COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - The controversial Ferguson, Missouri shooting and a spate of high-profile incidents locally loomed large over Pete Carey's tenure as police chief, the outgoing chief told 11 News Monday, as did the economic crisis early in the decade.
"I remember we were faced with everything from not having police academies to hire more police officers as they left to canceling a lot of programs," he said of what he walked into when he became Colorado Springs' police chief in 2011. "They were indeed difficult times to manage."
Carey, who announced his retirement last week, sat down with reporter Alyssa Chin to reflect on his time as police chief.
In the seven years since he took the mantle as chief, Carey has seen the economy improve drastically, culminating in a budget increase last year to hire more officers. He's seen tragedy, losing losing a motorcycle officer in a 2012 crash, nearly losing another in a shooting, and that terrible November three years ago that saw a shooting spree downtown and a gunman open fire in a Planned Parenthood. And he's seen changes in law enforcement transparency nationwide in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
"Every police department across the country was accountable [after Ferguson] in some way for making changes or recognizing that things could get better," Carey said. "I look at the Colorado Springs Police Department and the decisions that we made about specialized units, about asking our police officers to use body-worn cameras every single day that they are out -- that's all a direct impact on Ferguson, Missouri and some national events."
On the tragedies that he had seen on his watch:
"Earlier my tenure we lost Officer Matt Tyner in a motorcycle accident, and not a day goes by I don’t think about Matt. Since then, a lot of substantial injuries and things like that up to and including Officer Cem Duzel. And I'm trying to do the best I can for him and his family. And then along with that is Deputy Micah Flick with the sheriff's office, who on an operation involving CSPD and State Patrol was lost."
Carey said deaths and injuries to his officers constantly weigh on him.
"They'll stay with me for the rest of my life. ... Without a doubt, the hardest part of the job."
He told Chin that even with that heartbreak, he felt fortunate that the number of officers hurt or killed wasn't higher.
"We’ve been blessed in not losing more officers based on the hundreds of thousands of dangerous calls for service we have every year."
He stressed during his interview that the Colorado Springs Police Department is constantly evolving as personnel assess what they can do better.
"Especially in the big deals you mentioned, things like Planned Parenthood, New Life Church, the downtown shooting, we are pretty critical of ourselves when those things happen. We assemble in this room right here and we take it from top to bottom and see if that happens again here’s what we can do better," he said.
What CSPD could do better extends to the officers on staff, Carey said.
"What do my cops need to go home at night? What can I do to provide that for them so each and every case while and perfect gives us the opportunity to do better?"
Carey has been with CSPD for 34 years, beginning his career in 1984. He says he believes he is leaving the department better than he found it.
"Not through my efforts, that's through the efforts and the great programs and vision that the cops and civilians and non-sworn employees have had here. I think culturally, we have a great police department here. We live in a safe city that supports us very well. I think we're on the right path to continuing here."
Of his time as chief:
"It’s been an honor being a police officer and the police chief for Colorado Springs."
Carey's last day is Feb. 1.