Quiet town, busy cop
Editor’s note: This story is the last installment in a series about Summit County law enforcement. The series was slated to run on consecutive Mondays, but this story was delayed because of production schedules.
FRISCO – David Coulter moved to Colorado at the age of 14, so he’s seen plenty of growth. When he began commuting from Loveland to his job with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office in 1987, it was a 30-minute, uneventful drive.
“Then it turned into an hour of teeth-gnashing,” Coulter said. “It was time to move to the mountains.”
Coulter joined the Frisco Police Department in 1997. Although the town doesn’t see the action some Front Range departments have to deal with, it all depends on how busy you keep yourself, he said. And busy he stays:
11:10 a.m. – It’s Friday, but it’s Coulter’s Monday. He’s working the in-between shift, helping out the morning and evening patrol officers on either end. He readies for patrol: He makes sure he has all the blank paperwork needed for tickets and warnings. He discusses a local resident with a warrant out for his arrest with another officer. He calibrates the radar in his car – in addition to front- and rear-mounted sensors, he uses a hand-held radar gun for sideways detection.
“I like to catch them no matter which way they’re going,” Coulter said.
11:25 a.m. – The chief calls them “special attentions”: They’re specific patrol duties, usually prompted by a citizen complaint or town council concern. Coulter sets up in the driveway at the end of Creekside Drive where it intersects West Main Street. The 18-month-old stop sign there is still invisible to many inattentive drivers. Not a minute later, a delivery truck rolls through.
“It doesn’t take long,” Coulter said. “We’re actually a little lenient – there’s so many of them, we give warnings. But in this case, he was 13 mph over. He gets a ticket.”
11:50 a.m. – Coulter parks on Creekside north of Main to do his paperwork. In between pen strokes, he looks in his rearview mirror. He spots another car rolling through the intersection, then another.
“Like I told you, it doesn’t take long,” he said. “This is how paperwork stacks up.”
Coulter sees lots of inattention – it’s not DUI, he explains with a laugh, it’s HUA (head-up-ass). There are plenty of distractions in a modern world: cell phones, radios and eating, not to mention the scenery. Drivers need to concentrate more on driving, and he reminds them with tickets. This angers many drivers, and Coulter has to be on his guard at all times.
“We have to look out for the worst, and people expect to be treated the best at the same time,” Coulter said. “Some people think we treat them in a condescending way or (that) we’re using “excessive force’ because we have our hand on our gun. But we have to think about safety at all times.”
12:33 p.m. – Dispatch radios Coulter with a report of a 911 hang-up call at the Best Western Lake Dillon Lodge. Such calls are common when people try to navigate resort switchboard systems. He doesn’t mind checking on them; he gets to interact with people.
“I started out of college working for Loveland’s parks and recreation – I have a degree in forestry,” Coulter said. “It was good, but it was boring. That’s when I joined the reserve program at Larimer. It was great.”
The program allowed him to receive field training and go on patrol. It inspired him so much, he later studied such programs for his business master’s degree thesis.
Coulter walks the floors of the hotel and talks with the hotel engineer about motorcycles, an interest they share. Unable to find anyone in need of help, Coulter patrols Summit Boulevard, the Summit Stage Transfer Center and the shopping area parking lots.
1:02 p.m. – Dispatch reports a fire at Mountainside Condos. The fire department is there when Coulter arrives and has located the problem – a teapot on a burner has melted. Coulter goes back to patrolling, hitting the Waterdance neighborhood and going back to the commercial areas – the source of most of the town’s motor vehicle accidents.
1:50 p.m. – Coulter drops off paperwork at Summit Medical Center and comes out with a tip – there may be 40 pounds of pot in an apartment freezer. He’ll forward the tip to the Summit County Drug Task Force. On his way out of the parking lot, Coulter finds three cars parked in the fire lane. He writes out warnings and puts them on the windshields.
“I try to be understanding because of the construction situation,” Coulter said. “I’ve gone so far as to go into the doctors’ offices looking for people, but they just can’t leave their cars here.”
2:20 p.m. – Coulter stops a speeder on Summit Boulevard. He writes the driver a warning and gives her his business card.
Coulter heads over to Tenmile Drive to check in on some businesses. Managers ask him about his Jeep and the coming hunting seasons.
“I like anything outdoors,” Coulter said. “I like hiking, Jeeping, fishing and hunting – especially hiking or four-wheeling to find new fishing and hunting spots.”
2:40 p.m. – The Frisco peninsula is another special attention area. Coulter checks to see that skateboarders in the town park are wearing helmets and that disc golfers have dogs on leashes. He spots a skateboarder without a helmet, but the boy is leaving and Coulter lets him go. “Didn’t see him skating, so I’d just be harassing him.”
Back in the car after talking with the skaters, Coulter realizes he left his pocket tape recorder on. He rewinds it.
“I record all my contacts, just in case,” he said. “Especially with DUIs, you never know what someone’s going to try to say afterward.”
3:08 p.m. – Back at the Creekside stop sign, Coulter watches three vehicles in a row roll through the intersection. He catches the last.
“Some officers don’t like traffic, but I’ve never been one of those,” he said. “It’s instant closure. You can actually affect people right then and there – hopefully it’s positive.”
He describes one man he arrested for a third DUI. He now sees the man at bars – sober, serving as designated driver for his friends. “He said, “Thank you, you woke me up,'” Coulter said.
Coulter continues to patrol.
4:05 p.m. – Coulter spots a loose dog just outside Walter Byron park and herds it back to its house.
“I don’t want to catch him enough to get bit, but I can worry him enough to go home,” Coulter said. The owner comes out, and Coulter runs his ID through dispatch.
4:18 p.m. – A skater at the peninsula park is caught without a helmet. Coulter saw him leaving his house with a helmet on an earlier patrol, but the teen has left it somewhere. Coulter writes the boy a ticket.
4:46 p.m. – A woman doing 45 mph down Summit Boulevard gets a warning.
5:05 p.m. – Dispatch calls with a message from Advocates for Victims of Assault. Coulter heads back to the police department and calls the advocate. A previous domestic dispute continues to cause complications: The alleged victim feels harassed by her boyfriend’s friends over bills she purportedly still owes.
“These things are just messy – it’s not about logic,” he said. “But like I say, there’s 6 million people in the world, and there’s at least 6 million personalities.”
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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