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Colorado Departments Lose Officers As Police Quit In Droves Nationwide

Leigh Paterson
32 deputies left the Boulder County Sheriff's Office last year, a significantly higher number than usual.

Findings from a new survey by the Police Executive Research Forum indicate a 45% increase in retirements and 18% increase in resignations at hundreds of departments across the country. The survey compared the 12-month period from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 to the same period from 2019 to 2020.

Departments in Northern Colorado, from Steamboat Springs to Boulder have experienced a similar trend. At the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, 32 deputies left last year; 16 retired, 16 resigned. This is around double the usual number.

Sheriff Joe Pelle says a “tremendous amount” of this was directly related to a combination of factors: from COVID-19, to racial justice protests, to police accountability legislation.

“People were not resigning to go to a different police department or different sheriff's office, they were resigning to literally move to Montana or Wyoming or go to Missouri and start a chicken farm,” Pelle said. “Those are real examples. They're just getting the heck out and they’re getting out of policing completely.”

Pelle says that staffing shortages have made it more difficult to prevent certain types of rising crime, like the theft of catalytic converters from cars. But, the department has adjusted to staffing levels by taking some minor crime reports over the phone or online.

As KUNC's mental health reporter, I seek to create a sense of urgency and understanding around issues related to mental illness, access to care and happiness in Northern Colorado and our mountain communities.
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