Joseph Deras started his new role last week as Glenwood Springs Chief of Police. He recently moved to the valley from Gilroy, CA, where he was police captain. Deras says he wanted to move to Glenwood Springs to leave behind the fast-paced lifestyle in California.
Morning Edition host and reporter Molly Dove visited Chief Deras in his office to talk about his new role. She asked about his transition to Roaring Fork Valley life.
"Well, it’s a difficult question to answer because I am out here right now by myself. My family stayed back home so our children could finish the school year, so that’s a challenge for sure. And then just coming to an entirely different state where I have no personal connections, which is exactly what we wanted to do."
Why was that?
"We just wanted a change from the California lifestyle. It's very congested there now, very fast-paced, particularly in the Silicon Valley where we live, the Bay Area. But we wanted to raise our children in a nice, clean, slower-paced environment, something that I was raised in, but it’s just not that way anymore. And policing has really been changing the landscape in California. The politics and some of the ideas that are going on there are making it really difficult to be successful in what I’ve chosen to do as a career."
This valley is made up of a lot of Spanish-speaking residents. How will being bilingual help you as you take on this new role of chief of police in Glenwood Wprings?
"Well, I’ll refer back to my experience, and that doesn’t mean that experience is the right way to do it, I can just tell you that was successful for us. I think that provides a lot of opportunity here for folks that are challenged with the English language or speaking native Spanish only. I think that me being bilingual, I’ll be to communicate with them a lot more effectively than maybe they have become accustomed to. And I really hope, and this is really the focus of that skill set that I have, that they’ll feel more comfortable coming and talking with me or officers within the organization [to] understand that we are not the enemy in any way. We are just as much a part of this community as they are. I live here, my family will be shopping here and attending schools, just like them and their families do."
As you come into your new role, what is the first thing you want to accomplish?
"I think that takes two roads. One, I really need to learn the organization and the personalities here, find out where they’re at organizationally. Just have a complete comprehensive understanding of where they are and what they need, if anything, what’s been working and then maybe what hasn’t been working so we can make adjustments where appropriate.
Externally, I think what’s important for me is to get into the community and start meeting many of the stakeholders. The community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, civic leaders within the community and residents and give them an opportunity to come in, if they chose, to meet with me or me in the community meeting with them and hearing from them what they like about this community and things they think have areas for improvements so I can understand the capacity, or evaluate our capacity, to address some of those issues."
So what is your first impression of the department and something you want to change now that you are officially on the job?
"Difficult to answer. I have only been on the job for six days, but I can tell you, and it’s not unique to Glenwood Springs, but more of a national problem, is recruiting and retention. We had that where I came from, we had it in our region and you find that across the country. Choose a newspaper in any community in America, for the most part you’ll find that is a challenge and we’re no different here. So I absolutely have to address that situation rather quickly.
Because I do think we have talented people within the department. Certainly I did my research even before applying here and I think coming through that process and working with some of the folks here, I do think we have talented people. They have the right mindset and the right heart to do what they do so we want to keep them here and attract others here once we get up and running here with some of the ideas we have about training and development in our staff and some other things that make this an attractive place to work."