MEEKER I The town council hall was filled to capacity April 18, as Lisa Cook, town clerk, administered the oath of office to new Chief of Police Phil Stubblefield.
“Do you Phillip Stubblefield solemnly swear by the ever-loving God to support the Constitution of the United States and the State of Colorado and faithfully perform the duties of the office of Chief of Police upon which you are about to enter, that you will honorably protect and serve the citizens of Meeker, Colo., to the best of your abilities?” Cook asked.
With Stubblefield’s response, “Yes, I do,” there was a hearty round of applause from all present in support of the new leadership that follows the successes of former chief, Bob Hervey.
In a few words of his own, Stubblefield thanked everyone for coming. “It’s a great honor to have this position, and I am even more honored that all of you could come and be here with me. Thank you.”
Stubblefield also introduced two new officers who are joining the ranks of Meeker law enforcement—Eddie Thompson and Matt Spangler—and also announced the soon retirement of longtime officer Mike Washburn.
With a long and distinguished career in law enforcement spanning more than 35 years, not only in Meeker but elsewhere, Phil Stubblefield reached one of the zeniths in that field on Tuesday, April 18: Chief of Police.
Starting out as an electrician, first working for his father, an electrical contractor, and then in the mines, Stubblefield entered law enforcement as a deputy for the Emery County Sheriff in Utah, serving there from 1980 to 1984.
While receiving basic on-the-job training there, he attended the police academy about 10 months later. A few months after that, he was promoted to the position of detective.
On Sept. 17, 1984, Stubblefield came to Meeker, working as a patrolman for about a year under Chief Bill Elder and then Si Woodruff. He became a lieutenant in 1985.
Stubblefield has been dedicated to his field not only vocationally but academically. He earned a Criminal Justice degree from Colorado Northwest Community College and went on to get his certification as a vocational instructor. He has taught college and Police academy courses during a 20 year period.
He has also taken courses in business, business law, human resources and others, as well as earning several certifications: investigations and incident command, management, supervision and emergency management.
In 1995, Stubblefield ran for Rio Blanco County Sheriff and served two terms. He also served as the Public Information Officer (PIO) during this time. Typically, a PIO is a communication coordinator or spokesperson of a governmental agency who provides information to the media and the public.
Stubblefield left Meeker from 2004–2006, when he was the liaison between the Grand County Airport and the TSA. He oversaw the no-fly list, did background checks and performed other security duties.
Former Meeker District Attorney Jim Wilson telephoned Stubblefield in 2006 and asked if he would like to be the chief investigator for the DA’s office in Cortez.
As Stubblefield put it, and as others have observed, Cortez is notorious as still being “the old wild west.”
“We had a lot of aggravated assaults, and in one year we had three homicides,” he said.
After three years in Cortez, Stubblefield returned to Meeker. “Bob (Hervey) was looking for a lieutenant,” he said. “I talked to him once and was going to do it but then decided not to because I hated to leave my boss (in Cortez). But a month or two later I saw the advertisement and decided I would come back because I liked the stuff I was doing before.”
The “stuff” he referred to was not just usual policing duties, but programs aimed at community relationships. One such program was Officer Friendly, which involved him going to the schools and doing a safety program associated with each grade.
It’s actually such programs that give Stubblefield the most satisfaction in his job. He is passionate about the police department’s community and school involvement. He abhors the “us against them” attitude that sometimes exists between law enforcement and the community. Just a few of the programs he has founded include the elk bugling contest, bicycle rodeo, Stranger Danger and Eddie Eagle gun safety.
He also voiced concerns that these programs will continue now that he is chief. “It might be hard for me as chief to have the time to do all those, so I would like to get one of the officers who enjoys such involvement to fill in that spot,” he said. “After all, in a few years, it might be time for me to retire.”
He also has other ideas for programs he would like to implement. One he has been pondering is the Western Slope Fallen Officers Program, which would involve an ATV ride to benefit such families. “A certain section or miles of the ride would be named for a particular fallen officer,” he said.
Stubblefield’s other accomplishments should boost our community’s confidence in his leadership. He has solved complex crimes including homicides, received a governor’s appointment to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, attained state accreditation for Sheriff’s Office Operations and taught livestock theft investigation to county sheriffs throughout Colorado.
Especially noteworthy, he founded and trademarked the Ranch Watch Program, which is designed to prevent criminal activities in rural and ranching communities. Founded while he was sheriff here, it is now being used in counties across Colorado.
Stubblefield is conservative in his management style and budgeting. Instead of a new patrol car once a year, for example, that will probably extend to two years. After all, he pointed out, a new car costing $35,000 is still not ready for law enforcement use until another $10,000 is spent outfitting it.
“We have not been wasting money, but I will look a little harder at other things we might be able to do,” he said.
He is also pleased that budgets have not interfered with what officers need for efficiency and safety. All officers have had a body camera, for example, for a couple of years. They even have tactical equipment and the training to use it just in case the day comes when it’s needed.
Stubblefield also shared a request he wants to make of the community. While he’s not soliciting frivolous complaints—body cameras often expose those—he does want to know if there is a significant issue with an officer.
“What’s frustrating is that people complain through the grapevine but won’t come forward,” he said. “But if people are serious about something that is going on, instead of sharing it with other people, they should come into my office and let me know because I can’t do anything based on rumors.”
Phil Stubblefield learned early on to be a down-to-earth police officer. “I have always said that law enforcement is 90 percent common sense,” he said. With his characteristic soft laugh, he then added, “The other 10 percent is knowing the job and calling a supervisor to make sure you’re doing it right.”
Well, he’s now the supervisor.