so will Fiebing, patrol sergeants and detectives.
"I think some people had the perception that the police department wasn't approachable," Fiebing said. "Rather than say, 'That's not true, we are approachable,' we thought we would pick a friendly area, a common area and go to them."
At the Dec. 4 meeting, Fiebing said there would not be any kind of presentation, but more of a chance for residents to discuss issues one on one with police. But, he said, the police department does have plans to hold meetings three times a year that would focus on a single topic.
For the single-topic meetings, Fiebing envisions a 20- to 30-minute presentation followed by a question-and-answer session. The topics of the future meetings most likely will be determined by what questions residents ask at the Dec. 4 meeting.
"We want people to feel comfortable talking to the police officers," Fiebing said. "We aren't running the CIA over here. This is an open government agency."
During two council meetings, residents said law enforcement did not respect residents' constitutional rights, had an us-versus-them mentality and put juveniles who committed petty offenses into a legal system that was costly and difficult to leave.
Residents also called into question what they saw as aggressive drunken-driving enforcement policies.
Gary Wall, a private investigator hired by residents to look into law enforcement tactics, headed the group which publicized the complaints. More than 50 people crowded into Centennial Hall during a Sept. 9 council meeting as residents spoke in opposition or support of law enforcement.
Many of the comments made at the Sept. 9 meeting related to other law enforcement agencies or the resident was unsure of what agency was involved, Fiebing said.
During those meeting, Hays stressed that anyone with concerns or complaints about the police department could contact him. Since those meetings, Fiebing said, several people have stopped into the police department, and several others have called.
"The more information we can get out there, the more comfortable people are going to be," Fiebing said.
-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org