2021 in Review: The change at the CPD

Craig police chief Mike Cochran poses for a photo in city council chambers shortly after the announcement that he'd be hired as the permanent chief following a period as interim.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

The Craig Police Department has found itself in a stable position by the end of 2021, but that was hardly the case in the early months of the year.

Jerry DeLong, the former chief of police for the city, resigned in early February, almost three years to the day after he was sworn into the position. Not long after the resignation, a separation agreement from the city was rescinded by the city manager. DeLong, public records requests revealed, was accused of “disparaging remarks” toward city manager Peter Brixius.

Shortly after the resignation, Michael Cochran was sworn in as interim police chief. Replacing the 35-year Craig Police Department veteran was a relative newcomer to Craig. Cochran, who was sworn in as the permanent chief of police this fall, started his long career in law enforcement in his home state of Georgia.

Many police officers left the force over the course of the year, with various reasons given, among them state legislation from 2020 that increased the liability burden on law enforcement.

That has continued to make hiring and retaining law enforcement officers in both CPD and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office — and across the state — extremely challenging. More than half a dozen open positions were outstanding on CPD for most of the year.

But the city has worked in recent months to increase compensation and other benefits for officers, as well as pay for their training, uniforms and equipment. Four future officers are headed to POST certification in January on the city’s dime.

Meanwhile, Cochran is working to continue to improve retention and recruitment.

“These young people need to know that this is a good, honorable profession,” Cochran told the Craig Press shortly after being sworn in as the permanent chief. “We say it over and over — this is not a reflection of Moffat County or Craig. Our residents are supportive. Officers in metro areas, they’re unappreciated or underappreciated, and they’re told daily how unappreciated they are. But here, they’re supportive. We’ve just got to re-engage with the youth.”

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