By Lucas Vader
Last week, the DCI reported on the Delta County Sheriff’s Office’s plans for extra funds if the Back the Badge initiative should pass in November this year. The details are explained in “Sheriff’s Office outlines priorities for Back the Badge funds, should it pass.”
Another round of reports explain goals and requests made by Delta and Cedaredge’s police departments.
Delta Police Department
One of the top priorities at the Delta Police Department, according to Chief Luke Fedler, is a new building for their department, as they have completely outgrown its current location.
“That has to be number one,” Fedler said. “We cannot grow anymore without a new and updated building.”
Fedler said a prime example of their current limitations is an upcoming mandated arrest control training event. There’s nowhere in the DPD building to do that, and they’re ultimately going to have to do it in the conference room of the city hall building, which still isn’t a substantial size for the training.
“I hope to God we don’t break anything,” Fedler said.
According to Fedler, their current building is noncompliant in certain codes, the evidence room is completely full, with excess evidence packed into plastic storage bins. Also, some of the offices in the building are converted closets.
Beyond the building, Fedler said that some of the requests he will be making will include a second commander who can double as an emergency coordinator for the city, as well as two more officers for general patrolling. This would bring the Delta Police Department to a staff of 23 sworn officers.
Fedler also hopes to replenish the $50,000 contribution from the Delta County School District for a School Resource Officer, as the school district was unable to make its contribution this year due to budget cuts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another request is the addition of a part time policing coordinator, who would take the lead on programs and city events, such as the upcoming planned Trick or Treat Street. “I’m trying to do that plus be the chief of police,” Fedler said in regards to the way things work now.
More needs of the DPD are increased equipment and funding for new vehicles, as the oldest vehicles in the fleet are 2010 models at this point, which in the world of police vehicles, is old, Fedler said.
A common complaint Fedler hears from the community is that there are police vehicles often sitting outside the station and not being used, but all that means is that it’s a time of day when there are fewer officers on the streets, Fedler said. To accomplish 24/7 coverage, slower activity times will have fewer officers on the clock. Also, as far as vehicle sharing goes, Fedler stated that certain days of the year, most notably Independence Day, always require all the vehicles to be in use at once.
DPD does do vehicle partnering, with some cars being used by more than one officer, but mechanically speaking, the vehicles need some down time as well.
“If you run them 24 hours a day, they don’t run very long,” Fedler said.
The vehicles have also seen a recent change in design. while the DPD information along the side of the cars used to stand out against a white background, that white has recently been completely abandoned. Fedler said that this change wasn’t an expensive redesign just to “do something new.” The white background was actually a vinyl material that wasn’t holding up to administration’s satisfaction, so they discontinued it.
Fedler said these demands have not yet been approved by council, so they’re somewhat of a draft, though they have changed little to none from last year’s requests. Fedler stated anyone with further questions on whether the money was really going to the right place could reach out to him at email@example.com. If it wasn’t for COVID-19 shutting down their ride-along program, he’d invite people to participate in that, ensuring that they would see the need for the extra funds.
If Back the Badge should pass, the Delta Police Department is set to receive 31% of the money, which would amount to approximately $851,346.
Cedaredge Police Department
Last year when Back the Badge failed, the Cedaredge Police Department had wanted some of those funds to go toward providing its officers with more competitive wages. Dan Sanders, previous chief of the department, had emphasized that the $17.50 the officers were making was not great for that line of work and caused the department to be a revolving door of new officers, while officers at the Delta Police Department were making a more reasonable amount closer to $25 an hour.
The CPD is now under the command of Chief Joe Roberts, and since last year’s Back the Badge failure, both Sanders and previous sergeant Jake Hernandez left to be deputies with the Delta County Sheriff’s Office. In order to improve the wages of the department, the Town of Cedaredge board of trustees agreed to reduce the department by one position in order to raise the officers to the $20 an hour range.
Due to this earlier decision, Cedaredge Mayor Ray Hanson and Roberts both stated that, should Back the Badge pass this November, it is no longer the plan to give officers raises with those funds. Pay raises had been a controversial topic last year during the first attempt for Back the Badge, as some members of the community noted that raises wouldn’t create an improvement in the community overall.
The goal, however, as it came up in a town budget discussion on Sept. 15, is to replenish the position that was cut, in addition to adding a new one.
According to Roberts, as well as Sanders in previous discussions, the Cedaredge Police Department does not have 24 hours of on-duty coverage. Instead, the officers are on call in case of incidents, which is why they bring their vehicles home.
In straightforward terms, the Cedaredge Police Department is requesting to use its share of the funds generated from Back the Badge, should it pass, in order to bring the full-staff number of officers, including the chief, from five to seven, which would aid them in covering night shifts, weekends, holidays and vacations.
A priority of the CPD in the coming year is updated radar technology. During the budget discussion, Hanson had commented on 20-year-old radar, causing Roberts to reply, “I wish ours were only 20 years old.”
Hanson, who has been a supporter of Back the Badge since it first came up before last November’s election, reiterated to the board that incidents don’t just tie officers up while they’re happening, as there’s always follow up.
“Every time we make an arrest, we basically lose that officer for anywhere from a day to a day and a half, up to three days, so consequently, the chief has to reschedule everybody because of court and paperwork,” Hanson said. “And if you don’t have the Ts crossed and Is dotted, we lose the case.”
The CPD recently lost an officer, who left for another job. This has left the department to consist of Roberts and three officers. Roberts himself has taken up slack on patrol, which has caused the hours for the police department to be temporarily reduced to 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Thursday.
If Back the Badge should pass, the Cedaredge Police Department is set to receive 7% of the money, which would amount to approximately $192,239.