Oak Creek police focus group sets deadline

Town Board to examine law enforcement needs

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— Oak Creek's police focus group gave itself a deadline of June 1 to recommend what the town's future law enforcement should look like and to assist the Oak Creek Town Board with putting those plans into action.

But as the nine-member citizen group goes through the process, its recommendations may be constrained by the fact the town has only $120,000 to spend on whatever the group comes up with.

"We don't have a very good track record for policing," Police Commissioner Dave Ege said. "Maybe the biggest reason for that is that we can't attract the best candidates because of what we're constrained to" with the budget.

The town's budget can handle 1 1/2 to two officers at the most, without additional funding, Mayor J. Elliott said.

The most recent incarnation of the Oak Creek Police Department became defunct in October, when seasonal, part-time Officer Eileen Rossi left town for the winter. The town's embattled police chief, sergeant and code enforcement officer all resigned the previous month after no more than a year with Oak Creek.

In a work session with the Town Board on Thursday night, the police focus group was advised to explore everything from redeveloping a full Oak Creek Police Department to contracting for services with the Routt County Sheriff's Office.

An in-between solution that seemed to gain steam Thursday night was having at least one officer employed by the town to allow Oak Creek to enforce its municipal code and provide traffic control, even if the town opts to enter in a long-term contract with the Sheriff's Office for emergency services.

Routt County and Oak Creek have been unable to determine exactly what a long-term contract would cost. The difficulty had hinged on the Town Board wanting to see numbers before it can outline what services it wants, and the county has been unable to provide an estimate without knowing what the contract would include, Ege said.

Off-the-cuff estimates have been in the range of $50 to $75 an hour, and if the price ends up being that high, the money would be better spent on a local police force, Trustee Chuck Wisecup said.

"We've got to address the financial side of this before anything else," focus group member Walt Trout said. "There's no sense in looking for an officer if we can't pay him."

Law and order

The past three months with no local police have gone well in terms of emergency calls, whether that's coincidental or not, Wisecup said.

Dogs at large, snowmobiles on the road, and illegal U-turns and speeding on Main Street have been issues, but calls of a more serious nature have been handled just fine, he said.

The police focus group plans to gather public input with a mail-in survey, which will be sent out with the town's utility bills in February, and by hosting several public forums. The group set a target date of April 1 to come up with a town-specific job description so they can begin advertising if they choose to hire new officers.

"The process should be done very carefully, very methodically, with a lot of community input, and to get away from a lot of things that were done in the past," focus group member Ann Trout said.

In the past, the Oak Creek Police Department has had officers who said the right things to interview committees but who did not fit the town, focus group member David Bonfiglio said.

"We didn't approach it from what the town wants to see," Bonfiglio said. "We approached it from: 'Can you do the police job?'"

The focus group ultimately will not be making any hiring decisions, if that's where the exploration process leads, Trustee Josh Voorhis said. Hiring will be left up to the Town Board, though the focus group may be directed to play some role in an eventual interview process.

Comments

nmypinon 5 years, 11 months ago

Why do we "OC" have to pay the SO for services? Are we not part of Routt County anymore?

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 11 months ago

As an incorporated town, OC is supposed to provide police services.

I think that a basic problem OC has consistently had with police is an inability to evaluate existing officers and then suggest improvements including training whether that be time management, interpersonal skills, police investigation or whatever. Obvious problems are never identified and attempted to be fixed until it is way too late.

It seems that there every officer has had critics, not always the same people, and yet none of the flaws voiced by the critics are even even attempted to be addressed until it is too late and the officers have lost the trust of too many people.

To be fair, I'll acknowledge that issues have been identified that need to be improved - the plan to correct those issues has not been more detailed than "Do a better job".

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Mike Coziahr 5 years, 11 months ago

Before the Oak Creek Police Focus Group makes a decision on what the city's future law enforcement should look like, they should first determine if city residents really want law enforcement to begin with. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that police officers hired by the city should be "laid back" and "easy going". An attitude suggesting residents don't want law enforcement to actually enforce laws/ordinances, as much as they want them to keep the peace. This is fine except what is really wanted are bouncers or baby sitters, not a police department. This is simply not reasonable. Laws are an important part of a civilized society, and enforcement of laws by police officers and law enforcement professionals is not harassment or discrimination as many residence contend. Drinking all night in the Bar, staggering out drunk and trying to drive home is against the law. Driving your snowmobile down the street or sidewalk to the store is against the law. Driving your truck down main street at 40 miles an hour in excess of the posted speed limit is against the law. Granted, there is a spirit of the law that must be followed as well, and law enforcement must be careful their enforcement is not heavy handed. In fact there should always be much more emphasis on crime prevention than on enforcement. Many code violations can be avoided with education and warnings rather than issuing a ticket. However, there are occasions in which an officer will have little or no discretion and an arrest must be made. Citizens of Oak Creek cannot continue to assert that they are being harassed every time they are caught breaking the law.

I am not advocating a "No Tolerance" police department for the City. This form of law enforcement has not and will not work in Oak Creek or anywhere else for that matter. However, people cannot continue to harbor a "No Tolerance" attitude toward the police either. Dave Ege is correct. Oak Creek has a very poor track record in law enforcement. In fact this track record goes back several generations. But it has little to do with money. No experienced, competent and qualified law enforcement professional in their right mind would come to Oak Creek as things are now. Money is important, but worthwhile work and the ability to make a real difference in a community are much more so.

Kathy Rodeman rode an anti-police/law enforcement sentiment right into the Oak Creek mayor's office and was re-elected on much the same platform. So I guess it up to the citizens to decide; Do you really want experienced, competent and effective law enforcement? Or do you want the likes of "Cargo" Rodeman as your community leaders and then by default the likes of Foster and Caterinicchio running your police department?

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Mike Coziahr 5 years, 11 months ago

Just as a side note, if Foster had been an experienced and effective police officer, and if Caterinicchio had any real administrative/supervisory experience related to police work, "Cargo" Rodeman and her friends, would probably still be in jail and working on a restitution plan with the probation department rather than contemplating litigation against the city.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 11 months ago

Mike - Is 40 mph in a 25 mph zone really breaking the law? You are one smart cookie.

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Mike Coziahr 5 years, 11 months ago

40 miles per hour in excess of the posted speed limit of 25 would be, let's see...65 miles per hour. Yes it is breaking the law and yes I am one smart cookie.

duke bets....Mike calls and raises..

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