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Mancos marshal works to put department back on track

After a turbulent 2015, Mancos Marshal Jason Spruell is putting the department back on track
Mancos Marshal Jason Spruell stands with one of the new vehicles the department recently acquired, a 2016 Ford F150.

When Jason Spruell was appointed in April as Mancos marshal, he had several goals in mind for the department. After the first few months on the job, he said he’s making progress.

“I’m trying to learn the way Mancos handles stuff and all the extra duties the marshal has,” Spruell said. “That’s been the biggest thing to learn.”

Spruell had served as acting marshal since December, after John Cox resigned. The Mancos Town Board appointed Spruell to the position in April after he and several other candidates went through a rigorous application process that included a thorough background check, polygraph test and psychological assessment. The assessment process had been intensified after Cox was accused and later sentenced to six months of probation of falsifying a citation to a woman for driving 45 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Spruell said the process was very challenging.

“It was a long process, and it was somewhat overwhelming, but it was a very good process, and it helps you get good candidates,” he said.

Spruell began by attempting to rebuild trust in the Marshal’s Office, which is going out into the community, doing more business checks and patrols on foot, he said.

“We’re trying to be out on foot more and talking to the public more,” he said. “We’ve gained the trust of the public.”

The department has doubled the amount of business checks, Spruell said.

The office has increased training, making sure that staff have the required number of hours for their post, Spruell said, and know how to deal with people who have a mental illness.

Continuing with that professional development is important for the community, Spruell said.

“I want deputies to be trained to help the community and to help themselves, or they won’t know how to deal with a certain situation,” Spruell said. “That’s what we’re here for — to help the community, so we need to train on how to do that.”

The Marshal’s Office also has become involved once again with the regional Child Protection and Multi-disciplinary teams. The Child Protection Team is a group of law enforcement, citizens, social services and day care centers that come together to discuss various child welfare cases. The Multi-disciplinary Team is a group of regional law enforcement agencies that work collaboratively to solve crimes.

Spruell said he also is looking to start more drug education in Mancos schools, not only to raise awareness for students about their effects, but also to train teachers on how to recognize the signs of students who are adversely affected by drugs.

Now, the Marshal’s Office will focus on public education, Spruell said. Earlier this summer, some cars were getting broken into around town, so Spruell put the word out that people should start locking their cars at night. The department eventually got some tips from the public and arrested the suspects, Spruell said.

He’s hoping for more collaborations with the public.

“To me that speaks volumes that your community is working with law enforcement,” Spruell said. “Mancos is a great community that looks out for each other.”

People should know they need to call Cortez Police Dispatch instead of the marshal or one of his deputies, Spruell said.

Spruell is still working to hire a third deputy, which would bring his staff to four officers. Shawnee Watenpaugh recently joined the department after working for the Cortez Police Department.

The marshal also is working to address the issue of school security at Mancos schools. Having a school resource officer would be a great thing, but it comes down to funding, Spruell said.

Spruell is happy to be a part of the community in Mancos.

“I love it here,” he said. “The community is great, and the staff is great. It’s a wonderful place to work. I enjoy going out and talking to the community. It’s nice being in a small town because you get to know people, and it’s really nice to just go out there and chat with people. They’ll tell you what’s going on and what to watch for. It makes it nice.”