COLORADO SPRINGS — It's been about two months since Springs City Council approved Adrian Vasquez as the new chief of police for the Colorado Springs Police Department. On Monday, he shared his vision of the department with News5. Part of it includes addressing staffing levels within the department, rising crime rates in the city, and more community engagement.
Chief Vasquez said his top priority is recruiting and retaining police officers. Currently, there are 803 authorized positions in the department, and 767 position are filled which includes 43 who are currently in the police academy. The Chief says these numbers are changing daily.
“We’re significantly down on officers. The city is growing very quickly, and so we want to make sure that we're answering the staffing needs of the citizens, not only as we grow out East, but we're going to grow extensively over the next few years,” said Chief Vasquez.
The Chief also mentioned he’d like to make sure recruiting and retaining efforts are as strong as possible. He said CSPD will transition to a continuous hiring process, which allows them to take applicants all year round. This will make hiring quicker, and the wait period to get into the academy and hired as an officer, will be cut down by about four months. Chief Vasquez says on average right now, it takes around 11 months. He also mentioned focusing on more engagement with the military population and local installations when it comes to recruiting.
The next issue he wants to address is rising crime rates in Colorado Springs.
“There's a rising crime rate across the nation. We're not any different. But when we look at the comparisons for Colorado Springs to cities around the state, for example, we're a relatively safe city,” said Chief Vasquez. “That doesn't mean that we don't have to pay attention to the rates though, as a matter of fact, that's one of the primary focuses that we're going to be looking at or that we continue to look at. How are we going to answer those rising crime rates?”
And third, Chief Vasquez says he wants to build more trust with the community and minority populations. He told News5, that during his career, he’s spearheaded a lot of programs and initiatives for community engagement. In 2017, he helped launch the Illumination Project, which aims to build stronger relationships between law enforcement and people of color.
The program involves monthly community conversations in Colorado Springs discussing topics like crime, race, religion, police relationships, and more.
“We go out into the community and meet with community members. Anybody is invited to come and we have those hard conversations for concerns of the citizens,” said Chief Vasquez. “It could be anything from traffic, to violent crime, to how the police department is looking from a demographic perspective.”
The Illumination Project developed after the racially motivated shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015. Nine African Americans died in the shooting. Then in 2017, CSPD partnered with the center for creative leadership to develop the program.
“Can we mimic this program as a trust building effort in the community here in Colorado Springs? Let's see how well it does,” said Chief Vasquez.
Now several years later, Chief Vasquez wants to expand and revamp the program, where the community has more say in what's discussed.
“It's ever changing based on what's happening in our world, and what citizens want to want to hear and talking about,” said Chief Vasquez. “Last month’s meeting focused in Southeast Springs and talking with community leaders there. Those are the folks that we really want to sit down and talk with, because they're going to have a real strong sense of what our citizens in those areas really want to know and really want their police department to do.”
Part of the Illumination Project and goals from the Chief, is also thinking about how the police department can recruit more from minority populations.
Chief Vasquez has been with the Colorado Springs Police Department since 1995.
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