Following the surprise resignation of Ouray Police Chief Leo Rasmusson and longtime Ouray Police Deputy Tony Schmidt in May, 2013 became a year of rebuilding the City of Ouray – and the county’s – law-enforcement departments.
The two officers’ announcement surprised to members of the Ouray City Council. “We will fill in as best we can,” said Ouray County Sheriff Dominic “Junior” Mattivi. “We are not going to let the people down; we are going to do what we can to help cover the department and make sure there is no lack of law enforcement in the town.”
Members of the Ouray Police Department had voiced disgruntlement with the new schedule Rasmusson implemented at the directive of City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli. The change came on the heels of an independent consulting firm’s assessment of the four-man department recommending multiple ways to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
The Ouray City Council got another unpleasant surprise at its May 20 meeting, with Officer Chad Rilling turning in his badge. “He gave a salute, he looked at me and I could tell he was choked up,” Councilor Michael Underwood said. “He handed me a piece of paper” that was his resignation letter, “put the badge on top with the keys to his squad car, and said ‘That’s it. I can’t do it.’”
Rilling’s departure left the Ouray community with just one police officer and many unanswered questions and concerns.
In June, the City of Ouray entered into an intergovernmental agreement engaging Commander Gene Lillard of the Montrose Police Department as part-time interim police chief. In September, Sergeant Justin Perry of the Montrose Police Department was hired as the city’s new Chief of Police. During his tenure as a detective at the MPD, Perry worked mainly on felony crimes, including homicides and sex assaults. Because of his Spanish speaking abilities, a large portion of his caseload involved bilingual cases.
“My biggest objective is to ensure that the citizens know that we are here for them,” Perry said, and “to build those relationships of trust that allow us to form partnerships, to solve the community-related problems we have here, because that’s what it’s about.
“I’m hoping that with my community precinct philosophy and positive nature, and my desire to be with people and share information about the police department and what’s going on, will help bridge that gap that is there right now.”