Pueblo police union squares off against city

PUEBLO, Colo — There is growing tension between the Pueblo Police Union and the City of Pueblo.

The Union said years of complaints to Police Chief Luis Velez and City Manager Sam Azad have gone ignored.

Their main concerns are a lack of manpower on the streets to handle crime, and the state of their old vehicles and equipment.

Right now, the department has about 164 officers. In 2016, they’re scheduled to get seven to nine more, but it might not be enough.

“Even at fully staffed we’d be well below the Colorado average for police officers per 1,000 population and that doesn’t even take into account that our crime rates are far higher than those other communities,” said John Rice, lawyer for the Pueblo Police Union.

They need more than 200 officers to keep up.

One city council member said it’s hard to make everyone in the city happy.

“It’s not just the police department or the fire department. We have to look at the whole city. It’s a difficult job with limited resources,” said City Council member Ed Brown.

The union needs to see action soon.

“As far as more manpower on top of what they’re already looking at adding this year, certainly 2017 is where we’re going to need to look for those changes, to the 2017 budget,” said Rice.

“They want more police officers, but they also want pay raises, so there has to be a balance there. We have limited resources. I guess if they didn’t go for a pay raise we might be able to fund more officers, I don’t know,” said Brown.

He believes officers will continue to do their jobs, even with growing frustration, because they want to keep Pueblo safe.

“That’s why they’re voicing their concern about the staffing. I don’t blame them for that, but on the other hand we have limited resources to address that,” said Brown.

A survey by the union showed that at least 60 percent of officers have no confidence in Velez, but because not all surveys were filled out, for fear of retaliation, they said the true number is probably closer to 90 percent of officers with no confidence.

Velez and Azad did not comment on the union’s statements.

Pueblo police union squares off against city