Top cop candidates might overlook arresting sight of Junction police station

Grand Junction’s next police chief will face the same unenviable charge as the last few preceding chiefs: Leading a department in a police station that, by all accounts, has far outlived its usefulness. And it appears he or she will continue to work out of that building for the foreseeable future.

But a former Grand Junction police chief and the president of a company who works with municipalities to find police chiefs say they don’t believe a lack of a modern police station will work against city officials in their recruitment of a new chief.

In fact, they say, it could help.

City voters last year rejected a sales-tax increase and an override of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights revenue-collection limitations that would have funded a $98 million public safety initiative. The project would have included, among other facilities, a new police and fire administration building, a new 911 dispatch center, a parking garage and training and equipment-storage buildings.

City leaders last month decided against returning to the ballot this fall with another measure. They’re now attempting to find alternate ways to fund those buildings, although there’s no guarantee they’ll come up with the necessary money, and there’s no indication construction will begin anytime soon.

What might appear as a dire situation to some could be viewed by police chief candidates as a chance to put a feather in their cap and build their resume, said former Grand Junction Police Chief Greg Morrison, who worked for the department from 2001 to 2005 and later formed his own police consulting firm.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that big of an issue,” said Morrison, now the assistant police chief in Breckenridge. “If anything, someone might look at it as a challenge and opportunity to build (a new station).”

Morrison noted if a candidate is presented with job offers in similarly sized cities and one contains an old, rundown police station and one contains “a brand shiny new building,” the choice would be obvious. Absent that, given the “tremendous lifestyle” and other amenities in the Grand Valley, candidates could overlook the 51-year-old Grand Junction police station.

The city will soon launch a national search to replace Chief Bill Gardner, whose resignation took effect Friday. In Gardner’s nearly four years as chief, he pushed hard to build a new police station but came up short.

Walt Zalisko is president of Police Management Consultants, a Florida-based firm that specializes in management studies and police executive searches. He said he believes there are two types of police chief candidates: those who want to maintain the status quo and those who are reform-minded candidates who are willing to come into a department and take on challenges.

Outdated, inefficient police buildings shouldn’t necessarily affect service, but they can affect police morale, said Zalisko, a retired New Jersey police chief.

“A chief coming in could say, ‘This is an opportunity for me to improve this department. It may not happen while I’m chief, but at least I can get the ball rolling,” he said.


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