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Colorado town left without police after entire department quits

Mayor: Timing unfortunate, but does not appear to be motivated by improper acts
Police Duty
springfield police department quits_1.jpg
Posted at 12:44 PM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 12:44:26-04

SPRINGFIELD, Colo.  — The entire police force in a southeast Colorado town has quit, but residents in the area will not be left without law enforcement.

The three-person Springfield Police Department had been embroiled in controversy since 2019, according to a Colorado Sun investigation.

That year, the town fired its police chief for alleged unprofessional behavior and later paid $50,000 to settle claims that one of its officers acted inappropriately toward a 15-year-old girl.

In that same investigative report, the Sun uncovered the department had fired another officer who had only been on the job for six months after a series of bad interactions with residents. The Sun found that the officer was let go from his previous job in law enforcement after a series of “alleged transgressions.”

The latest blow to the embattled police department came Friday when the Town of Springfield announced the entire police force – consisting of the chief and two police officers – was planning to quit, effective Saturday.

Springfield, located about 48 miles south of Lamar, is home to about 1,400 residents.

Because Colorado statutes task all municipalities to have law enforcement services available for residents, Baca County Sheriff Aaron Shiplett has taken over law enforcement duties temporarily for the whole town.

At the same time, qualified candidates are interviewed and hired.

Neither the Springfield Police Department nor the Baca County Sheriff’s Office explained why the abrupt resignations came about.

Still, a statement from Mayor Tyler Gibson says there were "no allegations of wrongdoing by the Chief or any of the officers brought before the Springfield Board of Trustees."

The statement says two officers resigned to take positions elsewhere, while the chief did so for "personal reasons."

"The timing of the resignations is unfortunate but does not appear to have been motivated by any improper acts by the officers," Gibson wrote.

In their initial statement Friday, town officials warned residents to think twice about committing crimes.

“You are free to test that assumption at your convenience. However, we will warn you, the community is fed up with it. Law enforcement will be here in force. They will exhaust every resource at their disposal in finding you,” town officials wrote in a news release. “The lights are always on at the Baca County Jail, and we still have a few bunks available."

Oscar Contreras at KMGH first reported this story.