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Steamboat Springs City Council

,
I have been a police officer for over 16 years and have spent the last four years of
my career at the Steamboat Springs Police Department(SSPD). Being a police officer is
a very difficult and at times very rewarding job. I can proudly say that I have saved lives
and risked my own during my tenure. I have seen and witnessed far more horrific
things than is healthy to talk about. I have been threatened and cursed at by someone I
am trying to help and spit on and kicked while arresting someone that has harmed
others. I have interviewed young victims of unspeakable abuse and hugged a sobbing
mother while notifying her that her child has died. The environment which police
officers work in can be very scary and hostile at times and I accept that reality, but what
I do not accept is working for a leadership structure that creates a work environment
that is verbally abusive, disrespectful, discriminatory, and does not put people and
safety first. 
I first sensed something was wrong at the SSPD when two officers were dismissed
from duty at my first staff meeting. This was a red flag for me because at my interview
the now Chief of Police told me turnover was very rare. Since then we have lost almost
15 officers to turnover for one reason or another. (​
“The number one internal
factor affecting an employee’s decision to stay or leave a job is the
relationship he or she has with his or her immediate supervisor. One of the
greatest crises facing law enforcement agencies in the near future is the
failure to develop leadership potential of officers throughout the entire
organization.” ​
Dwayne Orrick ​
Best Practices Guide for Recruitment, Retention, and
Turnover of Law Enforcement Personnel​
). ​
I have not yet worked at the SSPD fully
staffed.
At my former department I had earned the rank of Sergeant and was responsible
for the supervision of several officers that we call the “crew”. The crews were assigned
to the Sergeants based on age and experience in an effort to improve safety, public
service and mentoring for newer officers. Day or night shift, I was required to work with
my crew as a team and subsequently I evaluated the people I worked with. The SSPD
does not have crews. The SSPD does not require supervisors to work nights. The SSPD
does not even require the supervisor to work with the officers they are evaluating. At
times it has been difficult to know who is my supervisor is and this creates frustration
and discontentment. (​
“People do not leave jobs, they leave managers.” ​
Beverly
Kaye and Sharon Jordon-Evans, Love’em or Lose’em Getting Good People to Stay​
).
The most concerning scheduling issue to me is that at one of the most potentially
dangerous times for officers, midnight to 4am, often no supervisors or senior officers

are on duty to train, defuse situations, and mentor new officers. When asked why we
schedule the way we do, I was told “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” In a
department with high turnover this scheduling practice is dangerous to officers and
citizens and should be viewed as a reckless management style.
Another red flag that came up was the lack of technology. I started my career in
one of the poorest counties in the state of Michigan and remember opening the trunk of
my patrol car and inserting a VHS tape into the recorder for my dash cam. With the
wealth at hand in Steamboat, it was clear to me that the leadership of the SSPD had
made a conscious decision to not provide their officers with one of the most important
safety and prosecutorial tools I have ever used. This was confirmed while attending a
staff meeting that the Chief said “over my dead body will we have cameras”. I will defer
to Deb Hinsvark to explain why we now have cameras. The other major technological
deficit was the lack of computers in the patrol cars. To be fair, computers were in the
process of being fitted to the cars at the time of my arrival at the SSPD, but this was only
after they had become commonplace for a decade throughout the country.
One of my first trainings at the SSPD was something called Krav Maga. As an
officer trained in years of defense tactics as well as a self defense instructor using PPCT
techniques, (pressure point control techniques), I was uncomfortable with the level of
force I was being trained in. I talked to my trainer about my concerns, specifically about
the level of force I was being encouraged to use. For example, I was advised to “make a
fist to punch people in the face” as a means of control. I have never struck someone in
the face, let alone made a fist to punch people. I have never felt the need to be so
aggressive. This tactic is also referred to as “strike first and strike hard”. After the
training my knuckles were left bruised and bloodied. I suggested to the now Chief about
incorporating PPCT techniques but was dismissed. Even after four excessive force
lawsuits the department as a whole has not received de-escalation training.
I largely attribute these lawsuits to:
1. The departments’ emphasis on the use of physical violence training and no
de-escalation training.
2. The lack of consistent supervision and mentoring, (inexperienced and poorly trained
officers).
3. The lack of cameras (everyone acts different if they know they are being filmed)
4. Leadership that breeds an “Us against them” ethos.
 

The lack of transparency within the SSPD is a common theme. I have applied
several times for promotions at the SSPD. I believe my experience, education, and skill
set are an ideal match for the SSPD to leverage my assets to make the police department
more productive. I tested and interviewed several times and was determined by the
leadership not to be the most qualified candidate. Each time I was given little or no
feedback and was never shown the results of the process, therefore never given an
opportunity to improve on my weaknesses and ultimately improve the department as a
whole. After some frustration, I began questioning my way up the chain of command to
learn more about my deficiencies. I received useless feedback from my Sergeant and
Captain so I questioned the Chief Deputy. The Chief Deputy told me two things, he
could not show me my written test score because the test and results had to be sent back
to the testing company and that I did not do well on my oral interview. I asked if my
testing matrix was retained in my file and was told we do not use a matrix and nothing
was in my file. After that meeting I contacted a citizen that sat in on the oral interview
and he informed me, I did great. Next was the Chief, upon questioning him about the
process, including the lack of a matrix, he told me the promotional process was
ultimately up to him to subjectively select the candidate he believed would be the best
fit. Through my follow up I have concluded the Chief Deputy lied to me about not
having the test scores in an effort to hide the results and the department discriminated
against me based on my gender. I have since been moved to the position of School
Resource Officer (SRO) and that process did have a matrix involved. I will once again
defer to Deb Hinsvark to shed light on what caused the change in procedure. In
addition to this promotional process that appeared to be cloaked in secrecy,
predetermined outcomes and ripe with liability, I was told the department’s policy of
keeping positive feedback letters from citizens, collaborators, and other organization in
a special personnel file had been discontinued. The SSPD does not only not keep
positive letters about the staff, they even fail to notify those commended that a letter
even existed.
A culture of fear and intimidation rules over the SSPD and is surrounded by
inconsistency, chosen favorites and contempt for outsiders. This starts with the Chief
and is pushed down through the ranks. I have sat at many staff meetings listening to
profane shouting and rants about one issue or another. I have witnessed the Chief break
down, unable to speak, because he was incapable of controlling his emotions. I have
listened to field training officers demean and belittle new hires that they are charged
with building up and instilling confidence. The tone from the Chief is “it’s us against
them” and if you don’t agree with him on an issue than “it’s him against you”. I have sat
in community meetings and heard sexist remarks made by the SSPD leadership. I have
talked with officers in training that were afraid to go to the restroom because their field

training officer told her she took too long. I have spoken with community leaders that
avoid the SSPD leadership because of the dismissive and condescending tone they have
encountered.
I believe the citizens of our community, the employees of your City and visitors to
the Yampa Valley deserve the best we have to offer. I have witnessed many people
harmed over the past several years as a result of the actions or inactions of the
leadership of SSPD. Not only have the taxpayers been financially burdened with
lawsuits and turnover. Many of the young men and women that trust the City of
Steamboat Springs to provide them with a safe, healthy and positive work environment
have been betrayed. I am embarrassed that people have been emotionally abused and
physically assaulted by Police Officers because of a violent and paranoid ethos cast down
through the chain of command. Allowing people with power to wield that power
unchecked can have long lasting devastating consequences and our community will pay
the price well into the future. Law enforcement should be about safety and
accountability. For the safety of our community it is time to hold those responsible
accountable.
I respectfully request a fair and unbiased investigation of the
management practices and conduct of Joel Rae and Bob DelValle. Given the
fact that Joel Rae and Bob DelValle have created the hostile work
environment at the SSPD, I believe the Chief and the Deputy Chief should be
immediately relieved of their duties until the investigation is complete.  

I realize that some issues and details might have been left out, but this process is
nerve wracking and exhausting for me. I wish you all the best in dealing with this mess
and I am at your service when ever needed.
With all that being said, I still love my job and my community and I am proud of
the people I work with and damn proud of the job I do!

Respectfully,
Officer Kristin Bantle
Steamboat Springs Police Department (SRO)
3/25/2015