Grand County community members and local law enforcement officials discuss concerns at public forum
April 15, 2009
Grand County community members and local law enforcement officials met for an engaging discussion Tuesday evening at the Granby Public Library. The meeting was the second in the Grand County Democrats’ monthly public forums about local issues.
Three law enforcement officers attended to listen to community concerns and answer questions ” Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson, Granby Police Chief Bill Housley, and Commander Brett Schroetlin from the Fraser-Winter Park Police Department.
Concern about excessive traffic stops, especially the sense that police officers were waiting for any small opportunity to pull over and ticket drivers, fueled the most discussion. Some parents described their concerns that when their children were stopped, officers often asked them to exit their cars and asked to search their cars.
Other community members described their appreciation that officers are there to help young people understand that there are rules to follow and consequences for their actions. All attendees agreed that law enforcement officers could help by visiting high school civics classes to discuss the reasons for the laws, implications and citizens’ rights.
The officers encouraged community members to call them if they have concerns about specific situations, including traffic stops, and to call them as soon as possible so that everyone involved would have a recent memory of the situation. They noted that officers making the traffic stop should either provide a ticket, warning or a card that would show which officer was involved.
Chief Housley and Assistant Chief Schroetlin explained that officers’ actions often reflect their need to protect their own safety, especially as more members of the public are carrying guns and knives. In one case, a Granby officer approached a car whose driver had three loaded weapons. The driver had intended to shoot the officer but the officer avoided that result through his cautious approach.
When asked about their major concerns, the officers mentioned two issues. First, they noted that many of the problems they see, such as thefts, accidents and domestic abuse, are related to substance abuse problems. According to Sheriff Johnson, 80 percent to 90 percent of people in the county jail were there for problems that were in some way related to alcohol or drug use. While the officers noted that marijuana was the illegal substance with the widest use, alcohol continued to be “a bigger problem.”
Second, the officers mentioned their concern about the increase in financial crimes, such as identity theft and fraudulent credit card usage. These cases are time-consuming, difficult to prosecute, and often not resolved because suspects are from out-of-state and there is no federal system for investigation and collaboration.
When asked what we could do as community members, Chief Housley encouraged everyone to trust their intuition and to report anything that “doesn’t seem right.” He noted that they often hear that someone saw something related to an incident but didn’t call because they didn’t want to bother the police. He noted that they are here to be bothered.
Other topics discussed included the impact of the economic crisis on law enforcement budgets and staffing, Taser usage, new animal control policies, proposed state cell phone restrictions while driving, evaluating when to initiate and continue a high-speed chase, and police presence in the schools. It was evident that attendees were interested in these issues ” individual discussions with the officers continued long after the group discussion concluded after the scheduled hour and a half.
The next public forum will be on May 5 and will focus on recycling options in Grand County and how we can improve them. The Grand County Democrats host public forums on the first Tuesday of each month at the Granby Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome.
The June forum will address forest and wildlife issues and the July forum will address water issues and the Moffat firming project.
The goal is to provide a forum for discussion of local issues and to help community members stay informed and involved in the political process. For more information on these public forums or to suggest a topic, contact Gail Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-627-8347.