New Castle swears in incoming police chief

New Castle Mayor Art Riddile attaches a badge onto new police chief Charles Burrows in November.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

There’s a new chief in town.

Charles Burrows, 60, was sworn in during town council Tuesday evening as the new chief of the New Castle Police Department.

Before an audience of police chiefs from across Garfield County and county Sheriff Lou Vallario, New Castle Mayor, Art Riddile ceremoniously pinned the badge on Burrows’ chest.

“I want to thank all the gentlemen, police departments that are here,” Burrows said after the ceremony. “It blows me away that everybody showed up, because we need some regional integration and it’s going to happen.

“I think it’s such great support from all of you. You don’t know how much I appreciate it.”

Burrows’ ascent to becoming police chief stems from rather unordinary circumstances. Former police chief Tony Pagni was arrested in late July after allegedly being intoxicated and walking around his neighborhood with a semi-automatic rifle and pointing it at a friend.

Pagni, who is due back in court Dec. 13, was terminated from his position, and Burrows was named interim chief of police.

“The climate is not too terrific right now with the police department,” Mayor Riddle said. “But we as the town of New Castle and town board have been 100% in support of our police department.”

New Castle Police Chief Charles Burrows receives a standing ovation after being sworn-in Tuesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Town Administrator David Reynolds said Burrows was interviewed by an independent board made up of Mayor Riddile, Mayor Pro Tem Grady Hazelton, town residents, neighboring police chiefs and HR specialists.

Burrows worked under Pagni since Pagni became chief in 2014. On Wednesday, Burrows told the Citizen Telegram that Pagni let him run patrol the way he wanted for the past seven years, and that this helped him groom their current officers since they were rookies.

Regarding Pagni’s arrest, Burrows did speak to the effect it had on department morale. But the transition went smoothly because Burrows had already established himself as a leader.

“They were worried,” Burrows said of his officers. “More of them were coming up to me and asking, ‘Are you going to be chief, are you going to be chief?’

“Because I had good rapport with the staff.” 

Burrows also said he told his officers, moving forward, just to keep doing what they’ve always been doing and not to worry too much about what’s going on up top.

“I feel like it was pretty amazing that we didn’t really miss a bit. It was almost surreal how smooth the transition has been,” he said. “We made it into a speed bump when it could’ve been a mountain, and I’m forever grateful for my crew for doing that.”

Burrows is a veteran law enforcer of more than 18 years. He’s also a Baltimore native. After his father got out of the Vietnam War, he was stationed in Fort Carson and the family moved to Colorado Springs. From there, Burrows would move to Boulder, then Nederland, then to Grand Junction, where he graduated high school.

Burrows then spent four years in the U.S. Air Force as a weapons specialist. He then spent many more years as a military contractor for both the Air Force and the U.S. Navy.

It wasn’t until Burrows was in his late 30s that he entered law enforcement.

“I always had a dream of becoming a law enforcer,” Burrows said.

Newly sworn-in New Castle Police Chief Charles Burrows shakes hands with Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario on Tuesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Burrows then spent six-and-a-half years in Mesa County before working for the Silt Police Department and then New Castle.

During this time, Burrows took a break from law enforcement and obtained his bachelor’s in social and criminal justice from Ashford University in Iowa (now called Arizona Global).

When it comes to policing New Castle, Burrows said it’s a great community and that he’s very lucky. He also acknowledges that New Castle still has its problems — whether it’s drunk driving, domestic violence, anything — just like any other community, but a more scaled-back version. 

Burrows said he wants to work more with neighboring agencies to better ensure New Castle gets quality policing on what he refers to as “the 4%” of the population. In other words, policing this small percentage of the population that typically has run-ins with law enforcement.

“I think we were already on the right track,” he said. “The direction now is more proactive and collaborative with the other agencies.”

And he plans on doing this for years to come.

“I don’t have my eyes on retirement right now at all,” Burrows said. “As long as I can stay clear-minded and healthy, I just want to keep plugging along.”

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