The police department in Berthoud, Colo. is so dysfunctional and mismanaged that town leaders are considering disbanding it, according to an in-depth article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
Relying on confidential documents and interviews with Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, whose office has taken over the police department at the request of Berthoud officials and conducted a top-to-bottom review of its operations, the paper reported terrible morale, poorly secured assault rifles that aren’t necessary for routine police work and broken or poorly maintained equipment at the eight-officer department.
Smith’s office began investigating the police department in October, after a video surfaced showing officer Jeremy Yachik allegedly beating his daughter. Police chief Glenn Johnson — suspected of having known of the abuse, but not acting — resigned later in the year.
Smith submitted a confidential report to the Berthoud town board detailing the department’s myriad problems, which was obtained by the Coloradoan.
“It has been reported that Chief Johnson was most often found in his office and focused on computer work, or was absent much of the time he was scheduled to be at work,” the newspaper reported Smith as writing. “No evidence exists to support any ‘management by walking around’ that allows for the discovery of unacceptable conditions.”
“As a matter of fact, the evidence suggests a serious lack of control existed,” the report continued. “The examples of outdated reference materials, clutter, disorganization, and the poor state of the evidence room and failed evidence procedures indicate that the chief did no walking around his department facility or if he did, he ignored obvious inefficiency and problems.”
The sheriff’s office also found Johnson hired officers who were unqualified and who displayed “warning signs of inappropriate and sometimes illegal behavior.”
He also found squad cars with bald tires, oil leaks and broken laptops. And he found that Johnson purchased several fully automatic “machine guns” from the military that are typically only used by SWAT units. Berthoud, with a population of about 5,000, does not have a SWAT unit, according to the Coloradoan.
“Most shockingly, fully automatic machine guns (not appropriate for standard police operations) were acquired from the military and were stored in [an] open room with minimal security,” Smith wrote. “At the Berthoud Police Department, we found that the chief has overlooked and neglected many of the things that are absolutely necessary to leading an effective and accountable police operation.”
Smith suggested that Berthoud allow the sheriff’s office to permanently take over its law enforcement, a common arrangement for small towns. This option would cost Berthoud about $1 million per year, according to the Coloradoan. Town officials are considering it.
Smith also found the department was rife with fear and back-stabbing among the officers.
“Fear is rampant; a lack of pride in service is clear; teamwork is almost non-existent; basic leadership skills and prowess is hard to find,” he wrote. “Morale is low; back-stabbing is high; mutual respect rarely exists; employees are not currently free to excel or conduct department business with vigor, enthusiasm, or enjoyment because of the general malaise affecting the department members.”
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