MONTE VISTA— The City of Monte Vista hosted a public forum at the Chamber of Commerce/Information Center on Wednesday evening, Aug. 16 for two finalists being considered for the Monte Vista chief of police position.
Two candidates were interviewed by city council and the city finance director before other attendees at the meeting asked the candidates questions. Following their answers, attendees were asked to fill out comment cards and submit them to the city for their consideration. The candidates were interviewed by city staff privately earlier in the day as well, but the evening forum was their first interviews with council. Council members read questions in order of their seating from a pre-written list, occasionally asking follow-up questions.
Christopher Crown, currently the Conejos County undersheriff, discussed his background in farming before he attended the Otero Junior College Law Academy in La Junta and entered law enforcement working for Costilla County. Crown has been with Conejos County for several years and has been the undersheriff since 2013. Altogether he has 17 years of law enforcement experience, including “numerous leadership positions” and ensured Monte Vista residents he is invested in the town and if selected plans to retire from the position, stating in his introduction, “I’m here to stay.”
John Rosecrans expressed excitement at the unique setup of the public forum, stating he has never been interviewed by the public for a position before. Rosecrans was originally from Red Feather Lakes, Colo. and moved to Fort Collins. Rosecrans joined the military and served for five years, four of which he was in the Army Special Forces. Following the military, Rosecrans worked in a rifle scope manufacturing plant, where he joked he was in the minority as most of the employees there were women, which was why he joined law enforcement, to work with more men. Rosecrans has been with the Northglenn Police Department for 13 years, for the last several years he has been a commander, which he stated was an interesting position because “I got to work on fixing the problem, not just arresting the problem.” Rosecrans often stated, “I’ve always wanted to be a CEO…and build an organization.” He explained he was uniquely qualified to hold the police chief position because he has lived in a much smaller town than Monte Vista and understands both small town and city lifestyles, ensuring citizens he wouldn’t be surprised or bored to leave the city and plans on retiring from the police chief position as well if selected.
Councilor Jason Lorenz asked the candidates how they prepared to work in Monte Vista. Crown stated he has spoken with City Manager Forrest Neuerburg about concerns within the city, especially drug abuse in the community, equipment and staffing issues MVPD has had. Crown also listed some programs he would like to keep, like the K9 program and reminded citizens he is a local person who has “been here quite a while” with family in the area and is thus invested in the community.
Rosecrans talked about walking around the downtown area talking to residents to better understand their concerns with the police department and the community and asked himself questions while processing that information like “Would I enjoy being a chief here? Do I have the skill set to do something good here? Would the community be a good fit for me personally and professionally?” Rosecrans also listed some theories he has developed for improving MVPD, mainly keeping the department fully staffed, because “…just arresting bad guys doesn’t solve the problem.” That statement caused Councilor Carol Schroeder to ask the follow-up, “If arresting bad guys isn’t the answer, then what is?” Rosecrans clarified, explaining multiple arrests reduce the deterrent factor, causing criminals to not fear arrest and not fear the legal system as much as a consequence. Rosecrans added many different factors in the legal system need to come together to make broad, effective changes not just police arrests.
Schroeder asked how the candidates would work to meet the needs of MVPD. Rosecrans answered he would combine efforts to meet with all of the police officers, an effort he had already begun, with other public efforts like having coffee with people who are community resources to hear their concerns, a strategy he has used in Northglenn. He added he would look into more training opportunities and directed patrol methods.
Crown stated as undersheriff he has struggled with the demands for “more unfunded mandates for trainings” and stated he would look into as many free or cost-effective trainings as possible and would also focus on placing officers in areas of work they enjoy and excel at, like investigations or misdemeanors or instructors, adding such specialization is possible to do even in a small department.
Mayor Debbie Garcia asked the candidates what they perceived to be the biggest challenge facing MVPD. Crown answered briefly that he saw staffing as the biggest challenge, filling 15 positions and keeping staff in the city. Rosecrans agreed with Crown’s point on staffing, adding nationwide departments are short staffed but “to combat that, you have to get ahead of it.”
Councilor Matthew Martinez asked what concrete methods of measurements the candidates would use to see the outcomes of their methodology. Rosecrans answered he doesn’t believe statistics always provide a good answer and would be more reliant on the contributions of community members and how they feel about the city, the police department and their safety. Crown differed significantly, telling council he would analyze crime statistics from the areas of the city most affected by crime to maximize the proactive efforts of the police.
Councilor Joe Schlabach asked the candidates to discuss examples of community partnerships they have established which could be applied to benefit Monte Vista. Crown answered he has always been active in community policing and wants to be seen as “a working chief.” Rosecrans discussed the Northglenn community policing programs and the citizens’ academies there. He told council how he learned to keep block captains from Neighborhood Watch and similar organizations engaged as much as possible because “they really enjoy making that connection,” and keeping them involved and organized in their community can make a significant difference in community policing efforts, but can also be negative. Rosecrans explained how the influx of volunteers during the disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway was “a nightmare” because although he appreciated their eagerness to help, the disorganization created more problems.
City Finance Director Heather Hixson asked the candidates how they would manage equipment and monetary resources as chief. Both candidates agreed planning ahead for equipment was the best way to handle it. Both explained equipment being worn out and in need of replacement should be predictable when working on budgeting efforts.
Councilors asked several other questions of the candidates, including how they would lead the police department and manage the complex nature of a small department and small town, their philosophy for internal investigations, how they would stay involved with the public and what long term goals they have. Before taking citizens’ questions, council asked the candidates what makes them uniquely qualified for the position. Crown answered by stating Rio Grande County has always been part of his home and he wants to gain the trust of the community. He assured council he would remain trustworthy and true to his word. Rosecrans emphasized he wouldn’t be shocked by the lifestyle of a small town, but can also bring methods he has learned in a larger city to the department and will give back to the community where he can.
Citizens in attendance asked a variety of questions about how the candidates would operate. One asked how the candidates felt about working with other local agencies, which both praised as a vital resource, with Rosecrans joking “There’s no plagiarism in law enforcement.” Another asked candidates if they would be willing to stand up to council and the city manager to support their department when they have needs council is not providing, which both said would be done if necessary. Another citizen asked how the candidates would handle a situation where members of the community came to them repeatedly bringing up complaints about specific officers. Crown answered he would take the allegations seriously, look at whatever video footage was available, try to get written statements from citizens and would open an investigation into the allegations if necessary. Rosecrans answered he would also take the complaints seriously and gave unnamed examples of problems he has had with officers in Northglenn, where the solutions ranged from making officers take customer service courses to firings when necessary. Rosecrans emphasized the relationship with the community and the feedback they provide being vital, stating if he hears nothing it means “either everything is perfect or people are afraid,” acknowledging the former as unlikely and the latter as a significant issue.
Another citizen asked if the candidates preferred open carry or concealed carry and if they supported the second amendment rights of citizens. Rosecrans stated he supports the second amendment but prefers concealed carry over open carry because the former implies at least some training on firearms. Crown confirmed he had a similar view within rational, legal parameters, not at government buildings or schools for example and prefers concealed carry because he has dealt with open carry issues where citizens are concerned about others walking around with guns in public and the situation sometimes causes undue panic.
A citizen asked the candidates how they would stay working on cold cases and if they would keep victims informed of their progress in open or cold case investigations. Rosecrans emphasized working with CBI as an important step and always taking the time to review cold cases, because sometimes a new set of eyes can make a significant difference in seeing evidence or leads previously missed. He explained he would be willing to answer victims’ questions when asked and discussed the importance of staying engaged with the victims and being willing to use new technologies to look at evidence. Crown agreed with Rosecrans’ points, adding he is always willing to look at cold cases to solve or close them.
A different citizen asked the candidates how they would handle multiple complaints of a home where multiple community members are complaining of drug activity, “What do you do to tell the perpetrator that you’re aware of them and get them out of there?” Crown stated “Citizens are our eyes and ears out there,” and he would try to get as much evidence as possible and encourage citizens to come in and report that activity. Rosecrans stated he believes in using “selective enforcement” when it would be effective, describing hypothetical scenarios like “heavy code enforcement policing, shutting off their water if they’re a day late…anything to affect them negatively.” “I love hunting bad guys,” he stated, but added those methods are time and resource consuming and sometimes just result in displacement of the criminal, but in some cases that is the best thing for the community, joking “Sorry if you live in Alamosa.”
Following an executive session on Thursday evening to discuss the candidates, city council announced they have selected Rosecrans to be the new chief of police. Rosecrans’ anticipated start date will be in the next few weeks, following customary testing.