From new school therapy dogs to upcoming elections, changes are coming to the City of Centennial, officials told the council during its March 7 meeting.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown and South Metro Fire Rescue Communications Director Kristin Eckmann provided updates to the council about their respective agencies.
Brown first introduced Bureau Chief Laurie Halaba, who was sworn into her new role earlier this year.
“Chief Halaba is the chief of public safety now, and essentially the chief of the City of Centennial. She has the direct contact with the deputy city managers and is the one that is the day-to-day operations for your public safety,” Brown said.
Halaba is a groundbreaker in many ways, he said.
“She was the first female member of command staff at the sheriff's office and in the 165-year history of our agency, she is the first female bureau chief,” Brown said. “You guys are going to be thrilled with her. She is a consummate professional.”
The agency is also getting two new school therapy dogs in April, Brown said. One of the dogs is intended for the Byers School District and the other will be added to the Cherry Creek School District.
“We’re excited about that,” he said.
Case closed: Taco Bell
When discussing crime cases that happened in Centennial, Brown provided an update on the Taco Bell incident, in which the sheriff’s office investigated whether employees put rat poison in food given to a customer.
“Taco Bell was beyond cooperative,” Brown said.
He said the Taco Bell location had cameras inside its entire facility, so investigators gained access to all of that and saw “there was nothing foreign put into that patron’s food.”
“We’ve done a deep dive. We've done all the interviews necessary for that,” Brown said. “That case is closed and there’s nothing further happening with that.”
In a statement the agency shared via Twitter, the sheriff’s office said investigators spoke with the victim to “try and ascertain who could have placed the poison in the tacos but were unable to find a suspect.”
If anyone has information or leads regarding this case, the sheriff’s office said they should call (720) 874-8477.
Motor vehicle thefts
Last year, there were just under 800 motor vehicle thefts, Brown said, saying that is a relatively good number given the size of Centennial.
“I would like to see that number lower,” he said.
Currently, the agency’s special response team is working diligently in areas where there have been increased motor vehicle thefts to try to mitigate that, he said.
“And we're working on legislation to have the ability to have more teeth into those motor vehicle thefts down at the state capitol,” Brown said, referring to Senate Bill 97, Motor Vehicle Theft and Unauthorized Use. “I think that we are gaining some traction with our state legislators on moving towards having the ability to do that.”
Addressing Tyre Nichols’ death
Brown said the citizens advisory committee met Feb. 9 and the main talking point was the killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Scorpion unit within the Memphis Police Department, as well as “how seriously we take those actions.”
“It may have been Memphis, but law enforcement gets categorized in a specific category when those incidents happen and we're all responsible to make sure that we get out and we discuss these issues, and make sure that our citizens understand that that's not who we are as an agency,” Brown said.
“We're a community partnership. We work with our businesses. We work with our citizens to make sure that we have the ability to mitigate crime. And we don't take punishment into our own hands. There's a process for that,” he added. “We have very stringent policies. And that's part of the reason that we have the agreement with the City of Centennial — to make sure that we are accredited at the highest level nationally.”
Centennial Councilmember Marlo Alston expressed gratitude for the report.
“It is very important to the citizens of Centennial and Arapahoe County to understand the culture of the sheriff’s department,” Alston said. “Thank you for that. I appreciate that.”
South Metro Fire Rescue will hold an election this spring to select four members of its board of directors, said Communications Director Eckmann.
The agency serves roughly 550,000 people in the south Denver metro area. Last year, South Metro Fire Rescue got more than 50,000 calls throughout the district, Eckmann said. Out of those, there were 9,433 calls in Centennial.
South Metro Fire Rescue is governed by a seven-member board of directors who are publicly elected and oversee an annual budget of more than $127 million, according to the agency’s website.
Each board member represents a specific geographical portion of the overall fire district, known as a director district, the agency explained in a 2020 governing body document.
Four of the directors’ terms expire in 2023, including Sue Roche of District 1, Jim Albee of District 3, Cindy Hathaway of District 4 and Renee Anderson of District 5.
“There are two seats that were open for Centennial — District 1 and District 3,” Eckmann said. “Jim Albee, he was the candidate for District 3, which is kind of the western part of Centennial. He is running unopposed.
“And then we have District 1, who Sue Roche, she is the one that is currently on our board — she is running opposed by one individual in that area.”
According to the agency's website, the candidate opposing Roche is Randy W. Perlis. A ballot will be mailed to voters between April 10 and April 17, per the website.
“The individuals just in that district will be receiving that ballot — it won’t be an at-large voting process,” Eckmann said.
For example, eligible voters in District 3 will get a ballot mailed to them that will only include Albee’s name.
“That is something that we’re required to do,” Eckmann said. “We’re hoping that doesn’t cause confusion, that it will just be one name on his ballot.”
Fire station rebuild
South Metro Fire Rescue is looking to close down Fire Station 15, located at 2702 E. Dry Creek Road, to rebuild it in May, Eckmann said.
“End of May, beginning of June is when you'll start seeing construction on that, where we'll start scraping that site and looking at rebuilding it,” she said. “We're looking at probably an August 2024 timeline to actually get the station reopened.”
Before the old station is taken down, South Metro Fire Rescue plans to hold an open house for the public, she said.
The agency is also preparing itself so that there is no impact to service delivery when the station is going through construction, Eckmann noted.
Residents interested in learning more about the Station 15 rebuild can visit: southmetro.org/612/Station-15.