MORRISON, Colo. — The town of Morrison has a reputation for being a ticket trap, and that’s because it is. A report prepared for the town this year found that 98% of all calls initiated by officers in Morrison were traffic stops.
Police Chief Misty Siderfin leaves the job Thursday, resigning just three months after she was hired. The pressure to keep up that infamous ticket trap may have played a big role.
At a board meeting on Oct. 5, she told town leaders the department would bring in $300,000 worth of fines this year, more than $800,000 less than the town had budgeted for. Two days later, she submitted her letter of resignation.
“At this point in time, I am unable to continue within this role due [to] the limited resources, lack of financial stability and budgeting for the Police Department,” Siderfin wrote, in part, in her resignation letter submitted on October 7.
George Mumma knows Siderfin’s predicament well. He was the police chief in Morrison for nearly three years, but retired in August of 2020 after he says the town manager wanted his department to write more tickets instead of focus on community policing.
“The entire budget was based on traffic tickets,” Mumma said. “Ethically, I could not do that.”
Mumma was still at the department during the lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic. He said the town still wanted officers to wait on C-470 to write tickets to any speeding drivers. Of course, there were nearly no cars on the road back then, which impacted the revenue coming into the town.
“Since the budget is traffic tickets, everything that we did was based on it. I know that during my time there, our budget continually dropped because we weren’t bringing in traffic tickets,” said Mumma. “Writing an entire budget worth of traffic tickets to fund a police department was not something that I could do in an ethical manner.”
“After being a cop for 40-plus years, that’s not the way I work.”
He’s now a commander with the Edgewater Police Department and a Republican candidate for Jefferson County sheriff.
In-part, the firm found officers were pressured to write traffic tickets to subsidize the town’s budget. In 2021, nearly half of the town’s $2.6 million budget came from fines. The other half came from taxes along with other smaller sources of revenue.
In 2017, the report found revenue from tickets in Morrison brought in $1,165,874. In 2018, the number was $899,659. In 2019 it was $935,934. In 2020 fines brought $820,180 for the town.
The town’s budget projected the police department would bring in $1,101,000 in 2021. Chief Siderfin notified the board in early October that number would only be $300,000 this year.
“I guess I just don’t know how a little town like Morrison gets out of that sort of addiction to writing tickets to supplement their revenue,” said Lonnie Schaible, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver who focuses on policing.
Schaible said a town that focusses solely on writing tickets can face problems.
“I think it’s a dangerous trap for a department to rely on as a sole source of revenue because it pushes a lot of abusive behavior,” said Schaible.
The report written by KRW was not released to the public on the town of Morrison’s website. 9NEWS obtained the report through a public record’s request.
In it, the consulting firm determines a series of “overall common themes” from confidential interviews with Morrison Police employees. Among them are these findings:
- “The pay at Morrison PD is low compared to similar agencies”
“There is a perception within the police department that somewhere within the Town of Morrison, pressure has developed over the years for the officers to write traffic tickets.”
- “Officers have to purchase some of their own police gear.”