By Ron Gibson, Deputy Chief, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Police Department
ommunities near military installations often encounter unique problems that require cooperative agreement between the military and civilian authorities. Often each authority is busy with its own issues, and it takes a crisis to cause this working relationship. Beginning in 2006, it became apparent that Colorado Springs needed to establish a better working relationship with the military authorities to handle a growing problem. The lessons learned from this need should help other communities to build these relationships before they become problems.
The city of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is surrounded by military installations employing over 36,000 active-duty military personnel, living in the area with their families. These installations include the U.S. Air Force Academy, Fort Carson U.S. Army Post, Peterson Air Force Base (home of U.S. Northern Command), Schriever Air Force Base, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Station. Each installation comes with its own version of military police organizations, including the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) agents and the Army’s Criminal Investigations Command (CID) agents. The Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) employs 674 sworn and 293 civilian employees, serving a population of just over 400,000.
In 2006, the CSPD recorded a significant increase in criminal activity in the downtown entertainment district popular with military personnel. There was an upswing in the calls for service between 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.—approximately 1,200 times in 2006 and 1,800 in 2007—from the 54 liquor licensees located within this business district.
Typically, the calls for service resulted from the large number of intoxicated persons loitering in the area after the downtown bars closed. The numbers of individuals in the crowds were generally estimated in the hundreds. It was widely perceived, but not substantiated, that the increased presence of military personnel downtown resulted in the increased number of assaults, with military personnel being both victims and suspects. Unfortunately, the crime information analysis was unreliable since responding CSPD officers typically arrested a few offenders out of a crowd numbering in the hundreds and, once the arrests started with CSPD officers saturating the area, the remaining offenders would leave to avoid arrest.
At the same time, this problem was compounded when several bars on the southeast side of the city regularly frequented by gang members closed. Gang members then began to patronize the downtown bars and became involved in confrontations with military personnel. Some of these confrontations were inevitable since members of the security staff at several local bars consisted of moonlighting military personnel.
The overall temperament of the patrons became much more aggressive and hostile towards the police. Police officers had to physically engage people to quell fights, disperse crowds, or even attempt to identify patrons. Violence took place amidst crowds of several hundred people. In crowds this large, law enforcement officers could not intervene without an appropriate number of personnel and equipment. The situation had disintegrated to the point that patrons were becoming subjected to assaults involving weapons, sexual assaults, and random beatings by large groups of unidentified suspects.
During the summer of 2007, it was not uncommon for every available police unit in the Gold Hill Division (one of four divisions within CSPD) to be busy on a call for service in the entertainment district. During two large bar fights, every available unit in the city responded to quell near-riot conditions. These events culminated in several injuries to officers and military personnel.
Involving the Military
In February 2008, the Gold Hill Division midnight shift began addressing this issue during meetings with downtown liquor licensees, bar owners, and other community groups. Fort Carson personnel also attended an open forum with this group and requested follow-up contacts in case there were issues involving their personnel. A military contact protocol was established to provide information regarding military involvement with CSPD officers in the downtown area directly to the director of emergency services at Fort Carson.
In July 2008, officers from the Fort Carson Police/Provost Marshal Division participated in a civilian ride-along downtown with supervisors of the Gold Hill Division. It was quickly found that the mere presence of the military personnel providing information and available resources helped CSPD officers deal with incidents involving military personnel. Having a military liaison to address alternative means of accountability with military personnel was significantly helpful.
During these ride-alongs, Fort Carson police officers said that soldiers who might qualify for involuntary commitment type issues (that is, excessive intoxication, suicidal, and/or PTSD-type issues) could be processed at the Evans Army Medical Center Fort Carson. If CSPD officers called their dispatch, dispatch would send an officer to meet police officers at the hospital and take custody of the soldier. CSPD officers began to complete a military contact form to document their involvement with military personnel in the downtown core. This form was used as a stopgap measure until CSPD could provide military police authorities arrest information so they would be informed of all calls for service in the jurisdiction involving the military.
Today, all military installations in the Colorado Springs metro area receive daily reports from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office detailing any military personnel who have been incarcerated for felony crimes. The Colorado Springs Police Department provides the monthly reports for misdemeanor and DUI arrests involving known military personnel to the installations. This process allows the military unit commanders to stay informed about their soldiers’ and airmen’s activities while they are off base.
During the summer of 2008, the Police/Provost Marshal Division Office was given an office in the police operations center located just outside the downtown core area. Fort Carson staffed this office with civilian personnel during weekends, and CSPD officers brought military personnel for a variety of issues to this office for military processing (such as, needed transportation, served summons and released on own recognizance, and so on). Today, members of the Fort Carson Police/Provost Marshal Office still staff this office on holiday weekends and military payday weekends.
Since the summer of 2008, special agents from AFOSI have also participated in ride-alongs on Friday and Saturday nights. After their initial participation in ride-alongs, AFOSI expanded this participation throughout the entire city of Colorado Springs. Special agents have been used as a resource for officers who are dealing with difficult military personnel as well as coordinating with base agencies. AFOSI has also used the information obtained during ride-alongs in addressing Air Force personnel issues with unit commanders. AFOSI involvement ties in the four Air Force installations located in Colorado Springs: Peterson Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Schriever Air Force Base.
While this increased level of cooperation with representatives of the U.S. Army and Air Force law enforcement strengthened the efforts of one division within the Colorado Springs Police Department, the CSPD still needed a more formal process to address all law enforcement objectives in the region. This expanded effort lacked the combined input and involvement of the other military and civilian law enforcement agencies in the region.
Formalizing the Process
The Colorado Springs Police Department has had a long-standing positive working relationship with its military partners throughout the Pikes Peak Region. In order to institutionalize and integrate these relationships in an environment of high turnover of its military partners, the Civilian/Military Law Enforcement Collaborative was established in January 2009.
Participants in the Civilian/Military Law Enforcement Collaborative include the following:
- Colorado Springs Police Department
- El Paso County Sheriff’s Office
- Fountain Police Department
- Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office
- U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations
- 50th Security Forces Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base
- Office of Emergency Services – Fort Carson
- Criminal Investigation Division – Fort Carson
- Police/Provost Marshal Division – Fort Carson
- Headquarters Air Force Space Command
- NORAD – NORTHCOMM
- 21st Security Forces Squadron
By the proximity of the military installations and other jurisdictions surrounding Colorado Springs, members of the Civilian/Military Law Enforcement Collaborative began to discuss other common concerns and established working groups to address these concerns. Three subgroups were developed:
- The Operations, Plans, and Intelligence Subcommittee began improving the lines of operational communication in the areas of arrest data information sharing, real-time support for ongoing crime patterns, and operational intelligence.
- The Command and Administrative Subcommittee addressed the areas of legal concerns, updating memorandums of understanding, intergovernmental agreements, and recruiting.
- The Training Subcommittee is integrating the various training opportunities, sharing training facilities and equipment, and enabling leadership networking.
The subcommittees meet monthly and have resulted in increased cooperation and openness, experienced throughout the law enforcement community in the region.
In 2008, the Colorado Springs Police Department began to see a significant improvement in the downtown environment. Community partners (military collaborative, business owners committee, liquor licensees, loft owners, and so forth) are pleased with the calming effect that the increased presence of police and the cooperative approach of the Civilian/Military Law Enforcement Collaborative has had on the neighborhood.
Colorado Springs Police Department crime analysts have provided a comparison of crime trends for the entertainment district for 2006, 2007, and 2008. The results are encouraging; each crime category shows a significant trend downward.
The impact of this effort continued through the summer of 2009. There have been no large incidents of disorder reported in the downtown entertainment district. Information about problem locations is shared on a monthly basis, and the occasional operational concerns that will always be a part of day-to-day law enforcement operations in a shared jurisdictional environment have been resolved quickly due to the ongoing relationships developed through the Civilian/Military Law Enforcement Collaborative.
In 2008, the downtown entertainment district’s calls for service decreased by approximately 9 percent. The Civilian/Military Law Enforcement Collaborative is leveraging positive outcomes through leadership networking. The collaborative is a great example of the significant achievements that can be fostered through positive working relationships: the inception of the Fort Carson Police office located at the Colorado Springs Police Department Police Operations Center, monthly chiefs’ breakfast working sessions, police ride-along program, and a number of other initiatives. The agencies involved in this collaboration will continue to see additional benefits from this combined effort, such as joint training opportunities, shared real-time operational information, shared radio communications, and peer-to-peer leadership interactions. With the nation at war, these efforts can have only a beneficial effect on returning combat veterans as they transition to a civilian environment. ■
|A special thanks and recognition for the information assembled in this article goes to Commander Kurt Pillard – Gold Hill Patrol Division of the Colorado Springs Police Department; S.M. (Jake) Jacob – Fort Carson Deputy Director, Emergency Services; Sergeant Major John W. Ladik – Fort Carson Directorate of Emergency Services; and Lieutenant Colonel David Lindsay – Commander, AFOSI, Peterson AFB.|