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Audit: Colo. Chief Created 'Fearful Environment'

CANON CITY, Colo. -- The Canon City police chief has been suspended with pay after a management audit accused him of creating a "fearful environment" and damaging morale in the department.

Chief Duane McNeill was placed on administrative leave Tuesday after the audit report revealed widespread complaints about poor training for officers and distrust by employees, according to the Canon City Daily Record .

"The interviews with employees were overwhelmingly negative toward the police administration and specifically the police chief," according to the management audit conducted by Paul Schultz, a consultant with the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.

There was no immediate response from McNeill, who's been chief just over two years.

The City Council in December approved the chiefs association audit of the police department, KRDO-TV reported.

The audit found the police chief to be out of touch with his force.

"There is clearly a disconnect between the majority of the department and specifically the chief of police," the audit stated, according to the Daily Record.

Employee accusations cited in the audit, included: McNeill has created a "fearful environment" in the department; he unfairly conducts targeted internal affairs investigations against certain officers; he has alienated other county and city law enforcement agencies; he's a micro-manager who fails to empower frontline supervisors.

McNeill was also accused of being "condescending toward women both in the department and in enforcement contacts" and of poor communication with the department, the community and other the law enforcement agencies.

Despite all this, the auditor remained hopeful.

"I think the situation is salvageable, but it will take a concerted effort on three sides -- the city council, the chief and the officers," Schultz concluded in his report.

City administrators said they found possible management and personnel issues in the department that warrant further investigation and assessment, KRDO-TV reported.

Officials decided it was necessary to suspend McNeill to allow a thorough and independent assessment of the situation and to find a strategy for improving the department.

Several residents said they're not surprised by the move and they believe McNeill just doesn't understand Canon City, KRDO reported.

Among the most common complaints from residents were citations handed out exclusively by McNeill for violations like jay walking and illegal U-turns, the station reported. Many people stood behind longtime department employees who wouldn't follow orders to issue those types of tickets.


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