Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Springs police chief retiring in November at mayor's request

RYAN MAYE HANDY, DANIEL CHACON and MARIA ST.LOUIS-SANCHEZ Updated: October 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

Forced out by Mayor Steve Bach's desire to "change direction," Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers said Monday he has agreed to retire in mid-November.

“When Mayor Bach was elected, I told him I was here to serve, and would do so loyally and do my best to lead the department in the direction he wanted to take the City, until such time that he felt he needed to bring in his own chief," Myers said in a statement released by the city. "Recently, he informed me he is ready to make a change in direction, and he is continuing to methodically create his own management team. 

"Consequently, I have agreed to make room for this to happen by retiring from the CSPD. I have been positioning the PD to make the changes sought by the mayor, and have every confidence that the men and women of the Department are well prepared to implement those changes. “

The city's statement did not say if Myers will receive a cash settlement or other benefits.

The handling of Myers' departure rankled some City Council members, who said they had not been kept in the loop by Bach, the city's first strong mayor.

“I have to tell you how disappointed I am that this apparently has been in the works for a week, and all I’ve ever heard about this from anybody is within the news media, so clearly you guys are my better sources right now in my own government, my own government that I thought I had a part in,” council President Scott Hente said.

Pete Tomitsch, president of the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association, praised Myers for fostering a better relationship with the rank and file than his predecessor, Luis Velez.

“These are very unstable times throughout the city and to lose a chief at this time is unnerving to a lot of officers,” he said. "Five years ago there was no trust, it was confrontational between the chief and officers. He re-established trust and credibility and seemed to want to do things for the right reason.” 

He said he hopes the city’s next chief has many of the same qualities that Myers had, a sentiment echoed by Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin.

"Chief Myers has a wonderful reputation, not only throughout the city but throughout the ranks," she said. "It’s not always easy for a police chief to have everyone on board supporting him, and he just did a wonderful job providing leadership to our police force."

Myers, 57, took over as police chief in January, 2007, replacing Velez, who had been driven from the job by a scandal involving evidence being tossed or lost.

Myers came from Appleton, Wis., where he had headed up a much smaller police force serving a city about a fifth of the size of Colorado Springs.

Rumors have been swirling since Bach took office and replaced several top officials that Myers' head was on the block.

The past year has been a difficult one for the department: two officers have been arrested, one for molesting children, and an undercover sting at a local Hooters restaurant has come under withering criticism.

The Hooters sting, which is being investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, may have been the final straw that led to Myers' or Bach's decision. Prosecutors decided to dismiss the case because a video failed to support officers' claim that a waitress had served an intoxicated patron.

Myers' 4½ years as police chief has been marked by constant controversy, beginning with his selection over several candidates from within the department amid questions about his ability to lead a larger city's police department.

Myers dismissed the doubters, noting before he was chief in Appleton he had been a patrol officer in a neighborhood in Detroit, a city notorious for its crime.

When he took over, the Police Department was still reeling from the deaths of the two officers who had been shot and killed on the job and the fallout from the evidence scandal.

Damage control began almost immediately with the St. Patrick's Day parade in March 2007, during which officers arrested peace protesters after the organizer withdrew its permission to participate.

Homicides also jumped during Myers’ first year, tying the record of 28 set in the early 1990s. To attack the violence, Myers cannibalized patrol to create a new unit in August 2007 to go after gangs and weapons on the street.

In its first three months, COMMIT, as the unit was known, seemed to have a big impact, announcing it had seized 90 weapons, $3 million worth of drugs, and made 142 arrests.

But the recession, which has lingered since 2008, forced the city to cut budgets and has shrunk the police force through attrition and retirements. With $4 million less to work with and fewer officers, Myers made the decision to concentrate on violent crime.

Property crimes, such as burglaries, car break-ins and thefts and vandalism got short shrift. Officers no longer came out to take reports, which victims had to file online.

Crime rates, except for sexual assaults, have not risen during Myers' time as chief, but the  past nine months have been a public relations disaster for the Police Department.

Homicides, including the deaths of five young children, are approaching a record. Former School Resource Officer Josh Carrier was arrested for allegedly molesting children at Mann Middle School. Another officer, Sydney Huffman, is facing charges for allegedly making false accusations against an ex-boyfriend, who also was a cop.

Throughout all that, and the Hooters sting, Myers has maintained that the problems are not systemic and that the department is doing a good job of policing its own.

Myers rarely makes public appearances but posts a weekly blog on the Police Department's Facebook page.

In it, Myers has defended the department against claims that officers are lazy or not doing enough to solve crimes.

Responding to a Gazette article that noted the Labor Day holiday weekend had been relatively quiet, Myers took exception to the inference that officers had taken a holiday, even if crime had.

"The men and women who serve with CSPD, however, did not simply kick back with their feet up on the desk over this time period," he wrote in his blog, "From the Chief." "In fact, police departments invest most of their work in providing service, not just responding to crimes in progress.

"Our delivery of service goes on regardless of holidays, nights, weekends, and relatively quieter periods of crime reports."

Myers has also taken the media to task in his blog for not "spreading the good news" about the Police Department.

"Whenever a suggestion is made ... that we get more assertive in releasing the overwhelming good news stories of daily outstanding work that our folks are doing, our public information staff is quick to point out this reality: we can release all we want, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to make print or airtime," Myers wrote on Aug. 30.

 

 

 

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