Five questions for new Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras
Gilroy Police Capt. Joseph Deras won’t take over as Glenwood Springs police chief until Jan. 27, but he made time recently to answer these five questions from the Post Independent to help introduce himself to the community he’ll soon call home.
During the application process, recruitment difficulties were brought up. As chief of police, what can you do to ensure that the Glenwood Springs Police Department can recruit and retain qualified officers?
This is not a problem specific to Glenwood Springs. This is a national problem and I believe its causes are many.
We need to maintain an environment where our staff are respected, feel appreciated, recognized for the work they do each day and enjoy coming to work.
While these do not provide monetary compensation, these are quality of life components that are valued by staff members, and hard to replicate in many places.
We need to provide promotional opportunities, career development, quality equipment and contemporary advanced training.
People may always find a more lucrative package (the grass is greener…) but oftentimes this cannot bring optimism, a sense of value within the organization or be a substitute for the things mentioned above.
As a Gilroy Police Captain, what were your experiences with the red flag law?
We have practices in place where our officers have had to secure firearms from those suffering from some form of a mental episode or sustained mental incapacitation.
This has not occurred with much frequency.
Oftentimes, we have been able to resolve this issue with the patient and/or suspect voluntarily surrendering their weapons.
Outside of just breaking down a language barrier, how did being bi-lingual in English and Spanish play into your position with the Gilroy PD and how do you hope to utilize those speaking skills in Glenwood Springs?
The importance of outreach to the non-English speaking community cannot be overstated.
My personal experience has been that this skillset demonstrates to our constituents we are doing what we can to work with them, understand them, include them and listen to and be responsive to their concerns.
Community members have been surprised to hear me address them in the Spanish language. They usually respond with a visible sense of relief and gratitude, and maybe even a laugh for the effort to understand them and/or what we can do to assist them.
In Gilroy we have had remarkable success in including this population with our department and the services we provide.
There is always an opportunity to include this group in what we do and educate them about our processes.
Through our Bi-lingual community police academy we have created various neighborhood groups, advocates of our mission and ambassadors for the department.
We have many cases I can highlight where these community members have supported us and looked at a situation through an entirely different lens because of the outreach and inclusion we have done.
In critical situations this can be a tool to defuse feelings of apprehension, hostility or resistance.
Our residents need to feel comfortable communicating and working with us without fear of their local government marginalizing them.
In your 28 years of law enforcement experience, how has policing changed over the years?
Among other things, technological advances are probably one thing that stands out.
Our ability to use various tools to investigate and successfully solve crimes is significant.
The public has always been interested in law enforcement work. However, with all of the law enforcement-related TV programs available, this brings an unreal expectation of how rapidly a case can be resolved.
Additionally, and by no means any less important, is the emotional and mental impacts of this profession which are profound.
The evidence is tangible in the amount of officer suicides annually. Emotional support teams are not uncommon for public safety personnel.
Aftercare is critical to their long-term survival, which has not always been available or as accepted as it is becoming.
What is your experience and philosophy on officers wearing body cameras?
I will say I support BWC (body worn cameras) programs. I will qualify that with the understanding of the factors listed below.
I do have experience with BWC programs.
Initially, our department members were reluctant to embrace the program. We are in a place now where most officers will not leave the building without a camera on them or without their car camera operating.
This tool has assisted with criminal prosecutions and juries have come to expect the video during the course of a criminal proceeding.
We have had numerous cases where officers were vindicated in frivolous allegations of misconduct.
There are limitations with the systems. The first being the costs associated.
Also, the storage and retention of the video is very prohibitive and the technology can be so precise that it exceeds the officer’s human capacity to see something, particularly in artificial/low-light conditions.
They do not capture environmental cues or perceptions an officer smells, hears, or sees which can be outside of the viewfinder of the BWC.
Another aspect frequently overlooked – the program has really mitigated our civil litigations exposure.
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