Fort Collins Police Chief John Hutto announces resignation

Posted at 12:43 PM, Apr 18, 2017

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The chief of Fort Collins Police Services is stepping down. Chief John Hutto announced Tuesday that he will resign effective May 12.

The chief did not specify what led to his decision, citing only challenges the department is facing and the need for new ideas.

"The department is at a critical juncture and a time to make a change for the future is now. We faced some significant challenges over the past year and a half, and I believe the organization will benefit from new ideas and a fresh perspective," said Chief Hutto, in a taped statement.

Hutto made no mention of the release of a viral video depicting an officer slamming a woman to the ground as contributing to his decision to leave. The cell phone video of the April 6 arrest has garnered social outrage in the community, but Chief Hutto has steadfastly defended the officer's actions, saying in a statement, "rarely in use of force situations is there agreement from all the parties involved as to the appropriateness, efficacy, or necessity of its use."

There were other allegations involving excessive force and discrimination.

In January, the city of Fort Collins settled with two former officers who sued the city, alleging that police command staff refused to promote minorities.

"I believe that this (chief's resignation) stems from the lawsuit that was filed by two former officers, Ofc. Kennyberg Araujo and Sgt. Francis Gonzales," said Laura Wolf, an attorney with the Rathod/Mohamedbhai law firm, which represented the two officers. "Both officers, as well as a number of other officers in the Fort Collins Police Department, have been raising complaints about race discrimination and retaliation for many years, and it was this lawsuit, I believe, that precipitated the changes that we're seeing today."

The city did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement agreement, but did agree to change hiring and promotional practices, Wolf said.

"I think, given the severe and pervasive discrimination that's been going on for many years, the city took the appropriate steps it needed to, to make a change in leadership.

She said the chief's resignation is just the fist step and predicts there will be other changes.

Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry said he's not aware of any other impending resignations, but when asked if anyone else will be held accountable for the issues that led to the lawsuit, Atteberry said, "Follow-up investigations are underway.  We are working to complete the investigations as quickly as possible, while ensuring that they are thorough and fair.  Once the investigations are complete, we'll make a determination."

Atteberry did say the assistant chief was still on administrative leave.

Hutto has served as the police chief with the City of Fort Collins for five years, following more than 26 years with the City of Austin Police Department.

Chief Hutto thanked the city for its support in the following statement:

It has been my privilege to serve the citizens of Fort Collins as your Chief of Police. Fort Collins Police Services has a proud tradition of excellent service and commitment, and together we have accomplished much. FCPS has faced some significant challenges over the past year and a half, and I believe the organization will benefit from new ideas and a fresh perspective. I have always acted with integrity and with the best interest of the community as my number one priority, and this decision reflects my continuing commitment to put the community first.

Efforts are underway to find someone from outside the agency who will serve as the Interim Chief while a nationwide search is conducted.

Hutto says he's unsure if he will stay in law enforcement or in Fort Collins once he has resigned. He said his resignation came as a mutual agreement between him and City Manager Darin Atteberry, which Atteberry confirmed.

Atteberry said the city will be conducting a national search for a new chief by enlisting an outside recruiter.

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