A small southeastern Colorado town’s 3-person police force all abruptly quit

Updated 6:06 p.m.

The entire staff and police chief of the Springfield Police Department quit abruptly this week, leading the Baca County Sheriff’s office to take charge in the sparsely populated southeast corner of Colorado.

In a press release posted to the county sheriff’s Facebook page on Friday, the sheriff’s office announced they would be stepping up temporarily to police Springfield after reaching a unanimous agreement with the city and Baca County Commissioners on Thursday.

In addition to Springfield Police Chief Katrina Martin, the SPD had two officers on staff and one vacant Animal Control Officer position, according to the department’s website. 

One SPD resignation became effective Wednesday and the other two will be effective on Saturday, the sheriff’s office said. 

Springfield, home to fewer than 1,500 people, is about four hours southeast of Denver.

“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 sheriff’s office said in a statement. “You are free to test that assumption at your convenience, however we will warn you, the community is fed up with it, law enforcement will be here in force, they will exhaust every resource at their disposal in finding you, the lights are always on at the Baca County Jail and we still have a few bunks available.”

Baca County Commissioner Rick Butler said he thinks the resignations happened because the Springfield police staff and chief found better job opportunities.

"I'm not exactly sure, but I know there are police staffing issues all across the country," Butler said, adding that the sheriff department's temporary takeover is not anticipated to be long-term.

The town of Springfield has agreed to cover all overtime costs in the meantime, he said.

The tiny department has had its issues.

Before Martin became police chief, the SPD in 2019 removed its former police chief Dennis Bradburn after he was accused of unprofessional behavior and paid $50,000 to settle claims that one of his officers, Cody Phillips, harassed a 15-year-old girl, according to The Colorado Sun

In summer 2019, about a month after the settlement was reached, the SPD hired an officer who had been fired from a previous police job for making inappropriate statements toward a woman and violating the department’s policies on chasing vehicles, The Colorado Sun reported.

Calls to the SPD are currently being forwarded to the Baca County Sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office is the dispatch center for the SPD, so calls are usually forwarded to them anyway, according to a spokeswoman from the sheriff’s office. 

“All government officials involved unanimously agreed that the people of the Town of Springfield should expect and rightfully deserve continuous access to quality law enforcement services in this time of turbulence within the Springfield Police Department,” the office added in a statement.