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While 2021 was a challenging year for the Idaho Springs Police Department, Chief Nate Buseck said the department is moving in a good direction.

ISPD was in the national spotlight for a use-of-force incident when former officer Nicholas Hanning deployed a Taser on unarmed 75-year-old Michael Clark.

The department also lost a few officers and has struggled to hire replacements. To help with recruiting and retention, the Idaho Springs City Council increased officers’ base pay to $60,000. It also approved $10,000 for ISPD to sponsor someone through the law enforcement academy.

Overall, ISPD had fewer calls for service in 2021 than it did the previous four years, but property crimes are up significantly, Buseck said at a Jan. 31 City Council work session.

The department’s 2021 annual report states stolen vehicles and burglaries doubled from 2020 to 2021. Thefts, DUIs and harassments also were up from 2020.

“I’m not sure if it’s a lack of manpower, or the human condition during a pandemic,” Buseck said of the rise in property crimes, encouraging people to keep their homes and vehicles secure.

On the flip side, ISPD took fewer calls about abandoned vehicles, animal-related incidents, ordinance violations, civil issues, and trespassing than it did in 2020.

The department’s citations also were down, which Buseck said is because of lower staffing levels.

Looking at the breakdown of 2021 calls by days of the week, Thursdays and Fridays were ISPD’s busiest while Mondays were the slowest. Likewise, 3 p.m. and 11 a.m. were the busiest times, and 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. were the slowest.

Examining use of force

ISPD recorded 34 incidents in 2021, which Buseck said is similar to its 2020 and 2019 numbers. Use of force is applied to any incident where officers use anything beyond standard handcuffing. This includes restraining arms and legs, pointing a firearm, or deploying a Taser.

In 2021, ISPD recorded:

  • 12 incidents of restraining hands and feet;
  • 20 pointed firearms;
  • Three Taser deployments; and
  • Two control holds.

Sometimes multiple methods were used in the same call, Buseck clarified, but were recorded on the breakdown separately.

Because of the national conversation about police brutality, especially against people of color, Buseck shared that 89% of suspects in ISPD’s use-of-force incidents were white and 11% were people of color. He said this aligns with the city’s 2021 demographics, which was estimated at 86% white and 14% people of color.

Buseck said use of force is something his department will monitor, and it will handle any violations of use-of-force as it did with Hanning’s last May.

The incident was turned over to the District Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution, and Hanning was terminated from the department. He recently was sentenced to four months’ house arrest and two years of supervised probation.

2022 goals

For the department’s 2022 goals, Buseck listed hiring and retention; training and equipment upgrades; and community outreach.

Regarding the latter, Buseck said he’s asked Mountain Youth Network students to do artwork for the police headquarters. He wants it to reflect his employees’ pride in the community and in being officers.

As part of the training goal, Code Enforcement Officer Steven Zacharias recently attended a traffic investigation school and can now help with minor traffic investigations.

Buseck said Zacharias will do this alongside his code enforcement duties, and ultimately will take on a broader job title — community service officer. Depending on budget and workload, Buseck said ISPD might hire someone part-time in 2023 to help Zacharias.

Council Member Jim Clark wondered whether a part-time officer would only handle code enforcement, and Buseck stated they could be trained in traffic investigation as well, along with animal-related calls and other issues Zacharias currently handles.

Council Member Kate Collier shared residents’ concerns about code violations regarding garbage and parking, and wanted to ensure ISPD is still addressing those issues as Zacharias takes on more duties.

Buseck responded, “I don’t want to stretch (Zacharias) too thin, but I would say he’s capable of doing it all.”

To read the full 2021 ISPD Annual Report, visit cityofidahosprings.colorado.gov/departments/idaho-springs-police-department.