HPD body cam policy unchanged
A number of concerns have been raised in the past four months stemming from a dog at large that was fatally shot by a Holyoke police officer. In that time, Holyoke City Council has heard from concerned citizens and discussed stray dogs, police body camera policy and reviews of the incident.
At its Nov. 19 meeting, the council reached conclusions on two of the topics. The matter of Holyoke’s stray dog problem, however, is something that likely won’t be solved anytime soon.
Based on a Nov. 5 request from residents Josh Clark and Brylea Irons, council members discussed last Tuesday whether an investigation into the shooting is warranted. Within a week of the shooting, members from two outside law enforcement agencies had reviewed the incident and determined that the officer acted appropriately. Clark and Irons asked for an investigation.
At last week’s meeting, council member Steve Moore expressed his disappointment that a dog had been shot and that the officer’s body camera was not turned on. He also said that he doesn’t think an investigation will find anything and that he doesn’t think there needs to be an investigation.
Council member John Schneider pointed to the outside reviews and Holyoke Police Chief Doug Bergstrom’s own review of the shooting as satisfactory.
Council members voted unanimously to consider the matter closed.
At one point shortly after the shooting, there was talk of updating the police department’s body camera policy. Having reviewed the existing policy, council members agreed Nov. 19 that there is no need for it to be changed but they want it to be strongly enforced.
Following the city council meeting, Bergstrom explained the gist of the HPD body camera policy. At nine pages, it’s one of the longest the department has. The Axon body cameras have three modes: off, buffering and event.
There are certain times the camera is turned off, and it does not record any audio or video. It’s turned off when it’s charging or when recordings are being downloaded or when the officer is in the restroom, for example.
In buffering mode, the camera records video, but it is not saved, and there is no audio recording.
When a camera is switched to event mode, it saves the previous 30 seconds of video recording from buffering mode, then the ensuing video and audio are saved until it is turned off again.
For most of an officer’s shift at HPD, the camera is in buffering mode. When typing up police reports or patrolling school zones, for example, there really isn’t need for recording. It’s when contact with a person is made that the camera must be switched to event mode.
In the case of the dog shooting, the officer didn’t have contact with another person. The incident has, however, prompted HPD to redouble its transparency efforts. Training has been updated to have officers switch to event mode for any call for service (with certain notable exceptions, such as medical calls). When officers get out of the car, they are to activate event mode.
If an officer is, say, attacked unexpectedly, the Taser may be used before there’s a chance to manually switch to event mode. Turning on the Taser will activate event mode as a precaution.
Some may wonder why the cameras aren’t in event mode for an entire shift. Bergstrom explained that there simply isn’t enough storage on the cameras themselves. In order to have space to record an actual event, they are kept in buffering mode when they’re not needed.
As for what happens to the saved recordings, Bergstrom said that they are saved through Axon. Typically, they are stored for three years. If the video is a training demo, it can be deleted in a matter of days. On the other hand, a recording can be set to save essentially forever if need be.
Golf board requests funding
Jody Fiscus of the golf board spoke to council members about the past year at Holyoke Golf Club and requested funding from the City. Last year, the City contributed $30,000 to the golf course, and the board is requesting it do the same this year.
With revenue up about $15,000 from the previous year, 2019 did see improvement.
“We’re at a break-even point,” Fiscus said. There is enough money in the bank to cover bills — salary, taxes, insurances, expenses on the clubhouse — up until April, she explained. However, the golf course typically doesn’t start seeing money come in until May.
Membership held steady at about 140, and increased revenue came from higher prices for membership and rounds of golf as well as in the clubhouse. The board also solicited advertisers for an additional revenue source. Throughout the year, volunteers put in about 250 hours to help maintain the course while keeping expenses down.
Numbers were down at tournaments in 2019 for reasons the board has not been able to identify. Fiscus did note that she hopes the recreation department’s youth golf events will encourage younger golfers to utilize the facility.
Last year, three golf carts were replaced at a cost of about $10,000, and Fiscus said that three more will need to be replaced in the next year or two. If there’s money for it in the future, the board would also like to purchase a blower as it takes golf course superintendent Don Schelling a long time to rake by hand after storms.
City clerk/treasurer Kathy Olofson noted that funding for the golf course is included in the preliminary 2020 budget.
HVFD to place shipping container on City land
Josh Young of the Holyoke Volunteer Fire Department attended last Tuesday’s meeting, requesting the council’s permission to house a shipping container on City property. Provided there was someplace to put it, HVFD planned to purchase a 40-foot shipping container to store equipment used for the annual July 4 fireworks show and clear up some space in the truck shed.
Following City superintendent Mark Brown’s recommendation that it could be placed at the pole yard, council members voted to allow it.
Officials, recreation director report
Brown reported that electrical crews continue to work on getting Christmas lights ready to be hung. They’ve also updated a couple of services and retired one old service. Water and sewer crews have been working on backflows, broken meters and blowing out sprinkler systems. Sebastian Madrid of Colorado Rural Water Association will be in Holyoke Dec. 4 to conduct a planning workshop, which all council members were invited to.
In the street department, Brown reported that crews continue to pick up leaves. They will finish Dec. 2, and residents should not put leaves in the gutters after Dec. 1. Crews have also had the street sweeper out and have been dragging some roads.
Brown also reported that a conference call was scheduled for Nov. 25 with representatives from Armstrong Consultants, Colorado Division of Aeronautics and the Federal Aviation Administration. They will begin working on predesign work for the airport runway sealcoat and re-mark.
Bergstrom reported that HPD, including code enforcement, handled or generated 205 calls for service Nov. 4-13. The department made one arrest, wrote one citation and five reports, and gave out 24 warnings. Code enforcement handled three animal complaints, one dog at large and three ordinance violations.
He also noted that officer Joe Marcum resigned and his last day will be Nov. 30.
Olofson reported the Nov. 5 election results, noting that the mayor’s and council members’ terms were extended to November 2020 as a result. She also reported that a new locking drop box was installed at the front of the City office.
Recreation director Victoria Dunker reported that flag football and women’s volleyball seasons finished. Now she is working with Olofson on the department’s 2020 budget. Dunker is also planning the Denver Nuggets Skills Challenge and is working on a Christmas activity with the nursing home.
In other business at the Nov. 19 meeting, council members:
— Did not yet receive from City attorney Al Wall a draft of a resolution opposing Colorado’s “red flag” gun law.
— Appointed Trisha Herman to serve another two-year term on the recreation advisory committee.
— Appointed Chris Lehman to serve another three-year term on the cemetery board.
— Approved a special events permit for Melissa Memorial Hospital for Dec. 14.
— Renewed the volunteer accident medical plan and community service worker’s accident medical plan with CIRSA at $1,300.81.
—Approved a holiday bonus for full-time employees of $108.29 to net $100 after paying FICA tax and Medicare.
— Held a 23-minute executive session to meet with Wall.