BRIGHTON — Community policing efforts between the City of Brighton and Commerce City are paying off and police chiefs at both cities would like to see collaboration between the departments continue.
During Brighton City Council’s March 11 study session, Brighton Police Chief Clint Blackhurst and Commerce City Police Chief Troy Smith spoke of the success of community policing at Prairie View High School.
Blackhurst said the program has been extremely successful since it started over a year ago.
“The side benefits of this partnership go beyond the walls and property boundaries of that school. That officer that’s assigned up there has been welcomed with open arms by the chief’s staff in Brighton,” he said, adding the collaboration has created a better relationship between the departments.
Because of the success at Prairie View High School, the departments would like to pool their resources together so Commerce City can provide better services for victims of crimes and so Brighton would have access to a Special Weapons and Tactics Team.
Since victim services were not being provided at a level Smith expected, he reached out to Blackhurst and reviewed the city of Brighton’s policies and procedures. Smith said he’s now implemented the policy at the Commerce City Police Department and it’s made a big difference.
Blackhurst said he’s generally satisfied with the victim services the department is providing but the department mostly relies on volunteers, and since the position has a high burnout rate, it takes a lot of resources to continually recruit volunteers.
Blackhurst said the police departments would like to see if they can leverage their resources through some grant funding so all of the call outs could be handled by full-time trained staff. He said volunteers would still be used, but would fill in and follow up for staff as needed.
The police chiefs also would like to collaborate to expand services with the SWAT Team. According to Blackhurst, the department has never had a SWAT Team for a number of reasons – one of which is the expense of such a unit – and that they’ve always had to call the Adams County Sheriff Department.
“Over the last four or five years, we have had concerns with that relationship, and I’m not going to go into further details, except to say that we need to start looking at other options to run that service,” he said. “So when Chief Smith approached me with the opportunity to have a joint team, I was extremely interested in that.”
According to Smith, officers in the city’s special forces unit are specially trained and specially equipped to respond to high risk incidents than a standard patrol officer. He said the benefit of having members of a SWAT Team in the department is that because of that training and the equipment they carry on them on a daily basis, they make a bigger difference in every call they respond to.
“There really is this day-to-day benefit that the community receives as a result of having this specially trained group of people who are able to influence the outcome of every call for service, not just when they’re activated as a SWAT Team,” he said.
The police chiefs will bring a more detailed agreement before council in the future. Blackhurst said they would be bringing an intergovernmental agreement for victim services before the councils first and an intergovernmental agreement for the SWAT Team thereafter.
City Manager Manuel Esquibel said the city has had an ongoing mutual aid agreement since he’s been with the city. He said it hasn’t been until recently, with the addition of Chief Smith, that the police chiefs have begun to pursue collaboration more aggressively.
“I feel that our cooperative venture that we have with Commerce City and other areas have truly, truly benefited (us) and I think we’re going to see more and more of that in the future.”
Mayor Dick McLean recalled a time, not too long ago, when the relationship with Commerce City wasn’t as good as it is now and appreciates the ongoing efforts the cities share.
“We’re neighbors, we should be friends and we can do more together than separate,” he said.
Councilwoman Lynn Baca said she’s really excited about the SWAT Team and believes officers will be able to benefit from the training.
“I know talking to some of our officers that they’re very excited for these types of opportunities, especially when it involves collaboration with other cities, so I’m really happy to see that,” she said. “This will make a great endeavor for both of our cities and I support it 100 percent.”
The Commerce City Council heard from the police chiefs during its Feb. 24 study session. Blackhurst said they responded with as much support and encouragement as the Brighton Council did.