Concerns Mount Over More Serious Crimes In Woodland Park

WP Chief Hosts Second Community Engagement Meeting

Trevor Phipps

Ever since the city of Woodland Park hired a new police chief earlier this year, times have changed  in town with the new top local cop promising the community more transparency.

This has resulted in more local forums and community gatherings, but growing concerns over the seriousness of crime activity in “The City  Above the Clouds.”

When head Chief Chris Deisler took the reins of the agency, it is fair to say that the department was in shambles after being riddled with multiple workplace misconduct allegations dealing with the former police chief and commanders. Since Deisler took charge last March, he has put much work into revamping the workplace culture within the police department.

He has also worked towards better informing the community about the crimes taking place and what the officers do on a day to day basis. As a part of his initiative to connect better with the community, Deisler decided to start holding monthly community engagement forums to hear directly from local residents.

During the second engagement meeting last Wednesday, Deisler made a comment that more people in the community were recently shocked over the seriousness of the crimes that have occurred in the small town. “They were happening before, but you just weren’t hearing about it,” Deisler explained.

In fact, he is probably the first local law enforcement leader to seriously highlight the impacts of the deadly narcotic fentanyl on a local level

Ever since Deisler took over as head police skipper he has definitely made it a point to send out press releases and pictures of the suspects that the department has arrested. He said that he plans to continue to issue press releases to local news sources and the police’s social media pages. He also said that he will soon be sending weekly police reports out to the local newspapers.

The police chief started the meeting talking about the rise in cases of the illegal narcotic fentanyl. He said that through his experience dealing with the drug in Florida, he believes that he can help prepare the department for future incidents surrounding the drug. Deisler has already purchased respirators for his officers when they deal with fentanyl cases and he said that all of the patrol officers carry the overdose treatment drug Narcan with them at all times.

Details Outlined Over Victim Advocate Program

The chief then gave the floor to his guest speaker, Teller County Victim Advocate Program Director Erika Omdahl. Omdahl started by explaining how the victim’s advocate program works and the history of how it got started.

She said that former President Ronald Reagan started the victim’s advocate initiative after finding out that the government lacked support for the victims of crimes. The county’s victim’s advocate program is now funded through a variety of grants.

Omdahl explained that the victim’s advocates are on call 24 hours a day and seven days a week and that their jobs entail giving direct support to victims of a variety of crimes. The office works with victims of all ages and they conduct services for them like relocating the victims and bringing them to a place where they are safe from the assailant.

She said that even though the office consistently works on crimes like assault, domestic violence and child abuse, they do handle victims of more high profile cases. She said that the victim’s advocates worked closely with the victim’s family in the Kelsey Berreth homicide case a few years ago.

She also said that the office deals with crimes that many do not know take place within the county such as human trafficking. The victim’s advocate office will also aid in cases of suicide and unintended deaths.

During her speech, Omdahl talked about the large number of services the advocate program offers and how they are currently being completely ran by her and only two other victim advocates. Omdahl works full time and then she has one part time victim’s advocate and one volunteer.

She said that the office desperately needs volunteers so that they can keep providing services for victims. She said that in order to volunteer for the program people must have not been a victim before, be old enough to drive, and be able to pass a criminal background check.

After Omdahl’s presentation, the chief went around the room and gave everyone a chance to ask questions. Debbie Miller, the president of the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, asked a number of questions she had heard from the public, dealing with the touchy situation with short-term rental properties.

Miller told the chief that people said they were worried to call the police on a neighboring house that had people in it that were being loud in the middle of the night. She said the people didn’t want to call the police in fear of bothering them and keeping them from attending to more serious crimes.

The chief said that the public should never be afraid to call the police and that they can always offer some sort of assistance. “I would rather show up and see nothing illegal happening and tell some people to keep down the noise then to find a 13 year old unconscious in the house with a needle sticking out of their arm,” Deisler said.