By Beth Dodd
The Victor City Council met with local residents on May 8 to weigh public opinion and answer questions about possibly contracting police services from the Teller County Sheriff’s Department in the near future. While it would be hard to say goodbye to an independent police force after 100-plus years of service, Victor’s three law enforcement officers favor the change.
The idea on the table is whether or not Victor should contract with the Teller County Sherriff’s Office, essentially making the Victor Police Department a sub-station of the Teller agency. According to Sheriff Mike Ensminger, this is not unusual in many small communities across the country where it is difficult to maintain a police department. While the response from the community has been very positive, questions were raised by local residents at last week’s meeting concerning how this would affect the existing police officers and the consistency of law enforcement during and after the transition. “There will still be officers participating in the community as Victor is accustomed to with a small police department,” said Victor City Administrator Deb Downs. Local officers known by the town residents would continue with community policing as before. The Teller sheriff would report community law enforcement concerns to the Victor City Council as the town’s police chief does now.
If Victor moves forward with its plan, Victor’s current police officers would become county employees. Right now the Victor PD consists of an interim chief, two full time officers, and one part time officer. The new change would provide them with more training opportunities, and access to the resources of a larger department with around 30 people instead of four to meet Victor’s law enforcement needs. For example, the sheriff could send a detective to Victor to investigate a crime if necessary while the regular officer continued to work in the community. With the existing arrangement, a police officer in Victor must take time off the street to investigate a crime.
City officials hope that by contracting with the Teller Sheriff’s Department, Victor will be able to keep officers on the job longer. At present, young officers may start their career in Victor and then leave after a short time to work for larger departments where they can find higher pay, better benefits and greater learning opportunities. This means that Victor has invested in training an officer who is likely to quit. In addition to the May 8 meeting, this exploration phase of the project has also included a meeting with a citizen review committee. The next step in the decision making process will be for Downs, Ensminger, and Victor Interim Police Chief Mike Rulo to put their heads together to work out the practical details like the cost. “We are moving slowly forward to see if this will work. So far the response has been positive,” said Ensminger.
Another new development in the Victor emergency services community was the swearing in of Larry Beatty as Victor’s new fire chief. Beaty has served as the interim chief since Rick Morgan departed in February 2012. A member of the department since roughly 2002, Beatty intends to work on updating department policies and recruiting new volunteer fire fighters.