With the election of Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta to president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police this month, the law enforcement needs of rural Colorado will be expressed on a state level, he said Monday.
Vanatta has been a member of the organization since 1998, serving as second vice president in 2000 and first vice president in 2001.
"It goes along with my personal philosophy," he said. "If you're going to be part of an organization, you have to participate."
The fact that he was elected president a post he will hold until June 2003 recognizes his participation on a state level, he said.
"It's some recognition to the department and the community for being involved and taking an active role in today's criminal justice activities," he said. "We're becoming recognized in the state as a very proactive and professional agency."
The association's president serves as the principal executive officer, controls all business affairs of the association and presides over the five meetings held each year.
The state's police chiefs established the association in the 1960s to offer a formal networking venue and a unified voice in state legislation. The association is comprised of five regions, each of which has a representative who sits on the executive board.
The association provides executive certification, an awards program for officers and residents, and works with the Colorado Legislature to enact statutes favorable to communities and
law enforcement, according to Vanatta.
Vanatta said the association also provides its members with technical assistance and is active in establishing training.
Karen Renshaw, the organization's executive director, said she looks forward to working with Vanatta.
"He's going to bring some great detail and focus," she said. "His vision for our organization are long range. He's definitely a forward-thinking person. He also brings a wonderful sense of humor."
Vanatta said he has set several goals to accomplish in his one-year term. He wants to update the association's strategic plan and develop a strong working relationship with the state sheriff's association.
"We have a lot of issues in common," he said. "I think it would benefit both organizations and enhance our position, particularly in the Legislature, to have a united front."
This year's president of the sheriff's association is Routt County Sheriff John Warner, with whom Vanatta shares a friendship as well as a good working relationship.
"I think it's really critical that, as much as possible, we go in with a unified position on some issues," the police chief said.
Vanatta said more than 50 percent of all legislation passed affects law enforcement in some way, so it's critical that those affected have input on the issues and the details of the laws passed.
Vanatta said he also plans to create an ethics committee, which will adopt standards and evaluate complaints within the association. Though the association has no power itself, members can recommend removal from the organization for misconduct.
The committee also will work to provide training.
"We have a responsibility not only to ourselves as chiefs of police but to the communities we serve to provide an environment that has high ethical standards," he said.