Carbondale cops get internal audit
Carbondale officials have begun working with a former Fort Collins police chief and local consultants to analyze a range of police issues By John StroudCarbondale CorrespondentCarbondale officials have begun working with a former Fort Collins police chief and local consultants to analyze a range of police issues, aimed at bringing the police department more in line with the town’s emerging community policing goals.The town has hired Fred Rainguet, a retired police chief from Fort Collins and the founder of The Peak Institute, a police training and consulting firm, to evaluate Carbondale’s police department from an internal perspective.Working to gauge the community’s feelings about the department will be James Kent of Basalt, a renowned specialist in engaging community involvement.By involving citizens, police officials, the Board of Trustees and administration, the town hopes to determine if any changes need to be made to the current philosophy of policing and law enforcement in the community.”There has been a little bit of tension in the police department about where this is going,” Town Manager Tom Baker said at an informal Board of Trustees work session meeting with the consultants Thursday night. “I see it as a bridge to the future, and specifically what the future law enforcement philosophy is in Carbondale.”The project evolved after a host of police issues surfaced over the summer, including an incident in which a police officer used a Taser gun on a suspect during a traffic stop and some other incidents where citizens questioned the appropriateness of police actions.The police department’s involvement in the inter-agency drug enforcement organization, TRIDENT, is also under scrutiny.Baker has recommended that Carbondale pull out of TRIDENT for budgetary reasons. But there’s also been a growing philosophical debate over whether TRIDENT’s rather aggressive tactics fit the town’s definition of community policing.Mayor Michael Hassig acknowledged that the police issues came to a head following the recent incidents. But it’s been a goal of the trustees for some time to take a deeper look at the police department, not only from a philosophical standpoint, but from the standpoint of the department’s budgetary requirements, he said.”While people may look at a handful of recent events, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a trend or pattern,” Hassig said. “For me, this is an attempt to understand what I need to know about the police department and its needs.”More than 25 percent of the money we spend out of the general fund is for law enforcement. It’s also a matter of investigating what the culture of the department is, and whether that matches the Carbondale we think exists,” he said. “And, when it comes to allocating the budget, are we doing it right?”Trustee Russ Criswell said, from his own observations and those of other citizens, the town’s police philosophy has changed over the past decade or so.”I hear comments from people that we seem to have gone from more of a community police force to a more intimidating force; that, if we don’t do it this way bad things are going to happen,” Criswell said. “Stressing that kind of fearfulness is not healthy.”The consulting team is expected to complete its evaluation and make recommendations by the first of the year.The consulting team is expected to complete its evaluation and make recommendations by the first of the year.
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