Rifle’s new police chief already making his mark | PostIndependent.com

Rifle’s new police chief already making his mark

Rifle Police Chief Thomas Klein speaks with members of the public during the Empty Bowls luncheon at Grand River Health in Rifle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

It’s been a little over a month since Tommy Klein was sworn in as Rifle’s new police chief, and already he has begun to make his mark on the department.

Moving forward, he plans to emphasize using data and information in all phases of police work and to institute Intelligence Lead Policing, which will change how officers look at crime and data.

“It will involve us providing information to the officers, but also implementing a method for officers to share information regularly and keep information in one database,” he explained. “It will require less resources, but resources being used must be used wisely. It’s a cultural thing.”

Klein hopes to see the officers in the department begin to use data to better investigate and predict crime in town. He also hopes to continue the department’s strong community outreach under former Chief John Dyer.

“I really think Dyer did a great job reaching out and getting involved in the community,” he said. “I don’t want to see that suffer with me taking over. I also hope to reach out to the minority community.”

Though Klein does not speak Spanish, 20 percent of the police department does.

“Whenever you police, you have to keep your minority community in mind,” he said. “You must be transparent and approachable to anyone in the community.”

Klein, a former district captain with the Raleigh Police Department, spent decades moving up in that North Carolina department, starting out as a patrol officer in 1992 and eventually holding positions of lieutenant and captain over the past five years. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 2010 and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and criminal justice concentration from North Carolina State University.

His experience dealing with the drug trade in Raleigh for decades provides him with an ideal background to prepare for Rifle’s methamphetamine problem.

“The drug problem is a little overstated in Rifle,” he said. “I think we are very fortunate to have such a low violent crime rate. Every community has its problems, everywhere has drugs.”

He added that the type of drugs that he sees here are a result of both geography and the economy. While he would bust meth labs in Raleigh, Colorado’s proximity to the southern U.S. border allows for people to import it here instead.

“Meth seems to be the drug of choice here because the supplies are available, but it is also an economic issue,” he said.

High-end drugs like cocaine are more common in a big city like Raleigh because the market is larger so everything is available. Though he is longer dealing with such a variety of drugs, he is still a certified lab technician and taught controlled substances at the academy.

Among the biggest changes for Klein moving cross-country is adjusting to the marijuana laws in Colorado. While marijuana is legal in Colorado, it is still a Schedule VI controlled substance in North Carolina.

“There are so many different marijuana laws, and in Raleigh it was so cut and dried that it is something I definitely had to learn,” he said. “It’s just unusual for me that marijuana is legal. Definitely different.”

Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, with a population near 450,000, had been Klein’s home since his sophomore year of high school, and while he feels like he “won the lottery” by moving out to the beautiful Western Slope, the hardest part was leaving his friends in North Carolina. But don’t worry, they are already bugging him to visit.

“The City Council is just very approachable here,” he said. “The mayor may see me on the street and come up and start talking to me. You don’t get that in Raleigh.”

In total the Raleigh Police Department has around 800 spots. The Rifle Police Department has 26 employees.

“It’s just like working in a very small district,” Klein said. “The police work is the same as it was when I was the north district commander.”

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