Jim Tsurapas said his new role as chief of the Parker Police Department is something he has prepared for since he joined the force in 1995. Tsurapas has led the department since December as an …
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Jim Tsurapas said his new role as chief of the Parker Police Department is something he has prepared for since he joined the force in 1995.
Tsurapas has led the department since December as an interim replacement after the retirement of David King, and his appointment was made permanent June 9.
Tsurapas begins his stint as chief while law enforcement agencies nationwide attempt to mend trust in their communities following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd. Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer sparked a month of demonstrations nationwide in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Several local governments have responded with sweeping policy changes intended to hold officers more accountable.
“I thank my lucky stars we did what we did early on to address some of these things because you never know what's going to happen in the future,” Tsurapas told Colorado Community Media in an interview.
On June 19, Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill banning the use of chokeholds by law enforcement officers and requiring local agencies to implement body cameras.
The Parker Police Department is already in compliance with the aspects of the law that take immediate effect, said spokesperson Josh Hans. The department has meetings scheduled with its legal, accreditation and policy staff in the coming weeks to determine which policies need to be amended. A draft of the changes will be submitted to its community advisory group prior to implementation. The department's policies need to be in compliance with all aspects of the law by 2023.
The department has not taught the use of chokeholds since at least 1999, which is as far back as the department's archives go, Hans said.
Tsurapas said the department has not taught officers to use chokeholds as a use of force since at least he started in 1995. The department began requiring officer to wear body cameras in 2015. Tsurapas said the department will need to make some “minor tweaks” to policy to align with the new law.
“A lot of the things involved in this movement we have been doing for many, many years,” Tsurapas said. “We've been a leader as a police organization in terms of policies and have been progressive with some of our policies and practices … I think society is asking for more transparency from agencies. We are fortunate we have done some of these things early on.”
The Parker Police Department has earned an advanced accreditation mark from the federal Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies every year since 2013. The commission grades agencies on over 400 criteria to improve the department's life, health and safety procedures, according to its website, CALEA.org.
“There's nothing wrong with providing a means to be able to show people we do things right,” Tsurapas said, pointing to the use of body-worn cameras as an example. “Part of that was to be transparent as an organization and provide that transparency to those we serve. Body-worn cameras make good cops better.”
Tsurapas replaced King, who served the past 13 years as the department's chief. King led the department as it built its new station, created events and classes to engage with officers and worked its way toward its first CALEA accreditation.
“We have been doing things right for a very long time, and I'm proud to say that. And it's not because of me or one or two particular people. I think it's because of the organization and culture as a whole,” Tsurapas said. “Our community is used to a platinum service and we want to maintain that and take this organization to the next chapter.”
Three demonstrations in solidarity with Black Lives Matter have taken place in Parker. A fourth is scheduled for July 3 at town hall. The movement raised questions nationally about the nature of law enforcement's relationship with those they serve.
Tsurapas called attention to the department's community response team, which Tsurapas hopes to expand. The CRT assists and provides resources for people in need of assistance for a mental health call.
“There's a lot of commentary saying 'rather than having a police officer responding to mental health calls having a social worker or (emergency medical technician) respond. We've been doing this program for about 3 1/2 years,” Tsurapas said.
Tsurapas hopes to continue building on the relationships with the community and other organizations. Around the nation, there are some calling for defunding or dismantling law enforcement agencies. Tsurapas considered the movement through the lens of his nearly three decades of experience.
“We have to treat people with respect. We have to maintain that sense of professionalism and we have to continue to build those relationships and do the things we've been doing that have made us so successful as a police organization,” Tsurapas said. “Are we always going to be perfect? No. There's always room for improvement. But when you're doing such great things and building such great relationships and having collaborative efforts with the community and other organizations, you really don't have to move too far to improve anymore.”
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