One year since deputies began Berthoud patrols
By John Gardner
April 30 marked the one-year anniversary of the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office taking over law enforcement operations for the Town of Berthoud, after a scandal left the town’s police department in shambles.
The decision to contract services with the sheriff’s office wasn’t an easy one and was met with fierce opposition from many vocal residents that feared the sheriff’s office wouldn’t be able to provide the level of service they expected. But, according to Berthoud Squad Sergeant Jim Anderson, they’ve proved detractors wrong, and the first year has been successful for the deputies and the community.
“We started a new relationship,” Anderson told town trustees at Tuesday’s meeting. “A new partnership was born, but the sheriff’s office didn’t come in to take over, we came in to be a part of the town.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Jan Dowker recalled the difficulty of the decision to dissolve the police department and contract services with the sheriff’s office, expressing gratitude with the Berthoud squad’s performance in its inaugural year.
“It was an emotional time and it wasn’t an easy decision,” Dowker said. “There was a lot of conversation back-and-forth on the concerns raised in the community and the sheriff’s office, and the sheriff took it in-house and really delivered so much more than we could have expected so quickly.”
Town Administrator Mike Hart, who found himself at the center of the controversy that resulted in the dissolution of the town’s police department, said he is extremely pleased with the outcome of the trustees’ decision.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank [Anderson] for being here,” Hart said.
Anderson presented trustees with statistics about patrols, call volumes and circumstance, and services provided during the first year of a two-year contract with the town.
Some of the main concerns regarding the sheriff’s office serving the town by citizens prior to them coming on included hours of coverage, the need for a school resource officer, the deputies’ integration into town, and having an officer for animal control. All of those concerns seem to have been addressed. According to a report issued to trustees by Anderson, the sheriff’s office was contracted to provide 684 service hours per month for the town of Berthoud. From April 30, 2014, through April 30, 2015, the Berthoud squad recorded an average of 850 hours of coverage per month. Additionally, other deputies that aren’t assigned to the Berthoud squad, but still responded to calls or patrolled in Berthoud, contributed on average 147 additional hours of service for the same time period.
“We’re not just providing the 684 hours, we’re going well above that,” Anderson said.
Anderson also expanded the roll of the school resource officer to include routine patrols at the elementary schools and Turner Middle School, in addition to Berthoud High School.
“We’ve jumped in to that and expanded coverage,” Anderson said. “The guys really enjoy stopping in at the schools.”
Dowker was impressed with the expanded coverage, especially at the elementary schools.
“It’s building relationships with the younger ones and starts that foundation when they need it, so that they always have someone they can look to and trust,” Dowker said.
But Anderson also included conflict resolutions such as the removal of the infamous tire pile that occupied the vacant lot near Bennett’s Tackle Shop, which the sheriff’s office helped in facilitating the removal of. And the demolition of a structure known as “the shack,” located at 955 Third St., that has also been removed.
“It was just dangerous,” Anderson said of the shack. It was apparently frequented by local children and also posed a fire hazard as well, which is why it needed to be removed, Anderson said.
Currently, the sheriff’s office is also working with the town and the fire district to update the town’s Emergency Response Plan; a project Hart values.
“Our plan was pretty dusty and hadn’t been updated in years,” Hart said.
The town had budgeted funds to update the plan this year but, according to Hart, Anderson stepped up and took on the project himself.
“These guys picked up that slack and said, ‘we’ve got resources at the county,’ so we didn’t have to expend our money to do that,” Hart said.
After the presentation, Trustee Michael Henning expressed his gratitude for the deputies’ service.
“I think you guys have done a great job, and it’s a testament to the cooperation between, not only the guys stationed here and the county, but the town staff,” Henning said.
As well, Trustee Chris Buckridge echoed Henning’s sentiments.
“I wasn’t [a trustee] when these decisions had to be made, but those of you who were, it was a very tough decision and you made the right one; it is very obvious,” Buckridge said.
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