Staffing shortage lessening for Rifle Police Department
Newly hired Rifle Police Officer Kalob Foreman refers to the feeling as getting “Monday-morning quarterbacked to death.”
Throughout late 2020 and early into 2021, the Rifle Police Department was short four officers. Foreman, a 29-year-old former Oklahoma City police officer who joined Rifle’s squad in early June, said this is part of the reason why.
Say an officer makes a split decision on the street that perhaps leads to an unfavorable outcome, and public and political scrutiny ensues.
“Now you’ve got to figure that several attorneys and judges and the community are going to look at that,” he said. “They’re going to spend the next year wondering if you did the right thing in something that you had an eighth of a second time to make that decision.”
All officers have is what they know at the time — there’s no room for hindsight in a crisis situation, Foreman added.
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“You show up on a shooting call and dude takes off, right? And so you take off chasing him thinking it’s your suspect, and it turns out it was a brother of the victim who was just scared of the police and took off running,” he said, using an example of his five years with Oklahoma City Police Department. “I don’t know that when I’m walking up and there’s a shooting victim laying dead in the front yard and somebody takes off running.”
Having a short staff can lead to numerous critical issues, Foreman said. Backup isn’t always there, while extra shifts and longer hours can take their toll.
Foreman got a taste of what a staff shortage can do to a force back in Oklahoma. What should be a 1,200-person department, was actually hovering around 1,050 officers.
“If I got in a fight or something bad happened, and I started screaming for help on the radio, generally somebody would be able to break loose and come,” he said. “But I’ve handled entire drive-by shooting scenes by myself there, where there should be at least four officers on scene.”
“It is a massive officer safety issue where you’re doing things alone — that very well could get you killed if you don’t have help there.”
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, people were supportive of law enforcement for years, Foreman said. Nowadays, after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a number of other tragedies, the pendulum has swung the other way.
“It looks horrible whenever that situation happens,” Foreman said. “Immediately that video was out on the news, and public opinion started going, ‘Hey, what the heck are they doing?’ And rightfully so with that incident.”
But officer shortages have begun to recede in Rifle. With a budget in place to support 21 officers, the department is up to 19. For the rookies of the bunch, the department offers an officer fresh out of field training but with no prior experience a yearly salary of $54,600.
It’s a welcome sight for Police Chief Tommy Klein, whose department covered a year-to-date 7,099 calls in 2020. This includes 18 assaults, 11 burglaries and one homicide.
Year-to-date numbers so far in 2021 show 6,830 calls for service, which includes traffic calls. This includes eight assaults, eight burglaries and already one homicide.
“When you add having to cover an entire additional squad shift, it can wear on your people,” Klein said. “So you have to ensure that they don’t work too much and burn out.”
The average number of applicants for the Rifle Police Department has been anywhere from 10 to 15 per open position, Klein said.
The power of networking, however, has come in handy in relation to attaining new applicants and hires.
In other words, when the department hires a new cop, and that cop knows another cop, the chances of hiring an additional cop increase.
“That seems to have worked out very well for us,” he said.
The Rifle Police Department, however, simply lucked out with Foreman, who’s already well trained in crisis intervention team training and firearms instruction. His wife, Alex, is originally from Parachute, and the couple decided to move here.
But he also has another skill under his belt that not a lot of other officers do: roping.
Since the job is not all cops and robbers, it was earlier this summer that Foreman got to put that unique skill to the test.
In late June, a group of goats on the east side of Rifle somehow escaped a pen and started trotting all over a public street. Foreman, a rodeo lover who originally grew up on a small horse ranch in Oklahoma, covered the call.
Whatever the methods available for an officer to use in a situation like this, Foreman decided it best to ask the rancher if he had an extra rope. The answer was yes. Foreman took the rope and lassoed a small goat escapee with poised, natural ability.
Meanwhile, someone actually captured footage and posted the video to Facebook.
“I’ve roped a lot of stuff on duty, but it was the first time it actually got caught on video,” he said. “It was funny; I was just ready to get them caught before they got run over, and it worked out.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club were the de facto champions of their hosted tournament this weekend.