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Acting Pueblo Police Chief addresses investigation into department policy violations

Noeller addresses investigative report and talks about future department plans
Chris Noeller, Pueblo Police Department
Posted at 5:09 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 10:27:17-04

PUEBLO — For the first time, we're hearing publicly from Deputy Chief Steven "Chris" Noeller---the mayor's top pick to become the next police chief in Pueblo.

Noeller has been serving as the acting chief since Troy Davenport's retirement earlier this year.

Noeller spoke on-camera with News 5 Investigates about his vision to move the department forward, while addressing an investigation that raises questions about his past conduct.

This four-page executive summary was leaked to media outlets back in April---around the time Noeller put his name in to become Pueblo's top cop.

Noeller is owning up to his past mistakes and is opening up about what he plans to do to further improve the department.

The four-page report released is only an executive summary of the 110-page document with exhibits into Noeller's leadership and conduct.

While the full report has not been publicly released, the executive summary notates that Noeller's past conduct did violate city and police department policy.

News 5 Investigates asked Noeller whether the report and its findings has changed anything about how he does business.

"I've learned a lot about myself and other people," Noeller said. "I'm kind of an intense individual. I don't think you get to the level of leadership that I'm at without having a sense of intensity of trying to get something done. What I've learned is that intensity can be off putting to some people."

Chris Noeller, Pueblo Police Department
Chris Noeller, Pueblo Police Department

Noeller believes he's always had the best interest of the department at heart, but there are some concerns we needed to address.

"The report concludes that your supervision and leadership style is at a minimum, divisive," News 5 Investigates disclosed to Noeller.

"I don't think it's accurate and at the time that this HR complaint came about, I supervised 136 people," Noeller explained. "4 of the people filed a complaint who worked under me---that's less than 3%. I'm not saying there's not some validity to some of those complaints. I believe in ownership, but it's not a pattern of behavior. How do you go from being a supervisor for 7 years to all of a sudden you can't do anything right?"

News 5 followed up by asking whether Noeller feels he's at a disadvantage going into the chief's role without full support of the department.

"I don't think so," Noeller said. "I believe in a philosophy of leadership called extreme ownership. As the leader, you are responsible for what happens. I have learned a lot through this process on how to become a better leader. I'm a human being and I'm going to make mistakes but the difference is that I own my mistakes. I evaluate my mistakes and I try to learn and improve from them."

Pueblo Police Car
Pueblo police car parked outside PD Headquarters

Noeller is advancing his career in a controversial era for law enforcement which we also wanted to address. Nationwide, police departments are struggling with recruitment and retention of good officers.

"The biggest (issue) revolves around retention and manpower," he said. "We've got to get those numbers up so we can be out in the community and not chasing calls every day, all day."

Noeller says he believes strongly in community policing and focusing arrests on apprehending more violent offenders like those who are involved in homicides and sexual assaults.

In some counties and cities across the nation, there's an ongoing battle between police making arrests and the justice system letting criminals go with little to no penalties.

"Officers can do everything by the book when it comes to making arrests, but it's imperative to have a good working relationship with the District Attorney's Office," News 5 stated to Noeller. "What type of relationship do you plan on having with DA Jeff Chostner?"

"We know each other very well," Noeller said. "We have the ability to call each other up and express gratitude when things go well and express concerns when things don't and we're able to have that dialogue.

Noeller recognizes that good dialogue and conversations often need to expand beyond communication between police and the DA.

He says another important line of communication stems with meeting with various minority groups and religious organizations.

According to Noeller, some of these community leaders help provide guidance to the department.

"We have them sit on an oral board to select promotions and select officers for specialized assignments," Noeller explained. "It gives them a voice in their police department."

Noeller also wants to be more proactive with his staff by checking in with officers frequently during daily roll call briefings.

"I think in this period in time in our profession, it's become more and more important for us to look internally at the mental health and well-being of our officers," he said.

News 5 also asked Noeller his thoughts on police transparency. For example, law enforcement agencies are often given wide discretion on what information they release to the public.

"I think (transparency) is vital," Noeller said. "The issue we (and law enforcement agencies) struggle with is balancing the difference between transparency and protecting the defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial. That's a struggle we always try to counterbalance."

City Council must sign off on Noeller's appointment during its upcoming Aug. 9 meeting.

If approved, Noeller will officially become chief Aug. 10.