A Brief Historical Review of the Colorado State University Police Department
In 1955, the Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (Colorado A & M) was trying to establish a parking program for the campus. Marvin Wayne Teegarden, a patrolman at the University of Colorado in Boulder, heard about the job and applied. Teegarden had police work in his blood as his father was the Boulder chief of police and his brother was a deputy with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department.
The college hired Teegarden in April and he set out to put together a parking program. Judging by articles and letters in the Rocky Mountain Collegian, the student newspaper, people were not too happy about the $3 annual parking fee that they would now have to pay to park on campus.
The college found itself in a void in terms of law enforcement. The city would not annex the campus until 1956, and the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department consisted of the sheriff, three deputies, a matron, and a jailer to take care of the entire county. Since Teegarden was in uniform and the board had approved the name “Campus Police,” people came to him when they had a problem or a crime was committed on campus. Eventually, Teegarden was able to hire Robert Webb as a night patrolman.
In 1957, Colorado A & M became Colorado State University. The department was also renamed “Campus Security.” Slowly but surely, funds were found to expand the department. By July 1957, the department consisted of Teegarden, two patrolmen, two traffic clerks to handle records and even had a radio-equipped car to patrol campus. In spite of this change of focus, the staff spent 70 percent of their time dealing with parking issues.
The Era of Protest
Growth came rapidly in the 1960s for both the campus and the department. By 1967, the student population climbed from 4,000 to 13,000. The department had grown from one person, Teagarden, to 35 employees. The department was preparing to implement a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation. Prior to this, there was no one on duty on Sundays, and during the week there was no one patrolling after 10 p.m. Regardless, the Campus Security office remained open until midnight.
In 1967, the State Board of Agriculture changed the department’s name back to “Campus Police”. The board felt that the term “security” was limited in defining the department’s actual responsibilities. They also felt this would clear up misunderstandings about the police department’s authority.
The quiet times enjoyed by the university in the 1960s ended towards the end of 1968. On Friday October 18, 1968, students organized a sit-in at the Lory Student Center to protest a denial by the State Board of Agriculture to turn policy control of the center over to students. One of the big issues was the serving of beer at the center. Students wanted beer to be served, while the board did not. An estimated 3,000 students jammed the ballroom to protest the board’s ruling, many of whom brought their own beer. Shortly after the takeover, 16 helmeted CSU police officers, 2 plainclothes officers, and Chief Teegarden entered the ballroom. Teegarden announced to the room that those individuals who did not want to face arrest should leave. Many yielded the Chief’s advice. Two lines formed in the ballroom, one for those who wanted to be arrested and one for those who wanted to go through university discipline. Thirty students received summonses and 179 students received referrals to university discipline.
A little over a week after the beer-in, a gas bomb put an end to the annual homecoming dance. A Fort Collins firefighter became trapped in the elevator and had to be rescued by fellow firefighters and CSU police officers. Several officers were overcome by noxious fumes and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, along with the FBI, worked with CSUPD to investigate the incident. There was wide speculation about who was responsible but no one was ever prosecuted.
In the early morning hours of November 14, 1968, 15 people broke into the Agricultural Building (now called Shepardson Hall). They barricaded themselves on the upper floor by pushing desks and debris into stairwells and nailing doors shut. They were protesting the on-campus recruitment by Dow Chemical, a manufacturer of chemicals used in the Vietnam War. By 8:20 a.m., officers of the CSUPD and Fort Collins PD moved in and forcibly removed the protestors. Five of the individuals were non-students. One of the protestors, David Cameron Bishop, would later make the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted for blowing up utility lines near Golden, Colorado.
Things seemed to quiet down until the early part of 1970. On February 5, a half-time protest erupted at the CSU-BYU basketball game. A performance by the BYU cheerleaders was broken up as a crowd of mostly African-American students marched onto the gym floor with their fists clenched and held high in the air. They were protesting alleged racist practices by the Mormon Church. Dean Crookston asked the protestors to leave the floor. When the CSU basketball team came out, they moved to the southwest corner of the gym where several fights broke out. Twenty CSU police officers and 20 Fort Collins police officers moved in to quell the disturbance. In the ensuing melee, a piece of angle iron was thrown from the crowd. It bounced off the back of a CSU police officer and struck Howard Brock, a Rocky Mountain News photographer, who was knocked unconscious. A few minutes later, someone threw a Molotov cocktail onto the floor. It burst into flames, but did not explode. Police identified and eventually arrested seven people. Charges included assaulting an officer, disturbing the peace, interfering with an officer, and malicious mischief.
Beginning on Tuesday May 5, 1970, the campus experienced several rallies, marches, and demonstrations in response to Nixon’s ordered invasion of Cambodia and the tragic killing of four students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University. The demonstrations were peaceful for the most part. A photograph of CSU police officers at the rally for the Kent State incident shows them with empty holsters.
However, three days later, one of the most tragic events in the history of the university occurred. At 10:55 p.m. on Friday May 8, a blaze began that would eventually destroy Old Main, the main college building built almost 100 years prior. About five minutes after the discovery of the Old Main fire, a fire was reported at the ROTC rifle range. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, which caused about $500 damage. Portions of a Molotov cocktail were found at the range. A task force formed to investigate the Old Main fire included representatives from CSUPD, the Fort Collins Fire Department, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. They conducted hundreds of interviews and followed hundreds of leads but the person responsible for the fire was never prosecuted.
Although things calmed down a bit after the Old Main fire, there was still a large anti-war protest in May 1972. Police arrested fifteen protestors, who occupied the ROTC building. By 1974, things had pretty much returned to normal. In a 1974 interview, Chief Teegarden told a Triangle Review reporter that he believed many of the activists had turned to politics and were now working within the system. He said, “It may be cumbersome and slow, but it beats banging their heads on the asphalt with no results.”
On the Cutting Edge
In the early 1970s, CSUPD became one of the first law enforcement agencies in Northern Colorado to employ female police officers. In 1971 Dianne Reese, Sandra Collins, and Sonja Lenon were hired to work in the department’s Special Services Unit, which was a unit composed of students who were used to augment the full-time staff. About a year later, the department hired Reese and Collins, along with Betty Jarzyna, as full-time officers. The male members of the department were not too sure what to think of the new officers. Some adopted a wait-and-see attitude while others viewed it as a passing fad. The female officers said males responded in one of two ways; they treated them as one of the guys or they opened doors for them. Things have come a long way since the battles fought by these early pioneers. Female police officers are no longer just a passing fad. They are valuable and essential members of the department.
Rock and Roll
In 1975, CSU police were busy preparing for two major rock concerts at Hughes Stadium. The first concert on July 6 would feature Chicago and the Beach Boys. Two weeks later, the Rolling Stones would play. Alvin Miller, the owner of a 70-acre orchard east of the stadium, was not confident that police could protect his property from those attending the concert. He told a Collegian reporter, “If they (concert-goers) cut down an apple tree, I may have to shoot someone.” He threatened to seek a court-ordered injunction to stop the Rolling Stones concert if there were any problems with the Chicago/Beach Boys event.
The Chicago/Beach Boys concert went well. About 37,000 people came to enjoy the show. One purse snatch and one ejection for an unspecified incident were the only problems reported. The biggest problem was traffic. The Colorado State Patrol reported vehicles backed up on Interstate 25 from Harmony Road to the Windsor exit. Many people parked along the adjoining streets to avoid the one-dollar parking charge at the stadium.
The Rolling Stones concert, however, did not go as well. An article in the July 24, 1975, Collegian described it as, “a weekend that killed one, enraged many, and enriched a few.” The death came when a 19-year-old soldier who came to Fort Collins for the concert dove off a cliff by Dixon Dam and drowned. People began arriving in town Friday night and camped on just about any open area they could find. Many concert-goers stayed up all of Saturday night and stormed the stadium at 5:30 a.m. in an attempt to get choice seats, even though the concert was not scheduled to start for another eleven hours! Alvin Miller reported people camped on his property Saturday and Sunday and destroyed sections of an electric fence. He planned to bill the university for damages. Since that time, there have been no return engagements at Hughes Stadium.
End of an Era and New Beginnings
In August 1984, an era ended when Chief Wayne Teegarden retired. Teegarden told a Collegian reporter that he planned to tour the back roads of America, “the unknown areas where our country’s history seems to hang out.” During the eight-month search for a replacement, Bill Liley, director of personnel services, headed the department.
On May 20, 1985, after a national search, Donn Hopkins was named the new police chief. Hopkins was a lieutenant with the Fort Collins Police Department where he had served since 1974. Prior to that, he was with the Laramie Police Department in Wyoming. During Chief Hopkins’ tenure, he worked to establish a better rapport between the department and the CSU community, developed a mission and goals statement, and attained accreditation for the department through the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
College Days was an annual celebration that dates back to the early days of the institution and occurred each year before finals week. College Days was originally a celebration whereby faculty and students traveled to the Poudre Canyon and fellowshipped together. However, by the 1950s, the event was beginning to show signs of trouble… An article in the May 1, 1958, Collegian said that the previous College Days had given people an excuse to make the campus a shooting gallery as someone shot out several street lights. In 1980, The Denver Post reported that College Days was “a nationally famous event loathed by area residents and loved by CSU students for more than seven decades.” By this time, the event had evolved to include concerts, crazy events such as bed races and mud volleyball games, and the consumption of lots of beer. College Days reputation continued to deteriorate in the mid-1980s.
In 1986, an uncontrolled party in the Baystone Condominium complex, west of campus, got out of hand. Estimates put the crowd at 3,000. Partiers started a 12-foot-high bonfire in the middle of Baystone Drive. The president of the homeowners association called Fort Collins and CSU police to the area at 10:22 p.m. Police walked through the crowd several times in an attempt break up the party. After being pelted with beer bottles and other objects, the police set up roadblocks at either end of the street and let the party run its course. The celebration also took its toll on campus. CSUPD Dispatcher Connie Brandon told the Collegian, “The campus looked like a city dump.” There were beer bottles and broken glass everywhere. There were several fights and intoxicated individuals on campus as well. Brandon said, “This is one of the rowdiest College Days’ I’ve seen in a long time.”
When 1987’s celebration rolled around, it almost seemed like daja vu. On Friday night, a crowd estimated at 4,000 gathered at the site of the previous year’s out of control party. Unfortunately, the crowd was more violent this time… By 12:30 a.m. Friday night, at least 50 people were treated at Poudre Valley Hospital, mainly for injuries caused by flying glass. Police arrested about 50 people, many of whom were not CSU students. On Saturday night, police barricaded Baystone Drive attempting to prevent a repeat of the previous night’s events. About 1,500 people proceeded to Plum and Columbine Streets. At about 11:30 p.m., after several warnings, police deployed teargas to disperse the crowd. About 2,000 people descended on the western edge of campus trying to escape the noxious fumes. As the crowd streamed onto campus, bottles were thrown, property was destroyed, and people were injured. A thin line of CSU police officers finally dispersed the crowd around 1 a.m.
The final tally for the 1987 College Days event was 124 arrests and 100 injuries. After nearly seven decades, the annual spring rite was laid to rest. CSU President Phillip Austin told the Coloradoan, “I can’t visualize any circumstances under which this will be allowed again.”
Lots and Lots of Water
On the evening of July 28, 1997, a flood ripped through Fort Collins and the Colorado State University campus without warning. One of the casualties was the CSU Police Department headquarters. For the past 30 years, the department called the basement of the Hartshorn Student Health Building home. By 9:30 p.m., the rapidly falling rain had turned the parking lot in front of the building into a small pond. Dispatchers Kirsten Shier and Mindy Henry were busy answering emergency calls from the rest of the campus, including reports from the Lory Student Center and the Morgan Library that these buildings were flooding. Suddenly, Shier and Henry heard rushing water coming down the stairs from the southwest. Shier quickly switched the 911 line to the Poudre Emergency Communications Center and called Chief Hopkins to inform him of the situation… Sergeant John Higney arrived about that time and led the two dispatchers out a seldom-used exit on the south side so they could avoid the cascade of rushing water, which blocked the main exit. Shortly after evacuation, the basement was filled to the ceiling.
It would be almost two years before the entire department reunited in their new facility, located in Green Hall. Officers and administrative staff worked out of temporary quarters in the Palmer Center for the first few weeks after the flood and then moved to Aylesworth Hall. Dispatch continued to work out of the Poudre Emergency Communications Center until the completion of the renovation work in Green Hall.
A New Century
In February 2003, Donn Hopkins stepped down as chief and he accepted a job offer as a security manager with Agilent Technologies. Chief Hopkins expertly guided the department through almost 18 years of turmoil and change. As a result of his leadership, the department was well positioned to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. More than 400 people attended his going away party. Captain Bob Chaffee became interim chief while the university conducted a nation-wide search for Hopkins’s replacement.
The university chose Dexter Yarbrough, the chief at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. Yarbrough spent 15 years with the Chicago Police Department prior to his appointment as chief at UW Parkside. Yarbrough assumed command in September 2003.
In 2005, the department celebrated its 50th anniversary. All three chiefs were present for the festivities. In addition, more than 100 current and former employees attended. People came from as far away as Pennsylvania and New Jersey to attend this once in a lifetime celebration. There was much reminiscing and all three chiefs received recognition for their contributions to making CSUPD a top-notch organization.
During his tenure, Chief Yarbrough worked to increase staffing levels of the department which, because of budget issues, had remained stagnant for the last 25 years. Yarbrough also brought the Police Department, Parking Services, and Environmental Health together to form the Department of Public Safety. The university eventually appointed Yarbrough as the Associate Vice President for Public Safety. He also retained his status as CSU’s Chief of Police. Under Chief Yarbrough’s leadership, the department grew from 21 full-time officers to nearly 40.
For almost 50 years, part-time student officers augmented the department. The officers patrolled the residence halls on a nightly basis and assisted the full-time staff with special events. Over the years the unit was called the Special Services Unit, Police Services Division, and Support and Events Unit. At one time student officers wore the same uniform as full-time police officers and carried firearms. By the time Chief Yarbrough arrived, state law had changed prohibiting the use of student officers in this capacity without attendance at a state approved police academy. Chief Yarbrough demonstrated that the function of the student program could be performed more efficiently by full-time staff and in 2005, was given approval to transition the duties to full-time officers. By 2007, the only remaining student officers were the unarmed Campus Service Officers, whose main responsibility was staffing the SafeWalk program.
In December 2008, the university placed Chief Yarbrough on administrative leave while they conducted a personnel investigation. Chief Yarbrough resigned in March at the conclusion of the investigation. Assistant Chief Frank Johnson became interim chief while the university conducted a nationwide search for Chief Yarbrough’s replacement.
More than 80 people applied for the position; however, the university did not have to look far for a successful replacement. In July 2009, the university named Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt to the position. Rich-Goldschmidt was chief of police at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, a position she held since October 2003. She began her career with UNCPD in 1987 and served as a patrol officer and a training and crime prevention officer before her promotion to chief. Chief Wendy, as she preferred to be called, brought a new sense of energy and purpose to the department. She faced some tough budget issues in her first months on the job, but she has dealt with them efficiently and the department was well positioned to serve the university.
In 2013, Chief Scott Harris was hired to replace Chief Wendy after her retirement. Chief Harris began with the department in 2008, as the Patrol Lieutenant; bringing with him a breadth of experience from a distinguished law enforcement career in Albuquerque, New Mexico.