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Pueblo police seek to bolster ranks

Patrol division running at 70 percent of normal staffing
Pueblo police cruiser.jpg
Posted at 10:35 PM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 00:55:54-05

PUEBLO, Colorado — There have been two officer-involved shootings in Pueblo this week. Both officers who fired their weapons are on leave, which is standard procedure. However, their absence is adding to a deficit of officers for a department that is already understaffed.

Sgt. Franklyn Ortega, the Public Information Officer for the Pueblo Police Department said that that it can be stressful anytime dispatchers announce a shooting over the police radio.

"We worry about each other, you know, it's like if you had your coworkers, you're concerned when they're in danger or if they're possibly injured," Ortega said.

The officer who fired their weapon in Wednesday's shooting was not injured. The suspect who was shot was taken to the hospital with what the department describes as non-life-threatening injuries.

At around 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, officers were dispatched to the 1100 block of West 12th Street for a report of a man threatening others with a gun. The suspect was pulling a stolen travel trailer behind a pickup truck and led the officers on a short chase when they arrived.

The driver crashed the truck into a building in the 1300 block of West 18th Street. Four people were in the truck at the time and they all fled the scene. The suspect who was shot was armed with a handgun.

A team of investigators with the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office and Pueblo County Sheriff's Office will investigate the shooting to determine whether the use of force was justified.

"These shootings are hard on everybody. I mean the officers, their families. You know, a lot of people don't remember that, but I can tell you it's hard for everybody," said. Sgt. Ortega.

He explained that when an officer-involved shooting occurs, there is a need for extra officer support to secure the scene and assist investigators.

"We just have to back-fill, we call in officers (to work) over time and we just man the positions that we need to man," Ortega said.

The City of Pueblo has been actively recruiting for the police department. Ortega said the department's patrol division is operating with about 70 percent of the staff that they would normally have.

"We're supposed to have like 110 officers on patrol. Right now we have 78."

The department is preparing to hold two police academies simultaneously soon. In the meantime, many officers are putting in extra hours to make up for the shortage.