Avon Police Department annual report highlights key priorities, practices and policies
A look at the department’s crimes, calls and celebrations in 2021
In 2021, the Avon Police Department saw an increase in not only arrests, calls and certain crimes, but also in the ways that it interacts and serves the community through volunteering, training and transparency around mental health co-response and use of force.
Looking back at last year, Avon Police Chief Greg Daly will present these findings and more during the department’s 2021 annual report and awards at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
“This report showcases the excellent professional police services that the men and women of the department deliver to our community and guests 24 hours each day, 365 days a year,” Daly wrote in the 2021 report. “It highlights the leadership that the men and women take in many community outreach endeavors, and it also highlights the amazing collaboration we share with our partners in law enforcement, the fire service, emergency medical services, medical and behavioral health.”
The Avon Police Department is comprised of 21 sworn-in police officers, one part-time police master sergeant, three non-sworn-in administrative employees and two part-time summer non-sworn-in community response officers/rangers. Eight of the department’s employees are military veterans that served in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army.
In the past year, the department celebrated the retirement of a 22-year employee, several promotions as well as two police academy graduates and three new officers joining the force. The three new officers were all Latinos, representing a push of the local department to better reflect the demographics of Avon.
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“One of our main missions or objectives in our recruitment over the last 10 years has been to recruit more Latino, Hispanic recruits to better reflect the demographics of Avon,” Daly told the Vail Daily in June 2021. “Our demographics, census-wise, are effectively 50% Hispanic and 50% Caucasian and other races.”
Following the presentation of the 2021 report on Tuesday, Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes will also oversee the swearing-in of a new officer to the department, Officer Theresa Reno. Reno is joining the department after spending ten years working in corrections, most recently as the Eagle County Detentions Sergeant.
Avon policing in 2021
According to the 2021 report, the Avon Police Department responded to a total of 26,741 calls last year — a slight increase from the 20,253 calls it responded to in 2020.
The department was also dispatched by the Vail Public Safety Communication Center for 4,728 calls for activities ranging from traffic stops, community policing and building checks to foot patrols and extra patrols requested by community members.
In total, there were 564 crimes reported by the department in 2021, up only slightly from 530 in 2020. The most-reported crimes — according to the department’s 2021 activity stats — were DUIs (91), larceny (71), assault (59), vandalism (55), domestic violence (37) and fraud (37). All of these listed crimes were either in line, or even lower, than the numbers reported in 2020 with the exception of DUIs (up from 69 in 2020) and fraud (up from 17 in 2020).
The report does hold, however, that “there was a substantive increase in arrests from 273 in 2020 to 321 in 2021.”
This 17.6% increase, the report suggests was “indicative of the lessening of public health pandemic orders.”
Another big area of community interaction for the department is in traffic stops. In 2021, the department conducted 1,680 traffic stops resulting in 1,192 traffic warnings and 1,212 written traffic warnings. Plus, according to the report, of these traffic contacts, “there were zero sustained complaints filed regarding unprofessionalism or bias policing.”
Use of force changes
Following the 2020 call for increased police accountability, transparency and changes to officers’ use of force, Colorado passed a bill to do just that in June 2020. However, in July 2021, another bill was signed as a “remedy bill,” to address some of the “ambiguous and undefined language” in the 2020 bill, Daly’s report says.
“It did correct some of the 217 issues and made changes to some of its provisions but expanded with additional accountability requirements,” the report further states.
These included changes to hiring and training requirements, misconduct reporting, body camera requirements, use of force and much more.
“For the most part the bill enacted some forward-thinking concepts regarding policing in Colorado and was a first in the United States. I am glad to report that many aspects of the bill were already incorporated in the Avon Police Department’s policies, procedures, and training,” Daly wrote in his report, adding that Avon’s department only needed to make “small, subtle changes to comply with some aspects of the new law.”
Much of this pre-existing compliance, he wrote had to do with its Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which already ensures many of the practices and policies in the law.
The report goes on to highlight some of the subtle changes as well as the practices the department already does to comply with this new law. This includes adding in-car camera systems to “further increase accountability and transparency;” its data collection and reporting systems; its use of force requirements that require officers to formally report use of force; its training process; its hiring practices; and its virtual simulator that helps “officers more accurately analyze a use of force encounter.”
As part of the data collection and reporting around use of force, the report states that Avon Police officers used some level of force on 16 occasions in 2021. This was up slightly from 13 in 2020 and consistent with 2016, where force was used on 16 occasions.
In these instances, “there were reports of minor scratches and or scrapes to suspects during three of the use-of-force encounters where suspects resisted with officers.”
Further, the use-of-force log included in the report shows that the type of force used most frequently was “weapons directed” followed in frequency by “verbal de-escalation” and then “soft hands.” Only a few other types were logged including “Taser deployed” and “limited hard hands.”
Focusing on co-response
Part of this law was also on crisis-intervention training and changing the way that law enforcement deals with mental health calls. As the report identifies, the Avon Police Department “has made it a priority to identify mental health crises as medical events and not criminal events.”
Further, it states that Avon was the first Eagle County police agency “to say ‘no’ to transporting community members who were in mental health crisis, in handcuffs and in police cars, as was the previous protocol for mental health transports.”
The 2021 report highlights how the department has and is seeking to change its responses to mental health crises in the community.
For starters, 17 of the current 21 Avon Police officers have completed a 40-hour Mental Health Crisis Intervention Training, which is a national verbal de-escalation course. The training is identified as a “department priority for all new police officers,” with two new officers in training scheduled to take the next-available course.
Additionally, the department works closely with Your Hope Center on co-responding to crisis calls with Hope Center clinicians and Eagle County community paramedics; as well as with SpeakUp ReachOut, as Daly also serves on its board as its president.
In 2021, the report identifies that Avon Police officers responded to 91 welfare checks, eight mental health holds, 49 suicide calls, 76 calls for service directly related to Your Hope Center and two Safe2Tell calls (with some overlap between Your Hope Center, Safe to Tell, suicidal calls and welfare checks).
According to the report, the “backbone of what Avon Police Officers do 24-hours a day” is community policing. This model is deployed throughout any interaction that the department has with the community, but also through the many programs and organizations that it interacts with, not only locally, but across the state and country.
In a list of department highlights included in the meeting packet and 2021 report, Daly emphasizes its involvement with the Avon Elementary annual food drive, weekly volunteering with the Vail Valley Salvation Army, SpeakUp ReachOut, Shop with a Cop, My Future Pathways and more.
Among the other highlights are local, state and national trainings, networks and organizations that the department engages with. This includes things like the Law Enforcement Immigrant Alliance, the National Drug Take Back program, the GRANITE Drug Task Force, the Law Enforcement Ski Program at Beaver Creek, Police Bike Class, the Eagle County First Responders Fund and more.
On Tuesday, the department will also present a number of annual awards to officers, community members and organizations that emphasize this community policing model. This includes a life-saving medal to Officer John Mackey who performed CPR on an individual prior to the arrival of EMS units in January; a leadership excellence award to Officer Colleen Gaspard for a number of efforts including bringing in the department’s first K-9 officer; and much more.
To watch the presentation of the 2021 annual report, the 2021 awards and the swearing in of Officer Reno join the Avon Town Council meeting on Tuesday, June 14 in person at Avon Town Hall (100 Mikaela Way) or online via Zoom (register at Avon.org). The police presentations are scheduled to begin at 5:20 p.m.