Steamboat police chief outlines need for new officers in 2018 budget request | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat police chief outlines need for new officers in 2018 budget request

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It will come as no surprise to Steamboat Springs City Council members that Police Chief Cory Christensen wants additional police officers.

Throughout the past year, Christensen has been telling council members that current staffing is not meeting the needs of a growing community.

Christensen said staffing has been basically at the same level since at least 2002.

"My sole goal in what I'm doing is to create more street officers," Christensen said.

Currently, the patrol division staffing is 12 officers and four sergeants.

Ideally, he would like 16 patrol officers and four sergeants, but next year's proposed budget would allow for 14 patrol officers and four sergeants.

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"The number of officers we have is not enough to fit our needs," Christensen said.

Christensen is basing that off of a comprehensive study of how overtime has been spent as well an analysis of how the officers have been spending their time.

In 2016, 60 percent of the $138,200 spent on overtime was spent on staffing that included officers having to work longer than their scheduled shifts and officers covering for officers while they attended training.

"If I put more officers on staff, I wouldn't have to do that," Christensen said. "The officers are showing some fatigue because they're working a lot."

Total case numbers have remained relatively flat over the years, but the nature of the cases police are handling has changed.

Christensen said there has been a decrease in the number of officer-initiated cases such as traffic stops and extra patrols of downtown streets at night. He said that is because the number of calls officers have been dispatched to has increased, resulting in less proactive policing.

He said year-over-year, dispatched calls increased 4 percent.

"That actually was really telling," Christensen said.

The budget calls for one additional sergeant specifically to oversee the detective division as well as a administrative assistant.

"In the past one and a half years, we've had some pretty big cases, and our detectives have been very busy," Christensen said.

The cost of the new positions would be $166,458.

Christensen would then implement staffing changes to increase the number of street officers by two.

For example, a sworn police officer is currently working as the department's administrative assistant.

This was a position that was recommended by an independent investigator who reviewed operations at the department.

Officer John McCartin has been doing the duties of an administrative assistant, which Christensen said is a full-time job.

McCartin has been in charge of managing the department's policies, managing weapons, uniforms and other equipment and facilitating the massive amount of training that officers are required to attend.

"It's a full-time job, and none of that requires a trained police officer," Christensen said.

McCartin would return to patrol if the administrative assistant position is approved.

Police staffing is just one of the many things the council will discuss during their day-long budget retreat Tuesday.

"Council has been very supportive in this conversation," Christensen said. "They knew it was coming, and they were looking forward to the conversation."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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