Morrison officials need to stop relying on traffic-ticket revenue to pay for the police department, according to a consultant’s report that town officials received earlier this year. While that was …
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Morrison officials need to stop relying on traffic-ticket revenue to pay for the police department, according to a consultant’s report that town officials received earlier this year.
While that was the first of 10 recommendations that consultant KRW Associates made as part of an assessment/climate survey of the Morrison Police Department, the Town Board said in a memo, “With respect to KRW’s recommendations, we found four that seemed both well-suited to the department’s needs and in keeping with its mission.”
• evaluate the department’s staffing, both for shifts and special events;
• consider entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office to provide overnight-shift coverage when the police department gets few calls;
• conduct a salary survey of comparable police departments to create an accurate tool to help with officer compensation;
• develop enhanced lines of communication between the police department, town manager and the Town Board.
Concern about the fate of the police department has resurfaced after Misty Siderfin, who was hired as the town’s new police chief in July, resigned. Her last day was Oct. 21.
In her Oct. 7 letter of resignation, Siderfin stated she is “unable to continue within this role due to the limited resources, lack of financial stability and budgeting for the Police Department, demands for the police department to support its own budget, lack of transparency, and extremely low numbers of quality applicants for the current vacancies.”
At the Oct. 5 Town Board meeting, Siderfin told the board she expected the police department to generate $300,000 in ticket revenue next year. The proposed 2022 budget estimated that the police department would generate $690,000.
Town officials have not commented publicly on Siderfin’s resignation or discussed how they will proceed.
In August, Siderfin asked the Town Board to contract with the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office for $24,000 a month to provide Morrison with law enforcement for six months while she rebuilt the department. The decision came because Morrison had lost several officers to other departments with higher salaries.
In September, at Siderfin’s request, the Town Board increased the starting salaries of officers from $43,000 to $55,000 annually, and Siderfin advertised to fill three officer, a detective and a sergeant position. Only seven applicants were moving forward to phone interviews.
With Siderfin’s resignation, it is unclear whether the town will move forward with hiring officers.
Siderfin replaced George Mumma, who parted ways with Morrison in August 2020. A memo sent back then to the Morrison Police Department when he left outlined a failure to control traffic speeds and enforce the town noise ordinance.
At the end of 2019, as the town prepared its 2020 budget, there were discussions about the role of the police department. Court revenue has been on the decline since Mumma was hired in 2017, but the former chief maintained that he wanted to strike a better balance between writing traffic tickets and solving crimes. Ultimately, Mumma formed a three-person traffic unit that could focus on writing tickets while other officers were assigned to working cases.
According to the consultant’s report: “The current and past atmosphere in Morrison appears to be one of each officer being expected during each tour of duty to write traffic tickets. The officers shared with KRW staff the sense that their continued employment is dependent upon their combined summons activity.”
The consultant said that writing traffic tickets to generate revenue as direct financial support for the department wasn’t in the best interest of the department or the public.
“We believe that lying in wait to write traffic citations to generate revenue is not serving the best ethical foundations of professional law enforcement,” the consultant wrote. “Enforcement activity should and needs to occur to further the goals of traffic safety and town safety concerns, and not as a source of revenue to directly support the salaries of the issuing officers.”
A look at the town’s budget documents for the past several years shows that the police department was expected to pay for itself, though the department had been falling short.
In 2021, for example, missing some police department personnel who resigned and hiring Jeffco Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement, the town has received $230,296 from traffic citations when $1.1 million was budgeted.
The consultant said the town could save money by contracting with the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office to work the graveyard shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., since that shift generates the least number of calls — approximately 4.7% of total calls.
In addition, KRW suggested that the department could operate with six full-time officers plus two part-time officers rather than up to 11 as it had in the past.
According to KRW, current and past police department employees said during interviews that pay and benefits were a significant factor, with some saying they could leave Morrison for other departments and double their salaries.
“Morrison should not accept the premise that Morrison should become a training ground for other agencies,” KRW said, “nor should Morrison accept the rationale that because of current low pay compared with other metro police agencies that Morrison is and should remain a revolving door of police applicants, trained and certified in Morrison and then leaving Morrison for a higher paying job.”
While Morrison officials say they want to keep a local police force, KRW suggested that the town should consider disbanding its department and contracting for the service from Jefferson County, noting it would be less expensive for the town.
It also suggested the Morrison could make up the financial difference by allowing a hotel or a marijuana shop in the town that would generate additional taxes.
Morrison plans to allow a marijuana shop south of Bandimere Speedway and is working on language for an April 2022 ballot question regarding sales tax for the shop.
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