State Patrol chief to step down

James Wolfinbarger

Colorado State Patrol Chief James Wolfinbarger will step down at the end of the month following a 17-year career, the state’s Department of Public Safety announced Friday.

Wolfinbarger, 43, who has headed the agency the past four years in a career that saw service in Grand Junction between 1999 and 2001, said in an email distributed to troopers statewide just before 3 p.m. Friday that he decided to leave after “countless discussions with my wife and family.”

“I am pursuing new challenges and look forward to the next phase of my professional life,” the email read.

A phone message left with Wolfinbarger wasn’t immediately returned.

Lance Clem, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said in a three-sentence statement the retirement will be effective Jan. 31.

“I would like to recognize Chief Wolfinbarger’s service and contributions to the safety of all of those who live and play in Colorado,” Department of Public Safety Executive Director James Davis said.

The Department of Public Safety oversees the State Patrol.

Clem said Friday he couldn’t confirm an account by KUSA television in Denver saying Wolfinbarger had been the focus of an internal investigation over an unspecified personnel matter. Clem, however, said this: “I know he (Executive Director Davis) has been working on some things that only he can comment on.”

Davis, Clem’s boss, couldn’t immediately be reached Friday.

Wolfinbarger’s email Friday said the agency has moved beyond one primarily focused on traffic safety over the past decade.

“Since 2001, when we drafted our first strategic plan, we have seen the creation of Homeland Security and Immigration Enforcement, have expanded and updated our internal mission and vision statements, have brought Leadership in a Police Organization (LPO) education and training to all members of the Patrol ...,” the email reads. “We are a more progressive and professional agency because of your efforts, and I am extremely proud of each of you.”

Friday’s announcement was five days after the American Civil Liberties Union announced a $1 million settlement with the State Patrol, ending a wrongful-death lawsuit filed in connection with the shooting death of 31-year-old Jason Kemp in the Redlands. As part of the settlement, the State Patrol agreed to implement a host of training practices for current and future troopers on the warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unlawful search and seizure.

“Am I satisfied as chief with training on the Fourth Amendment? Yes. Where we can look to improve is beyond the academy. How are we building that into our in-service (training),” Wolfinbarger said in an interview with The Daily Sentinel, which was published June 23, 2012.

In the wake of Kemp’s shooting death by now-former Trooper Ivan “Gene” Lawyer in July 2010, the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office opened an investigation focused on Trooper Donald Moseman after he left the agency following an investigation on possibly falsifying DUI arrest reports. Moseman wasn’t charged.

Colorado in April 2011 paid $280,000 to a Collbran family to settle a lawsuit focused on State Patrol pursuit policies, stemming from a crash on Colorado Highway 65 that injured a mother and contributed to the death of her unborn baby.

Investigative files from Kemp’s death were sent by the District Attorney’s Office, at the request of the Kemp family, to the U.S. Department of Justice last May.

Federal authorities have remained silent on the review.

During his interview with the Sentinel, Wolfinbarger said recent woes in Mesa County weren’t reflective of a lack of leadership.

“There is work to be done, to be sure, toward assuaging people’s concerns,” he said.


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