Cortez Police Department announces heightened security for City Hall

Sunday, July 29, 2018 3:00 PM
Cortez police officer Ryan Martin on security duty in the City Hall council chambers during Tuesday’s meeting.

In a meeting on Tuesday, the Cortez City Council and Police Department announced plans to increase security at City Hall.

Tuesday was the first time since moving into the new City Hall building that the council shared its chambers with a designated security officer throughout the meeting. Police Lt. Andy Brock said that was the first of several new security measures the department plans to implement from now on. Others include silent alarms in the council chambers and a recently drafted emergency plan for city staff.

The City Council hasn’t had an officer on duty in its new building, and it hasn’t faced a major disturbance during a public meeting in years. Although the council members largely expressed approval for the security tactics, councilman Orly Lucero asked why they were necessary.

“I think maybe it’s just time,” Brock said. “Five years ago, I would have said no, that we wouldn’t need that, but ... times are changing a little bit.”

He said that, from now on, a police officer would be present in the entry hall of the building during each premeeting workshop and patrol the council chambers and the hallways during each meeting. He or she will also be among the last people to leave the building at night, checking the doors to make sure they’re locked.

A new alarm system has also been installed in the council dais, allowing members to call the police with the press of a button if necessary.

Executive assistant Dawn McCabe-Lightenburger said government employees drafted an emergency plan for all city buildings earlier this year, and the council members were the last to receive training in it. She said the council will schedule an emergency drill soon.

In the meantime, Brock gave the council members the same advice he said police give high school students in shooting drills: “run, hide, fight.” He said the dais is a good place to shelter in case of a shooting because it’s reinforced with steel.

Several council members thanked the police department and city staff for putting together a security plan.

“I hope it never comes to that, but it’s nice to know you’ve given it some thought,” Mayor Karen Sheek said.

Brock urged the council members to ask the police department about any other security measures they might need.

Law enforcement was a frequent topic of discussion on Tuesday, which also saw several votes on improving police communication equipment and creating a contract with Municipal Judge Jim Shaner. During his report at the end of the meeting, City Manager John Dougherty brought up another potential law enforcement issue: panhandling.

He said a Cortez resident had left two anonymous notes in the City Hall suggestion box recently, and reportedly said they would keep coming back “until (the city) did something about” the people who regularly ask for money at street corners and in parking lots around town. Dougherty said panhandling is protected under federal freedom of speech laws, and there’s nothing the municipal government can legally do to stop it.

“The way to stop them is to stop giving them money on the street corners, and give to a charity that’s going to help them get back on their feet,” he said.

Other actionAlso during Tuesday’s workshop and meeting, the council:

Heard an update from the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which recently completed an inventory of the city’s artwork and is recommending four new art purchases for City Hall.

Reviewed some potential questions for a public fiber-to-the-home survey, suggested by CCG Consulting. The council will consider revised questions at future workshops.

Approved a resolution setting a 4-minute time limit on all public comment in meetings, except for presentations, and restricting residents to two comments per agenda item.

Approved a letter of support for a statewide “single filing portal” that would allow businesses with multiple Colorado locations to file taxes on a single website.

Scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 14 to decide whether to give a liquor license to Jimmers.

Appointed Rachel Medina to the Board of Adjustment and Appeals.