EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a five-part, weekly series in December looking back at the accomplishments of the City of Montrose in 2021 and looking at what is on the horizon in 2022.
Part 4: Public Safety By William Woody City of Montrose
MONTROSE — The public safety transformation currently underway in Montrose is the largest in generations, as commanders with the Montrose Police Department, MPD, implement a new direction in community policing. This new direction integrates new technologies that will allow officers to prioritize their time to focus on major investigations.
The past 12 months have been busy and transformative for the department and its command staff.
The COVID pandemic forced officers to work remotely while major investigations and many high-profile arrests kept everyone from patrol officers to detectives on their toes around the clock. Adding to these workplace challenges, officers in the department sustained core functions while the new headquarters of the department was literally being built around them.
“Honestly, I think COVID made us better,” Montrose Police Commander Tim Cox said.
Each shift of patrol officers, along with supervisors and detectives, had to adapt to working remotely while overcoming gaps in department personnel inflicted by COVID quarantine protocols.
As a result, Cox said, officers found better ways to communicate that made the department come together in a more productive, cohesive manner.
“And I think community support was huge too,” Cox said. “A lot of communities are defunding police and our community supports us heavily and shows it almost weekly.”
(Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall addresses the audience during a 20-year memorial of the attacks on 9/11 on the steps of the Montrose County Courthouse September 11, 2021)
Progress toward enhanced public safety began to take shape in 2018 when a group of concerned citizens representing Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers brought data to the City Council that they believed supported their conclusion that police services in the city were greatly understaffed and underfunded.
A year later, in November 2019, the Montrose community approved a 0.58% Public Safety Sales Tax (PSST) and the MPD immediately began moving to implement each commitment outlined in the ballot measure. These include Intelligence-Led Policing, or ILP, hiring of new personnel to meet the increasing demands placed on the department, and construction of the new Public Safety Complex (PSC).
Elements of ILP have been made better with the introduction of the department’s new, online reporting tool for public use in reporting minor incidents. This tool went online earlier this summer and has already had an impact on the department, according to Commander Matt Smith.
This web-based reporting system, called the Desk Officer Online Reporting System (DORS), allows the public to file certain incident types over the Internet at the users' convenience.
Incident types include minor theft, fraud, vehicle trespass, lost property, hit and run, minor private property crashes, vandalism, and others.
The newly created tool can be found here or by simply visiting the City of Montrose's website at www.CityofMontrose.org/Police.
The whole point of the tool was to give the public the option of filing reports online while empowering officers to prioritize their time to focus on urgent calls for public safety service.
In 2021, the department saw an uptick in the volume of major investigations along with high-profile arrests related to drug distribution.
"The number of resource-intensive incidents feels like it’s just increased this year," Smith said. "These cases take a lot of time to investigate and complete."
The online reporting tool has also given the public a better tool to interact with the department through the comfort of a computer or phone rather than showing up in person to the department, which is basically a construction zone.
Smith said the department has been busy recruiting new officers to its ranks through a variety of methods.
In November the department held a local recruitment event to spark interest in the Montrose area. In March 2022, the department will hold a similar event, according to Smith.
“Recruitment, and the way we go about it, has changed to adjust to the hiring landscape we’re in now," Smith said. "We want to get people here locally interested in policing."
Smith said the department hired four new officers in 2021 to backfill a number of recent departures.
In May 2022, Montrose will host the Western Colorado Law Enforcement Academy, a program that is the result of collaboration between Colorado Mesa University, the Montrose County Sheriff's Office. and the Montrose Police Department, according to Smith.
From this academy, the Montrose Police Department hopes to add more officers to keep pace with the policing needs of the Montrose community.
Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall said one of the things he’s most proud of in 2021 is the work done by the Drug Task Force and the partnership the department has with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Montrose County Sheriff’s Office and the Seventh Judicial District’s DA’s Office.
“That partnership has resulted in 24 federal indictments of drug dealers who I will most likely never see again in my career due to lengthy prison sentences,” Hall said.
On top of this, Hall said the entire department staff, from patrol to the detective division, has worked together to respond to and investigate a number of major incidents that have resulted in successful prosecutions in 2021.
Another good example of community partnerships that are key to the department’s success is the creation of Student Threat Assessment Teams.
Hall said these teams bring school officials and law enforcement agencies together to share critical information, mitigate potential threats, and protect vulnerable populations. It is a mechanism the department has implemented as a proactive way to recognize threats and address them before an incident can occur.
The Rock Of Public Safety in Downtown
The new Montrose Public Safety Complex, MPSC, currently under construction on South First Street in downtown Montrose, will become the largest building on the city’s municipal campus.
In March the City Council officially authorized $16,212,884 for the construction of the MPSC. The project is funded by the Public Safety Fund, fueled by certificates of participation that were issued for the project, City of Montrose Public Safety Sales Tax, and transfers from General Fund operations.
Building a project of this size during the COVID pandemic hasn’t been without its challenges. Supply shortages brought on by the worldwide pandemic forced the redesign of portions of the building’s roof, according to Public Works Manager Jim Scheid.
“Because of (material) availability and pricing issues, we had to change roof types to an equally good rubber membrane, but that was what we could get,” Scheid said.
Designs of the MPSC include modern technology that will allow officers to sync their body-worn and in-car equipment with the building's digital infrastructure for evidence retention and storage.
“I think it (the MSPC) brings up our level of professionalism and community visibility. It puts us on the map as a higher-level police organization,” Hall said. “And those are things that are going to make us better as an organization.”
The Montrose Police Department can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and online at www.MontrosePD.com.
Coming next week:
Part five of our five-part series looking at what’s coming in 2022.