Littleton Police Chief Heather Coogan, the metro area's first woman to hold the title, will retire effective April 1, along with the next two …
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Littleton Police Chief Heather Coogan, the metro area's first woman to hold the title, will retire effective April 1, along with the next two highest-ranking officers in the department.
The announcement came on the heels of a record-breaking year of homicides in the city. There were five in 2012, the most since three people were murdered in a bowling alley in 2002.
It also comes four months after a survey of city employees showed the police department was less satisfied with its direct supervision and senior leadership than other departments.
“The responses indicate opportunities for improvements, specifically in supervision, which we can focus on for the upcoming year,” said City Manager Michael Penny at the time of the survey. “The good news in the areas of `senior management' and `supervision' is we have control over those areas and can work toward positive change.”
Coogan and division chiefs Bill Christensen and Bob Brandt are taking advantage of an incentive offered to all LPD sworn officers ages 57 and older. In exchange for retiring now, their health insurance will be paid until they're 65. It's anticipated other officers might take the deal as well.
Coogan took the helm in 2007 after controversial Chief Gary Maas retired; an independent study had concluded Maas was ruling a department in turmoil and there was great dissatisfaction with senior staff among rank-and-file officers. Christensen and Brandt had also served as Maas' commanders.
There was much hope in the department that Coogan would effect positive change in the culture of LPD. However, controversy developed around Coogan in August 2011, when former City Manager Jim Woods ordered an investigation into allegations that Christensen was recording and listening to Lt. Sean Dugan's phone calls without his knowledge. There was evidence that Coogan was aware of Christensen's actions, though she denied knowing the recording system had been activated.
Although it was evident Christensen had listened to the conversations, the criminal investigation was hindered when several employees violated city policy by declining to cooperate, including Brandt, Lt. Gene Enley and Lt. Paul Creadon. Creadon was Dugan's supervisor at the time.
Christensen was ultimately cleared by an internal investigation after the district attorney's office declined to file charges.
Enley, Creadon and Dugan have since all been reclassified as commanders. Enley will replace Coogan as acting chief, and Creadon and Cmdr. Kim Ferber will replace the division chiefs.
Christensen has had a myriad of other complaints lodged against him by employees over the years, including one that resulted in former LPD crime analyst Sheree Matousek filing a civil case against the city, which is pending in district court.
Coogan says she's proud to pass the torch to “people I believe in and who possess great leadership skills.”
Littleton isn't the first city to witness controversy involving Coogan. In 1987, she was a Denver Police Department officer. Her current husband, Tom Coogan, was the chief and was married to someone else. He resigned after acknowledging the two of them were having an affair; she kept her job.
Penny points to Coogan's accomplishments during her tenure at LPD, most notably the expansion and improvements of the department completed in May 2011. She served as president of the Metro Chiefs, the Arapahoe Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and the Police Officer Standards Training Board. She earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from Rocky Mountain Women in Law Enforcement in 2011.
“Heather, Bob and Bill have devoted a substantial part of their lives to making Littleton one of the safest communities in Colorado,” said Penny. “We owe them a debt of gratitude for their dedication to our citizens and the police department.”
Penny said a recruitment process to permanently fill the positions is being developed.
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