Oak Creek questions police presence

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— The recent funeral of a longtime Oak Creek resident has caused many residents to feel as if police were targeting Oak Creek residents during and after the funeral.

During its meeting Thursday night, the Oak Creek Town Board entertained a lengthy discussion about the town's sentiment toward the extra police presence in Oak Creek last weekend.

Oak Creek resident and South Routt Velosport business owner Dave Fisher began his comment about the police presence by reading the Fourth Amendment.

"'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.' Those principles are just as important today as they were in 1791," he said.

Fisher said he was concerned about the amount of police presence he saw in Oak Creek during Raymond Cyr's funeral, especially because officers seemed to be pulling over residents for no apparent reason and intimidating the residents into letting officers search cars.

Fisher said he was also concerned about the message excessive police presence in a small community sends "the rest of the world."

"The message being sent out is contrary to the reality of this community," he said.

Oak Creek police Chief Linda Koile told the Town Board, Fisher and several agitated audience members that the Routt County Sheriff's Office and the Colorado State Patrol were not targeting Oak Creek residents during the funeral, but instead were doing their jobs because the officers knew the funeral would be well-attended and there would be considerable amounts of alcohol consumption taking place.

"I appreciate the presence of the (Sheriff's Office) and the (State Patrol), because they know how small our department is. They were doing their jobs, just as we were doing ours. On that day, they caught Oak Creek being good," she said.

However, not everyone saw the events of Feb. 18 as officers "doing their jobs."

Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman said she did not observe an excessive police presence, but she has been receiving calls from concerned residents since Feb. 18 about the number of residents who were pulled over and searched.

"I, too, felt it was pretty amazing that everyone was getting pulled over. We felt like it was an occupied community," she said.

Despite Koile and Oak Creek police Officer Chris Tritz's explanations, audience members still disagreed with how the officers went about contacting residents.

Town Board member Mike Kien told Tritz that even though the officers do not have a right to search a car without consent, he does not feel like the officers always take "no" for an answer.

"It's not totally voluntary, it's total intimidation," he said.

Rodeman suggested she and Fisher later discuss last Saturday's events and collaborate in sending a message to the Sheriff's Office.

Rodeman said she contacted Routt County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Ray Birch on Thursday and that he was very open to Rodeman's concerns, telling her he would look into the allegations.

"I'm a true believer that you have to do something wrong to get in trouble, but that's not always the case here. We need to try to make an understanding of what happened, and why, from all angles," she said.

In other action, the Town Board approved hiring Sandy Jacobs as the town's interim treasurer for the next three months.

Town Clerk Karen Halterman explained to the Town Board that Karrie Littman resigned from the position two weeks ago and that her last day would be today, putting the town in a desperate situation.

"As of tomorrow, we do not have a treasurer. The town has been without a treasurer in the past, and it was horrendous," she said.

The Town Board approved hiring Jacobs, who served as the town's interim treasurer before, and paying her $20 for 15 hours of work a week. The town also agreed to give her free water and sewage.

The town will re-evaluate Jacobs' part-time employment in three months to determine whether the situation is working or whether the town will need to look into hiring a full-time treasurer.

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