Berthoud police facing hostility but also tremendous support
By Dan Karpiel
The ripple effects have left no one untouched.
On May 25, George Floyd of Minneapolis, Minn. died in police custody. It was an unnecessary death. The effects of Floyd’s passing, which resulted in the arrest of officer Derek Chauvin on multiple felony charges, have been felt as far away as Berthoud.
“What one officer did, one officer in a different state, one, caused a ripple effect that hit every law enforcement office in the United States,” said James Anderson, Patrol Sergeant of the Berthoud squad of the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO).
In a discussion with the Surveyor on Tuesday morning, Sergeant Anderson outlined the effects he, his staff, the LCSO and law enforcement professionals nationwide have felt. Anderson told stories of a significant increase in residents flipping off the Berthoud Deputies when driving or walking by town hall, yelling ‘f*** the cops,’ and even calls for defunding and eliminating law enforcement altogether in town.
One member of the Berthoud squad of the LCSO, at the urging of his family, opted to retire from law enforcement after seeing the riots and anti-police sentiment that swept the nation in response to Floyd’s death. The deputy was a 17-year veteran of law enforcement. Anderson himself even opted, albeit very briefly, to park his squad car in his closed garage while at home.
“In the beginning it was rough, a lot of the derogatory stuff,” Anderson said, adding the squad “really didn’t like all the negativity.”
Not all the feedback was hostile, however. Anderson outlined multiple, productive conversations he has had with concerned citizens. Furthermore, there has a been a tremendous outpouring of support from the Berthoud community, for which Anderson said the entire Berthoud squad is enormously grateful.
“We got a lot of support … an overwhelming amount of support; we’re getting cakes and cookies and letters,” the 31-year veteran of law enforcement said with a smile. “The support we’ve been getting from the people here in Berthoud, we will go anywhere and somebody will stop us and say ‘thank you, thank you for what you do, we back you’ and that has kept our morale up.”
New Freedom Church sent every member of the Berthoud squad of the LCSO a handwritten and signed card with the Bible verse from Numbers 6:24-26.
Anderson went on to explain how the LCSO has examined their practices and procedures and make corresponding changes. The use carotid restraint, more commonly known as a “chokehold,” has been eliminated in any circumstance where anything other than lethal force – the top level of escalation, equal to the discharge of a firearm – is required.
On the question of the use of the chokehold, Anderson said, “We’re going to remove that except for when it’s a need for deadly force, ‘I’m going to do that or I’m going to die,’” he said.
Additionally, Anderson outlined at length the depth and complexity of training LCSO deputies undergo, confirming their training exceeds what is mandated by Police Officers Standards of Training (POST).
“We’re so far ahead of a lot of this stuff (required by POST). Our anti-bias training, we have that, it’s mandatory with the Sheriff’s Office. Our de-escalation training is done all the time, we have so many hours of firearms, we’re way above that, arrest control, driving, we’re way above all that,” Anderson said. “Sheriff (Justin Smith) feels accountability is his obligation.”
As reported on by the Surveyor in the July 9 issue, the LCSO has purchased and is implementing a new body camera program, the Officer Safety Plan 7+, from Axon Enterprises, Inc.
The LCSO also has what is known as the co-responder program with two members, who are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, exclusive to the Berthoud squad. These mental health professionals respond to calls alongside deputies where there is a mental health situation. These professionals are not only mental health experts but have also received specialized Critical Incident Training, or CIT.
“Money is tight but we still have it because we see importance of it, we see the need of it and it’s been so beneficial,” Anderson said of co-responder program. “When you have a mental health expert going into a situation with a person who is suicidal, they can do so much more than I can.”
Anderson said he encourages community feedback, as much as possible, and he is excited that the “coffee with a cop” program will restart this month and continue on the third Thursday of every month at 2 p.m. with help from Berthoud’s own Kofe House and Rise Bakery providing food and beverages. With COVID-19 issues still abounding, Anderson said the meetings will take place outdoors in Fickle Park so long as the weather remains conducive to holding events outdoors.
While he is grateful for the support he and the entire squad have received from the Berthoud community, Anderson admits law enforcement has endured some self-inflicted wounds. Yet he implores Berthoud residents to judge the LCSO by their interactions with the force rather than by what may occur elsewhere.
Said Anderson, “Go by what you see here, not by what happens in states far away. And if we do wrong, tell me, we’re not afraid of that, we make mistakes, we’re human. But let me fix it, if we did something wrong, I want to know about it and I want to fix it. Let us do our job, and on that note, let me do my job as the supervisor.”
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