Colorado Springs Police Department is among about 10 percent of police agencies in the state — and the only one in the Pikes Peak region — that fell out of compliance with Peace Officers Standards and Training board requirements last year due to a failure to meet training standards under a newly imposed rule.
The Springs force is the second-largest on the noncompliance list, trailing only the Denver Police Department.
Being out of compliance means the department is ineligible from July 1 through Dec. 31 for grants from POST, which operates under the Colorado Attorney General's Office's criminal justice section.
In written responses to the Independent's questions, CSPD spokesman Sgt. Joel Kern said via email, "This is a new requirement through POST, so this is the first time we have fallen out of compliance. We have learned through this experience and will continue to strive for full compliance into the future."
Though POST allows waivers for officers on family or military leave or assigned light duty, Mayor John Suthers said through a spokesperson in an email, "Given the fact that our department, and every major department in the state, will continue to have officers on leave for varied reasons including military reserve leave, we believe this is a policy that deserves further consideration by the POST board."
Suthers, former Colorado attorney general, noted the CSPD "misinterpreted" POST rules and that Police Chief Pete Carey and others have "worked diligently" to regain compliance.
The Colorado POST board documents and manages certification and training of all active peace officers and reserve peace officers working for Colorado law enforcement agencies, according to its website. It also provides grant money to help agencies fund the required training.
POST reports that 13,202 officers were required to meet the new Rule 28 in-service training program standard, which became effective in January 2015.
Rule 28 requires that all officers complete a minimum of 24 hours of in-service training annually. Of those, 12 hours must be instruction in perishable skills, including arrest control, driving and firearms.
Of the state's total officers, 13,081 met the standard, representing 99 percent. If a department has even one officer out of compliance, it, too, is out of compliance.
Of the state's 254 law enforcement agencies required to follow Rule 28, all but 27, or 11 percent, complied, according to a March 1 letter to POST board members.
To aid departments in understanding and complying with the rule, POST contacted more than 100 agencies by phone from November 2014 to January 2015. A mass email was sent in January 2015 to all agencies explaining the rule; the POST in-service training manager attended 13 meetings across the state to explain the rule, and POST sent out compliance reports periodically to agencies that appeared to be heading for a non-compliance ranking.
On Jan. 20, 2016, POST sent all agencies a report stating there were 57 agencies that had about 500 officers who had not complied. The agencies had 30 days to correct the problems. As of Feb. 24, 27 agencies, representing 121 noncompliant officers, didn't make the grade.
Those consisted of mostly small departments, such as sheriff's offices in Huerfano, Pitkin and San Miguel counties. City departments out of compliance also included small operations such as Brush, Fort Lupton, Granada, Manzanola, South Fork and Wiggins.
Those agencies failed to comply, even though Rule 28 allows agencies to request waivers for officers who are on medical and military leave. According to POST, 99 agencies requested waivers and 81 were granted.
The primary reason for non-compliance among agencies, POST says, was that reserve officers — required to have the same training as full-time officers — didn't receive the mandatory training.
Other reasons: Departments waited until the end of the year to enter training into POST's online portal for credit and it was hard to catch up, and some agencies started training too late in the year.
"POST received many complaints, especially from large agencies, that 100 percent compliance for an agency is unrealistic," the March 1 letter states.
The Denver Police Department's public information office says via email that the department's noncompliant status means it's ineligible for POST grants the second half of this year and adds, "We did have four officers who were out of compliance, but they have since completed the necessary training."
In an email response to questions, Kern said nine of its 671 officers failed to comply with Rule 28. "Some officers missed their range qualification date, while the majority were unable to attend training for reasons that include FMLA [family] Leave, Military Leave, and Light Duty Status," Kern said. "The department has already implemented reforms to ensure that we prevent this from occurring in the future."
The department didn't disclose how much POST money it would lose, but acknowledged it benefits from POST funding through the Central Mountain Training Foundation, which helps provide training to departments in seven counties — El Paso, Park, Teller, Custer, Fremont, Chaffee and Pueblo.
"POST provides money to the CMTF, who then allocates funds to CSPD for training and equipment," Kern said.
The non-compliance status doesn't mean those nine officers will be removed from their duty assignments, he added.