The quote was buried in a local TV news story, and you would have missed if you didn’t read carefully. Pueblo’s Police Chief Luis Velez admitted the department had reached its breaking point in responding to calls after two officers resigned.
Chief Velez said to KRDO on March 2, “We’re at a point where we cannot keep our calls for service and stay on top of them.”
While the Pueblo police staffing issue isn’t new, the chief’s comment that the department has reached its breaking point is frighteningly blunt.
This is the third time and the third law enforcement official to call Pueblo’s police at a breaking point. District Attorney Jeff Chostner, on February 29, told the Pueblo Chieftain, “We’ve reached a breaking point in this community.”
Deputy Police Chief Troy Davenport said on March 15, he’s never seen a point like this in his 15-year career.
Velez’s quote is more than just budget shortfalls numbers and the staffing issues that follow. The highest-ranking police officer in Pueblo saying the department cannot respond to the number of calls it receives — is a public security crisis.
PULP reached out to the Pueblo Police Department for clarification on Velez’s statement but did not receive a response.
What changed for Pueblo, was the February murder of Devin Clark at the Iron Horse Bar on Main Street.
Thirteen murders, four of them unsolved, in 2015 pushed the dialogue on gangs and helped advance the tax debate in early 2016. But the death of Clark, a popular Puebloan from a family with deep connections to the community, has changed even the tone of law enforcement.
I have never seen a point in recent memory where officials have offered such a brutal assessment of their departments.
Pueblo is entering a new state of public safety. Officials have given the standard response they are doing their best to manage the lack or resources and public security but their words remain about the state of Pueblo’s police.
Currently, the department is staffed at roughly between 80–85% depending on media outlet reports.
On Monday, March 21, Pueblo will enter another tax debate whether to tax residents to pay for more cops on the street. Pueblo’s City Council has been reluctant to adopt Chostner’s plan. Using a half-cent tax to pay for 30 to 50 more officers and raising roughly $7.5 million wouldn’t see an impact until late 2017 or well into 2018.
While council members and the district attorney debate a tax, what is undebatable are the three top law enforcement officials going public that the lack of resources at 200 South Main Street is breaking the department and threatening public security.
It should be the breaking point for the community because this is now a full blown crisis.