The entire three-person police force in the small southeastern Colorado town of Springfield, including the police chief, abruptly resigned this week.
The resignations were announced Friday in a letter to the community from Springfield Mayor Tyler Gibson and Baca County Sheriff Aaron Shiplett. They wrote that it was a “time of turbulence within the Springfield Police Department,” but didn’t elaborate.
An attempt to reach officials in Springfield on Friday afternoon wasn’t immediately successful and a voicemail left for Gibson wasn’t returned. But in a follow up statement to The Plainsman Herald newspaper, Gibson said while the “timing of the resignations is unfortunate (they do) not appear to have been motivated by any improper acts by the officers.”
“There were no allegations of wrongdoing by the chief or any of the officers brought before the Springfield Board of Trustees,” the statement said. “The two officers each resigned to take positions elsewhere. The chief resigned citing ‘personal reasons.'”
A representative from the Baca County Sheriff’s Office told The Colorado Sun that the letter, posted on Facebook, would be the only information released on the situation. Shiplett did not return a message seeking comment.
The Springfield Police Department has been at the center of controversy in recent years.
The Sun reported in 2019 that the police department had removed its then-police chief after he was accused of unprofessional behavior and paid $50,000 to settle claims that one of its officers acted inappropriately toward a 15-year-old girl. It then fired another officer for “intimidating or threatening behavior” and for his “relationship with the public” less than six months after he was hired despite being terminated from his previous law enforcement job for a host of alleged transgressions.
The town of Springfield’s website on Friday listed the police chief as Katrina Martin and the department’s two officers as Dustin Martin and Jonah West.
The sheriff’s office says it will provide law enforcement services in the town of about 1,300 people near Colorado’s border with Kansas and Oklahoma. Springfield is the seat of Baca County.
“We also want to make this message very clear to anyone thinking this is an opportune time to commit crimes or victimize anyone in Baca County,” the letter said. “You are free to test that assumption at your convenience, however, we will warn you that the community is fed up with it, law enforcement will be here in force (and) they will exhaust every resource at their disposal in finding you.”