Police Chief Announces Retirement
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
Forget the image of Mayberry R.F.D. and a small-time cop shop for the city of Cripple Creek.
That was one theme emphasized last week during a report presented by Cripple Creek Police Sergeant Charles Bright and by Dispatch Supervisor Diann Pritchard before the city council. In fact, the agency is booming with activity.
According to Bright, the department handled at least 1,217 cases in 2019. Out of these, a good majority consisted of parking, animal at large, alarm checks, and such.
But Bright reported that the agency had 285 cases submitted to the District Attorney’s Office, with 89 resulting in possible felony convictions, while 110 dealt with misdemeanors. He also said the agency has gotten involved with the new county-wide anti-drug unit. This netted several major busts for illegal marijuana operations, according to Bright.
Plus, the agency played a big role in busting an identity theft ring, involving more than 150 households of stolen mail. None of these involved mail items stolen from Cripple Creek residences, according to Bright. But identity theft has become a growing concern in the gaming community.
He also said the department was aggressively pursuing certain grants.
And from a dispatch scenario, the agency couldn’t get any busier, according to Pritchard, who has been with the agency for close to 25 years. “Technologically, we have been growing.” She quipped that the dispatch center two decades ago may have only contained a few computers.
That’s not the case anymore with the town sporting one of the most advanced 911 systems for a town of its size. In fact, Cripple Creek is one of the smallest towns in the country to be designated as a full-fledged emergency/medical dispatch center. Pritchard said that in 2019, it handled 17,000 calls for service.
But still, she admitted they still are in need of more grant money and have some problems, such as calls getting inadvertently shifted over to the Teller County Sheriff’s Department.
Councilmember Melissa Trenary questioned the problems they are encountering with response times. She cited a personal experience she and her husband had. “It was a scary situation,” said Trenary, who questioned the late response time.
Pritchard said they would look into that particular situation, and again, mentioned problems they have encountered with calls getting shifted over to the 911 system at the Teller County Sheriff’s Department.
Police Chief Stepping Down
The agency also may soon lose their head leader, Chief Mike Rulo, who has spearheaded the department for a number of years. He helped improve agency morale and develop better training and procedures. Prior to Rulo’s selection as chief, the agency was losing many officers.
According to Mayor Milford Ashworth, Rulo submitted a letter announcing his retirement sometime in April. Rulo is regarded as one of the most qualified police chiefs the city has ever had. He served previously as the head commander and police chief for Woodland Park and worked with the Colorado Department of Corrections under the leadership of John Suthers at the time.
The council met last week behind closed doors to discuss how it plans to fill the position. Some of the choices involved include selecting an interim chief, picking someone from the current ranks, or embarking on a major national search.
Ashworth stressed that the council is reviewing its options.
More details regarding the chief situation will be announced in forthcoming weeks.
A Plug for More Housing
In other action, the council last week approved a contested variance for a new proposed single-family residential property, which would contain a zero-foot setback. The plan was proposed by John Gatlin, who said he wants to become part of the current building boom.
This plan generated some opposition from neighboring residents, Curtis and Peggy Sorenson. They argued that it would set a bad precedent, and that setbacks are good safety measures.
But the council noted that if it wants to open the door for more housing opportunities, it needs to make adjustments. The plan was approved by Community Development Director Bill Gray, who concluded that the proposal would add a new high quality, housing unit to the community. The proposal, according to Gray, also fulfills a new goal: Open the door for building residential homes on smaller lots.
The council agreed with Gray. “If we need to encourage housing in the community, we need to try to promote this as much as possible,” said Mayor Pro Tem Tom Litherland. “They made the best intent to meet local requirements,” added Councilman Charles Solomone.
City officials also last week tried to drum up support for the forthcoming national census, which will occur on April 1. Gray stressed the importance of citizens completing this online, as serious federal dollars are at stake. The census process has always been a challenge for rural areas.
Several census completion parties will be held at the Aspen Mine Center, according to executive director Ted Borden. These have been tentatively planned for March 25 and April 8.
The main goal is to get people to complete the census online to avoid census workers knocking on doors in local neighborhoods.