The Town of Morrison has turned over the majority of its policing to the Jeffco Sheriff's Office for six months while its new chief gives the department a makeover. Morrison police will still be …
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The Town of Morrison has turned over the majority of its policing to the Jeffco Sheriff's Office for six months while its new chief gives the department a makeover.
Morrison police will still be responsible for traffic control at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Bandimere Speedway events.
Morrison will pay JCSO $24,000 a month for the service, and JCSO spokesman Mike Taplin said a sheriff's deputy will not be assigned specifically to Morrison. Rather, an extra deputy will be on duty to respond to calls and emergencies.
According to the letter of agreement between the two departments, which was unanimously approved by the Morrison Town Board on Aug. 3, services will include “routine patrol, traffic enforcement, and response and investigation of criminal incidents. The parties understand and agree that the manner in which the Sheriff's Office provides and prioritizes these services in relation to the Sheriff's Office's other law enforcement responsibilities throughout unincorporated Jefferson County will be at the Sheriff's Office's sole discretion.”
Taplin said this wasn't the first time JCSO has provided additional policing to Morrison. In the past, JCSO has helped with nighttime enforcement when Morrison has been short staffed. He noted that JCSO does not have similar agreements with other Jeffco municipalities.
The department's chief, remaining officer, two part-time officers and administrative assistant will continue working. A full staff is a chief, nine full-time officers, 2.6 part-time officers and an administrative assistant, according to Morrison's 2021 budget document.
Morrison Police Chief Misty Siderfin asked for JCSO to provide services to give her time to hire officers and to rebuild the department from the ground up. Since she started the job a month ago, two officers resigned to take jobs in higher-paying police departments while a third resigned to move out of state for family reasons.
Siderfin said it would take at least three months to hire new staff and another several months to get them trained, so it made sense to enter into the agreement with JCSO.
“Fit is very critical,” Siderfin told the town board. “When you have the right fit, you have so many possibilities. You cannot train (someone to fit in). We want to be the standard, so people look at us and say, `Wow, this is what we want in a police department.' If we want to create something great, this is our chance.”
Board members at the Aug. 3 meeting were pleased with Siderfin's plan, saying it was a great opportunity to provide Morrison with a top-notch police department.
“You have hit on a lot of things I've thought of,” board member Matt Schweich said. “I see a whole lot of opportunities, and I appreciate that.”
Board member Katie Gill added that Siderfin was being thoughtful and data-driven, while board member Deb Jerome called the plan encouraging.
“This is such a breath of fresh air to have this motivation and energy,” Jerome said.
Siderfin, who created a police department in Severance, Colorado, said closing the police department permanently wasn't an option, and having JCSO provide law enforcement made sense while she works on her multiple-step plan.
She has detailed 39 items she wants to complete in six months including talking with town officials, business owners and the community about their expectations for a police department; writing a mission statement and core values; doing a salary comparison with other departments; work on a police training program both alongside JCSO and specifically for Morrison; cleaning and organizing police space; rewriting job descriptions and more.
Siderfin said she wanted officers to be a welcome sight when they walk up and down Morrison streets by bringing back community policing.
Town Manager Kara Winters said town officials will closely monitor the town's budget as it navigates the changes to the police department in the next six months.
The town budgeted in 2021 to receive about $1.1 million in court fines, which come primarily from ticket payments and represents about 40% of the town's total budget. So far this year, it has received about $200,000 in court fines in part because the police department has been short-staffed. With the JCSO agreement, the county will keep the fines, not Morrison.
Morrison will pay JCSO $144,000 over six months, but it is saving money in officer salaries. Town officials will monitor whether the salary savings will balance the service costs.
Siderfin said she plans to advocate for pay increases for police officers to make their salaries more competitive with other departments, and that will be figured into the 2022 budget that the Town Board must approve in December.
Currently, an entry-level Morrison police officer is paid $20.55 per hour. According to published salary schedules, entry-level officers make $30.81 per hour in Jeffco, $28.37 per hour in Wheat Ridge and $33.77 in Lakewood.
Winters said the town has money in reserves to make sure that it doesn't go overbudget.
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