Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Town marshals in the new West do not ride into town on a white horse wearing a white hat with the purpose of taking out all the bad guys and buying a round of drinks for the good guys.
They come into their office after years of training, education and experience and apply what they have learned to upholding the peace and serving the public. When they leave, all they can do is hope they did their best, climb into their SUV and sip a beer in a local bar, minus the Kevlar vest.
After 30 years of working as a law enforcement officer, Nederland Police Department Chief, or marshal, Paul Carrill says he’s ready to hit that sunset trail, not out of town, just out of the office.
Last week, Carrill gave notice that he is retiring, his last day is September 14, just a few weeks past taking over the position three years ago.
After leading police departments in small towns in Missouri, Carrill was equipped to handle Nederland and found no surprises. He was concerned at how outdated it was, the building, the equipment, the operations and knew he would have to be the agent of change.
During the past three years, the department remodeled the office with the intent of providing a barrier between victims of crimes and employees from the public, creating a safe place. He addressed the condition of the fleet of vehicles, saving the department thousands of dollars with good deals and upgraded the training to provide the level of service that Nederland needs.
“Some people don’t understand that change requires change. I tried to reach the community with educational events but some people just don’t like change. It didn’t impact me, but some incoming officers felt the community didn’t like them. They also couldn’t afford to work here and reached a level of frustration because of complaints from the community. They didn’t want to work in a community that didn’t want them here. Especially in a town where people express themselves freely and openly. Police officers are not robots. If they are beat up at the end of the day, they will leave and go to a community that doesn’t beat them up.”
Carrill says that most officers just ask for respect. That the residents ask the police department to do their job based on laws that the people voted for.
When Carrill took the job, he had already retired but he did promise his wife that after hiring on with Ned, they would enjoy a retirement together. It is only because she compromised that he was able to take over as long as he did.
But, he says, he is not leaving. Nederland is now his home and he plans on hanging out in the coffee shops and also in supporting the new chief and a new generation of police officers.
“We have accomplished much; the officers executed the directives,” says Carrill. The NPD is now legally sound with inter-government agreements that protect the town and provide a higher level of public safety. Because of regional relationships, the department saved the town about a half million dollars in car purchases, training, equipment and law enforcement leverage with limited resources, as in utilizing the Colorado Mountain Officers that volunteer for events. These agreements, says Carrill are now established for the next marshal.
After the Cold Springs Fire, when Carrill realized that the NPD radios didn’t work adequately in times of emergencies, he wrote and received a $40K grant to buy new radios that now have all the frequencies needed to communicate with regional resources.
In 2015, the Nederland Board of Trustees approved a fourth officer which had been staffed until the first part of this year. The staffing approval had been made according to the volume of calls. Last summer, July of 2017, that fourth position was cut to fund salary parity. Carrill says they had to start paying officers a comparable salary to eastern Colorado officers.
“That approval was thanks to the BOT, but we still couldn’t keep up with towns below.”
Right now, the NPD has a Marshal, a sergeant, and two officers and are looking for a third. The marshal’s position has been posted nationwide and will be listed until September 30. Carrill says Nederland is not in trouble, that the Sheriff’s department has its back until positions are filled.
He would tell the next marshal to be experienced, educated and competent, to have worked their way through their career, doing a bit of everything, from budgeting to parking tickets; from politics to puppies. Without these attributes, the job can be challenging.
“I did what I was trained to do and I have received feedback from mentors who say I have done a good job. After 30 years it is time to leave. I look forward to having coffee or a beer in Ned restaurants and to working on my property; build a barn, have animals and pursue my hobbies.”
(Originally published in the September 7, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)