Rangely council talks police complaints, predator control

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RANGELY | Tuesday the Rangely Town Council held a work session focused on the Rangely Police Department’s (RPD) process of handling complaints following by a regular meeting.

The work session began by reviewing the new Community Outreach Program the town and RPD are putting together. The program includes classes focused on topics such as officer and individual rights, use of force and patrol procedures and officer ride alongs. Attendees are welcome to attend as many of the meetings as possible, culminating in a graduation ceremony at the town council meeting. Applications to participate are available at Town Hall or on the RPD’s website. Police Chief Wilczek expressed excitement about the program.

The RPD is updating their comment and complaint process. The form will now be available in both English and Spanish and on the website. The process, which is still in draft, follows a new track. When a complaint is filed it will first go to the lieutenant who will investigate every complaint, which will then be reviewed by the chief and the town manager who will monitor the process. The complaints will be sealed from the officers involved and the complainant will be contacted by the department for resolution within 15 days. Complaints can be filed with the police department or the town manager.

The council discussed the possibility of complaints deemed “founded” or that lead to a written reprimand being placed in an officer’s personnel file.

Councilman Andy Key was pleased that the language on the draft complaint form has been toned down from scaring complainants away.

The department is updating their entire policy manual. Councilman Andy Shaffer encouraged the department to consider using LexiPol, a policy management company currently used by a variety of local municipal entities, who would provide updated policies aligned with state regulations and training emails for employees. Shaffer believed it would simplify and speed up the process. Chief Wilczek was concerned the policies would not be personalized enough. He expects the full policy manual to be updated in the next few months. Mayor Ann Brady suggested that the chief and town manager set a firm deadline for policy completion.

Chief Wilczek discussed recently filed complaints. Three complaints were determined unfounded, one resulted in a verbal reprimand.

The potential use of vehicle dash and body cameras were discussed. Fundraising and grants will be explored.

Once in their regular meeting the council approved a $500 donation to the CNCC Foundation dinner and dance.

Rio Blanco County Health Department Director Julie Drake discussed vaping with the council. She urged the council to consider implementing restrictions on vaping similar to those placed on cigarettes and prohibiting use in public places.

Several USDA Wildlife Specialists discussed local predator concerns. They were introduced by County Commissioner Si Woodruff who expressed support for bringing a larger predator control program to the county which could be funded with federal funds. Currently the Rio Blanco County Woolgrowers fund a USDA predator control position to work exclusively for their needs. If another local predator control position was brought in it would work county wide for livestock and wildlife depredation prevention. Justin Ewing, a USDA trapper, said that predator control can improve both livestock survival and fawn and elk populations.

Ewing discussed the concerns about wolf reintroduction which he described as having tremendous impact on the livestock and wildlife.

Councilman Andy Key talked about gerrymandering and the Fair Districts Colorado project which seeks to create a new redistricting process that would designate positions for independent voters, limiting partisan impacts. The council decided to withhold support for the project until more of the terms are clarified.

During public comment Linda Berry spoke in support of the RPD and questioned why the council felt empowered to tell the RPD how to do their jobs.