Montrose, CO – With a clear goal of determining how to build better law enforcement services within the city, 15 members of the Public Safety Citizen Advisory Committee (PSCAC) gathered for their inaugural meeting Wednesday evening to begin what is expected to be months of work to identify the critical needs of the Montrose Police Department.
The PSCAC is "responsible for investigating, evaluating, forming and drafting written recommendations for presentation to the City Council on issues involving public safety funding initiatives within the City of Montrose," according to the group's mission statement.
The city has hired Dr. Jack McGrath of McGrath Consulting LLC of Grand Junction to facilitate the group’s analysis. McGrath brings 30 years of law enforcement background to the group and is a retired FBI special agent. Before earning his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, McGrath was the undersheriff of Weld County, Colorado, and is also a former United States Marine.
In December City Councilors appointed Phoebe Benziger, John Boyko, Sharon K. Burnett, Nathan O. Compton, Kristal D. Cooper, Kirstin Copeland, Mark W. Dreher, David M. Frank, Greg R. Fulks, Julia Horn, Rebeqah C. Love, Valery M. Morris, Robert H. Parish, J. David Reed, David A. Stockton, Jay Thoe, and J. Donald Vacca to the PSCAC.
The group gathered Wednesday for the first in a series of monthly public meetings. The group, composed of six women and nine men, discussed their reasons for serving on the committee and how long they have lived in the Montrose area. Some have lived in the area for less than a year; others for decades.
Members Julia Horn and David Reed were not present Wednesday.
The 15-member committee has lived in Montrose for a combined 339 years and 8 months.
Members described their desire for "public service" or "civic duty" as their motivation for serving on the committee.
"If you're going to put down roots, you’ve got to be involved," said committee member John Boyko who has lived in Montrose for about 8 months.
McGrath said, as the facilitator, his role was to guide the committee in seeking answers to their questions on a wide range of topics.
"I’m here to help you get the resources you need to ask good questions from the people who should know,” McGrath said.
City Manager Bill Bell echoed that statement, telling the committee that city staff was there to provide as much useful information as possible. He said that neither he nor Police Chief Blaine Hall will attempt to direct or guide the discussion of the committee, but instead, are attending to serve as an informational and technical resource to the committee. Bell and Chief Hall encouraged the committee to ask any and all questions related to the City of Montrose and the Montrose Police Department over the next several meetings.
The committee spent nearly three hours Wednesday discussing various topics related to drugs and mental health issues in the community, police department expectations, and physical resources like equipment and facilities. A number of committee members expressed interest in riding along with officers on the street to better understand the role of a police officer.
In spring 2018 a group of concerned citizens representing Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers brought data to the council that they believe supports their conclusion that police services in the city are greatly understaffed and underfunded.
In September councilors unanimously approved a resolution creating the PSCAC. According to that resolution, the PSCAC will be tasked with providing written recommendations to the council and delivering their findings at future work sessions and regular City Council meetings.
Any recommendations will be approved by majority vote of the committee before being presented to the council.
The PSCAC is subject to open meetings laws and will publicly notice their meetings and hold them in a public setting.
Chief Hall invited committee members to attend a condensed session of the police department's annual Citizen's Police Academy February 27 and 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the Centennial Room on the city campus, located just off Centennial Plaza.
Those sessions are voluntary for PSCAC members. The second official meeting of the PSCAC will be held March 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the Centennial Room. (Video clips from Wednesday's meeting are available)
For more city news visit: CityOfMontrose.org