Citing long hours that have affected his family and his business, an increasingly dangerous work environment and lack of support or guidance from the mayor and the town council, Sgt. Steve Allred, the most experienced officer on the Lovell Police force, has resigned, effective immediately. Allred has been essentially managing the department since the departure of Chief Nick Lewis on June 1.
Allred said he called Councilman Scott Allred, who is also Police Commissioner, three weeks ago, expressing his concern that the understaffed and overworked police force is in immediate need of help.
“I told him we are tired to the point where it is becoming dangerous because we are working way too many hours,” he said. “I told him and I was very direct about it. I told him we need help and we need it right now.”
Steve said Councilman Allred informed him at that time that the mayor is responsible for personnel. Sgt. Allred said he also spoke to the mayor, who assured him that help was on the way.
“I was told the mayor is responsible for personnel and that it is his responsibility to move forward,” said Steve Allred. “It’s been three weeks now since I spoke to Scott and also to the mayor and nothing has been done. That’s why I’m not there anymore.
“I feel that personally this is bad for me, bad for my family and bad for the town and I just can’t do it anymore.”
He said there were instances where he went home at the end of a 14-hour day, only to be called back again to work another six hours on a large case that required immediate response. He noted that he worked 120-180 hours during a two-week period of time, only to be told that he needed to watch his overtime. He noted that at one point his wife told him she felt like a single parent. He added that he has seen his daughter grow through picture messages sent to him on his cell phone.
Allred said he is concerned for the other officers, Brandon Jolley and Kris Brimhall, who continue to work long hours in circumstances that he feels are inherently dangerous for them.
In a written letter of resignation addressed to “Mayor Montanez and the Lovell Town Administration,” Allred wrote, “Over the past almost eight months the Lovell Police Department has been less than pleasant to work for, we are putting in more hours in two weeks than most people put in in a month, and I’m not talking about officers that drive around in circles and wait for a call. The majority of officers that work for the Lovell Police Department are very proactive and make felony cases from simple traffic stops. While this may seem to you as a very insignificant feature I will attest that this feature, in and of itself, is what makes a police department successful. As long as you have officers that are willing to lay everything on the line for the people of a city or town your department will not fail, except with one caveat, that the support from the top must match the motivation at the bottom.”
Allred also noted in his letter that in the past seven months Chief of Police Nick Lewis was fired, re-hired and then not appointed. He noted that two possible chiefs were offered the job and both turned down the job. He noted that one of the most experienced members of the police force, Lt. Noe Garcia, and two other part time officers quit because of the work environment.
He said when he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant by Chief Lewis in April of 2015, he took the promotion very seriously. As the most senior member remaining on staff, he took the responsibility of managing the department on an interim basis seriously out of concern for the town and concern for his fellow officers.
“When Chief Lewis and Lt. Garcia left on June 1, I stepped up at an even greater number,” he wrote. “I was taking on the responsibility, caseload and hours of three people. I was working 16-18 hours a day to keep up and not once did I complain. I asked all of the officers to step up, take extra shifts, work speed grant hours and keep up with their caseload. Not once did they complain.”
He said he was grateful for the support he and the other officers have received from the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Dept., especially Sheriff Ken Blackburn and Undersheriff Blaine Jolley, who he said have supported the department in every way. He said, though he expects that support to continue, he continues to feel grave concern for the “good officers” who will continue to work in the same dangerous situation he found it necessary to walk away from.
“I realize now that this lack of communication and support between the town and the police department has been happening for a long time and it only got 10 times worse when Chief Lewis left,” Allred told the Lovell Chronicle.
He said it took a lot to make that call for help and when he got no response, he felt he had no choice but to resign.
“This isn’t a decision that I made for myself, it’s a decision I had to make for my family,” he said. “The other officers and myself have sacrificed everything to be sure someone will be there when the citizens need us. The problem is that the current administration doesn’t take that seriously.”
Allred said he loves his job and loves the town. He said it was a very difficult decision to resign but one he felt he had no other choice but to make.
At the conclusion of his resignation letter, Allred wrote, “I have sacrificed my family and business because I love what I do. But I’m here to tell you that, until the council and mayor decide they want to support their officers 100 percent, you are going to have a difficult time keeping officers and dispatchers on board that are worth anything, that are proactive and that care.”
Police Commissioner Scott Allred said, “I don’t want to comment on this. The mayor is the one who needs to comment. It’s his personnel issue. All I can say is I’m sad to see him go.”
Mayor Angel Montanez did not immediately return a message offering him the opportunity to comment on Wednesday morning before press time.
By Patti Carpenter