‘We’re here to help:’ Rifle’s new police chief brings investigative experience
Moments before she raised her right hand before City Council and many uniformed colleagues, Deb Funston focused on her years of wearing a badge.
“A lot of times we’re meeting people on their very worst day,” said Funston, who was sworn-in as Rifle’s new police chief Wednesday. “To be in a position where you can come in and at least alleviate to some extent somebody’s really worst day, to me, is very gratifying.”
Funston, 55, is closing in on 34 years in law enforcement. The former Palisade chief of police has now officially taken over for Tommy Klein, Rifle’s police chief since 2017.
Throughout her tenure, the Montrose native has immersed herself in just about every facet available in any given police department. One day, she’s an overseer of a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and a patrol supervisor. Another day, she’s armed to the teeth as a tactical team member or investigating high-profile cases as a detective supervisor.
Funston is also a graduate of FBI Rocky Mountain Command College and has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and a master’s degree in public administration.
Funston’s expansive career didn’t begin in the Centennial State. Her first exposure to law enforcement began during the 1980s while she was living in Virginia.
Funston tested her abilities at Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy. After graduation, she worked three years for Hampton Police Department, just north of Norfolk, Virginia.
“For me, this looks really interesting, something I’d really like to try,” Funston said. “So I went through the academy and ended up really liking it. It’s just been one of those careers that I realized what an honorable profession it is.”
Funston later moved back to Colorado. From there, she would serve as a Montrose police officer for 11 years and then 10 years as Steamboat Springs police officer and a public information officer for the local fire department, she said.
By 2010, however, recent economic downturns prompted the city of Steamboat Springs to implement layoffs. Funston, along with 13 other employees, was laid off.
But falling victim to economic turmoil didn’t thwart Funston’s dedication to the badge.
In June 2011, she was hired as an investigator for the Palisade Police Department, a position that offers a range of different perspectives in comparison to street patrols.
“You usually spend a little bit more time digging to try to find out what happened,” she said. “Whereas patrol’s a little different. You’re out mainly fact finding and getting the information, and then a lot of times those larger cases end up getting moved into investigations.”
This experience opened up more avenues for Funston.
“You learn a lot getting into investigations,” she said. “You have the whole forensics side of it, and it’s just interesting how you put cases together and get them ready for court.”
Eventually, Funston would reach a new milestone in her career: Palisade chief of police.
A NEW COP SHOP
Never in Rifle’s history has a female led its police force. But moving into the new year, that’s now a relic of the past.
On Monday, Funston officially became the first female chief of the Rifle Police Department.
Being a police chief is a job furnished with a wide array of duties, yet Funston is already well-versed in these responsibilities.
Funston said her first stint as a police chief meant acclimating herself to the challenging fact that she’s overseeing an entire organization. It was a difficult task to accomplish at first, but she eventually wrapped her arms around every aspect of a department in order to adequately lead her crew.
“That’s what’s so unique about coming here,” Funston said. “I’ve already been doing that. I understand how those things work. Probably the greatest challenge here is learning Rifle.”
Klein, who’s now Rifle’s city manager, said Funston is a great fit for Rifle.
“I’m very confident she’s going to do an exceptional job,” he said. “She has a great deal of experience, she’s on the (Peace Officer Stands and Training) board, which means she understands the importance of training.”
“I think she’s going to bring our training to a new level, and she will be able to update some of our internal systems.”
For Funston, one major goal she wants to accomplish with Rifle is to bolster efforts in speaking for law enforcement and further informing the public about their duties.
“Unfortunately, with things that have happened in this nation, I think a lot of times there’s been a lot of people that have pushed the definition out of what they think that we do and what we stand for, that I don’t think is accurate,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to be able to let our communities know what we really stand for and that we’re here to help and that we’re here and we care about our community.”
Funston is married, has four grandchildren and is an avid skier.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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