‘It’s a great place to work’
New police chief has big plans, community focus
Southeast holds a special place in Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski’s heart. The 58-year-old grew up in the Pikes Peak Park neighborhood and still considers it a good area to call home.
Ask him about that whole crime stigma surrounding the neighborhood and he may very well have the same response as many Southeast residents.
“It’s not the neighborhood,” that determines calls, he said. Rather, it’s the time. Time of day, time of year … it all affects when officers are likely to be in action.
“Right now, you will still see the same types of crime all over the city,” Niski continued. “We don’t treat the Southeast side of town any differently than anywhere else.”
Niski, a warm man with a big smile, took over the job as the city’s top cop from Pete Carey, who retired in February and is now El Paso County undersheriff.
The new chief joined the Springs force in February 1989 and has called the department his work home ever since.
“I was older when I came on. I was 28,” he said.
Niski was promoted to sergeant in 1997 and to lieutenant a decade later. Already a veteran of the patrol, traffic and Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence divisions, the lieutenant was assigned to the Sand Creek Patrol Division before joining the Specialized Enforcement Division. Niski earned his commander rank in 2011, and in 2012 was named deputy chief.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado and is a graduate of both the Center for Creative Leadership and the Police Executive Research Forum’s Senior Management Institute for Police.
“It’s a great place to work,” he said of the department.
“We would love to recruit people from the Southeast side of town.” – Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski
It’s also one in need of staff. Mayor John Suthers has pledged to add 120 city officers over the next four years, and an academy cohort of up to 72 is slated to start in July. But when you consider the department’s high attrition and turnover rate, it’s hard to gain ground.
“We would love to recruit people from the Southeast side of town,” the chief said. “I think we have one of the best departments in the country. We have some of the best people in the country.”
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In addition to maintaining a busy recruitment plan, the city piloted this year a pair of bilingual citizens’ academies geared at giving residents an idea about what it takes to walk the beat.
The adult-oriented Citizens Academy teaches residents about the duties, responsibilities, policies and procedures of the department, as well as the citizen’s role in law enforcement. Connecting Kids & Cops, meanwhile, helps youngsters learn about many aspects of policing. Both programs are offered in English and Spanish.
In addition, the department offers a teen cadet program and ride-along opportunities for those who want an up-close-and-personal look at the job. At the precinct level, crime prevention officers teach residents how to minimize the risk, and command staff become active partners in the neighborhoods they serve.
It’s all part of an effort, Niski said, to build and grow connection with the growing community.
“They’re always there, they’re always willing,” he said of his team. “That’s what they’re here to do.”
Three for 2019
Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski has three top policing priorities for the city this year:
* Improving traffic safety throughout the city, including curbing a record-matching pace for traffic fatalities.
* Improving the communications center, including bringing in a consultant to make suggestions on how to make the high-volume center more efficient.
* Addressing the homeless problem by increasing outreaching and stepping up policing of city ordinances.