Englewood Police talk policing at virtual town hall

The town hall was hosted as Englewood continues to review its police department

Joseph Rios
jrios@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/24/20

Training, hiring issues, use of force, homelessness and more were topics of discussion at a July 22 virtual town hall held by Englewood Police. The meeting was hosted as Englewood continues to review …

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Englewood Police talk policing at virtual town hall

The town hall was hosted as Englewood continues to review its police department

Posted

Training, hiring issues, use of force, homelessness and more were topics of discussion at a July 22 virtual town hall held by Englewood Police.

The meeting was hosted as Englewood continues to review its police practices, training and expectations in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May. Residents participated in the town hall by calling in and asking questions of police officers.

Here are some of the topics Englewood Police discussed with the community at the virtual town hall.

Training tactics

Englewood officers undergo 400 hours of basic academy classes, said Chad Read, a sergeant for the department.

As required by the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training, every year, each officer must complete 24 hours of additional training. At least 12 hours of that training must revolve around "perishable" skills like arrest control, driving and firearms, he said.

“We take this very seriously. Many years we are doubling, tripling and quadrupling those numbers when officers are receiving anywhere upwards of 100 hours of training annually,” said Read.

That training could be in a skill set to enhance an officer's ability and knowledge based on a current assignment or it can be centered around perishable skills.

Englewood Police also receive crisis intervention training in which officers interact through different scenarios on how to deal with a mental health crisis. Officers also receive training to better work with those who have disabilities.

Issues with hiring

Englewood Police Chief John Collins said at the town hall that the department has 78 sworn officers. He said he takes the hiring process seriously and plays an active role in it.

“If a candidate lives in Walsenburg or the far reaches of the state, my team will go out there and interview their neighbors, family and friends to make sure we dot the I's and cross the T's, because that's how important it is to me,” said Collins.

He said he would never hire someone just to fill a spot even though he admitted it is difficult to hire officers nowadays. Collins said years ago, the department would've had 150 applicants for two or three positions.

“Now what we have are maybe 10 (applicants) and three that are qualified. Then, they've got to meet my expectations,” he said.

“The pool for qualified individuals is so bad, probably throughout the country. I hate to call it slim pickings, but that is exactly what it is,” Collins added. “As an executive officer, you still have to be patient and find that compassionate person to do the job.”

Use of force

Read said Englewood Police officers are required to report and document any instances of use of force. Those reports are then reviewed and signed off by an on-duty supervisor, a patrol commander and Collins before they are sent to be reviewed by the Englewood Incident Review Committee — a group of different employees in the department that meet every four to six weeks, depending on how many reports there are to review.

Englewood Police are required to issue a warning prior to discharging a weapon, Read said. Officers are not allowed to discharge a firearm at a fleeing felon unless that individual poses an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death to a civilian or police officer.

In May, Denver Police used chemicals to control protests against police violence. Sam Watson, deputy chief for Englewood Police, said the department has used chemicals in isolated incidents like hostage situations but has not used them on a crowd during his time with the department.

“We are guided by our mission, vision and values that speak to customer service and providing the best law enforcement services possible to our community,” said Watson.

Working to solve homelessness

Collins said he looks at homelessness from a very simple perspective when asked by a caller about how the department deals with homeless people who act aggressive.

“There are folks who are experiencing homelessness who are seeking to get out and then there are folks who are (chronically homeless),” he said.

The department developed a zone policing program that was originally working in downtown Englewood to deal with homelessness in the area, he said. Englewood Police partnered with businesses to address homeless issues, Collins added, and said his biggest fear was losing business in town.

“Now we've moved (the homeless) further south, because some of those folks are becoming too aggressive,” he said.

Collins asked the community to let police know about homeless people who are acting aggressively toward other residents.

Englewood Police is part of Change The Trend, a network of organizations working to mobilize and equip Englewood, Littleton and Sheridan to constructively engage the issue of homelessness. Last summer, when Englewood Police cleared out around 45 homeless camps along the South Platte River, Change The Trend provided information about food, shelter and medical care to the homeless.

The city also works with the Tri-Cities Homelessness Policy group, a team of public officials that includes Englewood Mayor Linda Olson that works to address homelessness in Englewood, Littleton and Sheridan.

“When we talk about alternative policing programs, our response to the homelessness issue is extremely important to us. We have taken this on,” said Watson. “It has fallen in some ways initially on the lap of law enforcement although through Change The Trend and (the Tri-Cities Homelessness Policy group), we are able to bring in other services and assistance.”

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