Police Hand In Their Badges

by Rick Langenberg:



The jokes about the Victor police, and the town’s hefty lineup of former chiefs and officers, with enough folklore to start a television mini-series, have officially ended. The Victor cop shop is now a substation of the Teller County Sheriff’s Department and several officers employed there will become county employees, as long as they meet certain training and testing requirements. Meanwhile, the town will have 24/7 coverage with four deputies, with at least one officer on duty within the city limits during the day and at 50 percent of the time during the night shift.

Last week, both the Teller County Commissioners and the Victor City Council signed off on an intergovernmental agreement that sets the stage for Victor to turn over its law enforcement duties to the Teller Sheriff’s Department. This marks an unprecedented change for the 100-plus-year-old agency that has become fodder for many colorful stories. But the intergovernmental agreement is being placed on a trial basis for the remainder of 2012. “You can’t figure out all the details,” admitted Teller County Commission Chairman Jim Ignatius, who described the agreement as an annual arrangement that could be fine tuned later. “This is not new to Colorado,” commented Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger. He said many small towns like Victor are contracting out their law enforcement operations. “I don’t think anything is overlooked,” added Ensminger, in describing the 13-page agreement, outlining the specifics of the duties of the sheriff’s office in manning the former Victor cop shop It also outlines the process for the current Victor police officers to become members of the sheriff’s department. Under this agreement, Ensminger, based on input from the Victor community, will pick a supervisor who will run the Victor law enforcement operation. That person will be one of the four main deputies responsible for conducting day-to-day law enforcement operations in Victor.

According to Ensminger, the pact is a good deal for Victor. “It saves Victor some money,” said the sheriff. “I think this is very favorable to the city of Victor. It is an exciting time for the county.” Under the agreement, Victor will pay the county approximately $107,000 for the remainder of 2012, which will cover the costs of four deputies and other additional costs. On an annual basis, the city of Victor will have to cough up nearly $260,000. But a portion of these monies will be financed through gaming grants. Several key advantages, according to Ensminger, are that Victor would be able to access other services from the county, such as animal control, special investigative capabilities and its supply of volunteers. In previous meetings, some concerns mounted regarding Victor citizens having local input and continuing the tradition of community policing.

But Victor city officials last week full-heartedly supported the agreement, referring to it as a “win-win situation.” Interim Victor Police Chief Mike Rulo, a former police chief for Green Mountain Falls and Woodland Park, who also worked with Colorado Department of Corrections, lauded the arrangement. “This is just an ideal time,” said Rulo. He believes the pact will provide Victor much more stability from a law enforcement standpoint, and generate more professional relationships between the city and the county. “It has been a real roller coaster ride,” admitted Rulo, in describing the revolving door that has existed in Victor for police chiefs and officers. The town has had difficulty retaining good officers and commanders due to limited pay and advancement potential, along with Victor’s location. In the past, many officers would start their careers in Victor and then go work for another larger agency.

This has meant that the town expends money in training for an officer who is likely to quit. As a result, the town has often found itself with a single police officer and had to rely on cooperating agreements with neighboring agencies, such as Cripple Creek, which sometimes created problems. Plus, some of their former head officers had difficulty staying out of trouble themselves, a situation that gave the town much bad publicity. For example, a former Victor cop committed a major theft at a Cripple Creek casino after he had left Victor’s employment. The administration of former Sheriff Kevin Dougherty briefly considered a plan to consolidate the Victor police force, but this proposal never progressed to the final review stage. The latest detailed proposal has been under negotiation since mid-May. Under the new arrangement, Rulo will stay on as a supervisor and ombudsman through August to help insure that the transition works well. He said the opportunity definitely exists for the current Victor police officers to be hired by the sheriff’s department. However, Rulo stated that the final call on these hiring decisions will be made by the sheriff. According to the agreement, the current Victor police officers would become members of the sheriff’s department, but would have to pass certain testing and training requirements. If they don’t, then other employees would be hired for these vacancies.