Pueblo council member calls for more trust between police and city's east side

Video Pueblo East Side Police

PUEBLO, Colo. - During a Pueblo City Council Workshop Monday, council member Larry Atencio called for a better relationship between law enforcement and people in Pueblo, particularly on the east side. 

It's something Atencio believes the Pueblo Police Department has started, but need to continue improving on.

Atencio notes that the city police have made great efforts to clean up the crime on the east side. However, he says some of his constituents that he represents on that side of town don't trust law enforcement. 

"There is always room for improvement when it comes to police-community relations," said Atencio on Wednesday. "[My constituents] tell me stories about some of the behavior of police officers. I want to curb that before it turns into a real problem."

Jessica Sheppard-Taylor, who lives and works at a convenience store on Pueblo's east side, aired one of her complaints.

"Call them for anything, they show up two to three hours later on, unless it's a serious emergency," said Sheppard-Taylor. "If someone is getting abused in my parking lot -- which I've dealt with before -- they didn't show up."

According to Pueblo police records since 2015, response times for high-priority calls, such as shootings, have gradually improved. However, the lower-priority calls have worsened in the past few years. 

Despite being critical of the police presence on the east side, Sheppard-Taylor says she wants to see more police not less.

"I think the problem is a lot of people don't know the things that we do," said Sgt. Frank Ortega with the Pueblo Police Department. 

Ortega believes they have made great strides to build trust on Pueblo's east side and all over town. 

"We have specific locations that are identified as issues, and we have officers that are specifically assigned to these cop projects," explained Ortega. "They figure out what this issue is in that area, and do what they can do to fix it, as well as how they can continually evaluate those results."

The goal is to put a human face on the police department. Ortega says police consistently volunteer all over Pueblo, especially the east side. These include park clean-ups, volunteering at public schools, and other community functions. He says those efforts will continue. 

Atencio believes the distrust could be a symptom of the police department being understaffed, which is a problem stations all over the country deal with. 

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