Vince Niski, nominated to be the next Colorado Springs police chief, stressed Monday that he is different from predecessor Pete Carey, but he plans to move the department forward in many of the same ways.
Niski said he will keep strengthening relationships with other city departments, described as a cornerstone of Carey’s career. He will continue to work to increase traffic safety after a record-setting 48 traffic deaths last year, and he will stress honor as a key pillar of the department.
“I think I know the community,” Niski told The Gazette. “I’ve seen it grow. I’ve seen it go through good and bad.”
The 30-year department veteran said Colorado Springs is his hometown. He has lived here since 1970, when his father was stationed at Ent Air Force Base, which later became the site of the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
He joined the police department in 1989 during a lull in his father’s construction business and has served in the patrol, traffic and Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence divisions.
He was deputy chief to Carey over the past seven years, along with Mark Smith. And he has been interim chief since Carey retired Feb. 1 to become El Paso County undersheriff.
“I have had the good fortune of spending my entire career with CSPD, and I couldn’t be more proud to lead this dedicated group of professionals,” Niski said.
Mayor John Suthers chose Niski after a national search drummed up 64 applicants, later narrowed to five finalists, three of whom were external candidates. But Suthers said he “didn’t find anything, like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s what we need in Colorado Springs.’”
Carey left the department in good standing, Suthers said, and Niski’s institutional knowledge, integrity and proven leadership will continue to move the force forward.
“We don’t need any radical changes in direction,” the mayor said.
Niski’s official appointment is pending confirmation by the City Council, but a majority of council members say they expect he’ll be approved unanimously.
Five of the nine council members told The Gazette they support Niski’s appointment and are likely to vote for him.
Councilman Andy Pico said he was pleased with the pick, and Councilman Tom Strand described Niski as a “super guy” who will “do a terrific job.”
Councilman David Geislinger agreed that the department is on track, as confirmed by a recent survey that showed residents were generally satisfied with the department’s performance. Geislinger said he expects Niski will continue that momentum.
Council President Richard Skorman praised Niski as “a known entity who has the experience to hit the ground running.”
Only Councilman Bill Murray hesitated, saying he would approve of Niski as chief “only if he delivers on 51 new officers this year” and is more “performance oriented.”
Suthers has pledged to hire 120 officers by 2020 to offset the critical staffing shortage on the force, and the mayor and Niski both said they’re committed to that pledge.
The department has been running maximum-capacity training academies to fill vacancies and increase ranks, but Niski said he won’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
Niski said he lives in the Springs with his wife of 39 years and one of their sons, who has special needs. Their other son is also local; their daughter lives in Omaha, Neb.
Contact the writer at 719-636-0362 or find her on Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin.