by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — Asked why he had tendered his resignation last week, Walsenburg Police Chief James Chamberlain leaned back in his chair, looked up and said, “I’d rather live to see my daughter grow up than have this (the view of the ceiling in his office) be the last thing I see having a heart attack in here.”
Walsenburg City Administrator David Johnston announced on Thursday, February 28, the city had received Chamberlain’s letter of resignation and that his last duty day would be March 14, 2013.
Walsenburg City Administrator David Johnston said Tuesday morning, “To retain continuity within the force, Sergeant Garry Hornsby has been appointed Acting Chief, to be effective upon Chief Chamberlain’s departure. During the remainder of Chief Chamberlain’s tenure, Sergeant Hornsby will work very closely with Chief Chamberlain to ensure a smooth and orderly transition”.
“Chief Chamberlain has provided excellent leadership during his employment with the Walsenburg Police Department, both as a uniformed officer and head of the department. We wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Johnston.
Chamberlain told the Huerfano World Journal on Monday that continuing health issues, he believes originated with his three tours to the Gulf region as a USAF Reservist, and a desire to spend more time with his family, are the reasons he decided to resign from the city.
He said the date of his letter of resignation to the city was based on a routine two week notice and it would allow him to rest a short time before he packs for his annual two-week USAFR training slated to begin March 22.
February 13, 2013 exactly marked the 13th year Chamberlain has been with the WPD.
His time as a patrol officer, sergeant, interim police chief and police chief has had its ups and downs.
Chamberlain received national prominence in the summer of 2011, when the Dougherty clan were captured after crashing their stolen car at the first southbound Walsenburg exit on I-25. Chamberlain was forced to fire on Lee Grace Dougherty when she climbed out of the car and leveled a semi automatic weapon towards officers. She was struck in the leg by Chamberlain’s long range pistol shot and captured along with her two fugitive brothers following a cross country crime spree that began in the siblings’ home state of Florida.
As he begins his final weeks with the department, Chamberlain said continued training of officers should remain a high priority and cited the newly acquired Lexipro computer program as an important asset in this area.
He said he hopes the department will be able to benefit from equipment and facility upgrades in the future, saying the police force has outgrown its space in city hall. “I think the PD has surpassed the space we have and it isn’t conducive to growth.”
“I’m of course sad to leave these people,” Chamberlain said of his co-workers at the police department.
Johnston said the city will concentrate on trying to find candidates from within Colorado who already have state POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) certification. He said with the kinds of employment advertizing a municipality uses for this type of search he would not be surprised to hear from individuals from across the nation, but the search will be mainly within Colorado.
As to the future, Chamberlain said he plans to remain in the Walsenburg community with his family. As to his future employment, he indicated he is looking into the possibility of becoming a civilian firearms instructor. He said he is discussing with the NRA whether his law enforcement certifications as a firearms instructor and tactical shooting instructor are transferable to the civilian training requirements needed for private citizens to obtain concealed weapons permits.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward