Albany County Commissioners Hear Public Outcry About Officer-Involved Shooting

Apr 16, 2019

Debra Hinkel, the mother of Robbie Ramirez told the Commissioners that she'd heard from community members who feel unsafe with Derek Colling still employed by the Albany County Sheriff's Office.
Credit Mike Vananta / http://www.squarestatefilm.com/

The Albany County Commissioners heard public comments Tuesday regarding an officer-involved shooting that occurred November 4, 2018. To accommodate the volume of people who showed up to speak on the issue, the Commissioners moved their meeting to a larger room.

In January, a grand jury found that when Albany Sheriff Corporal Derek Colling shot and killed unarmed Robbie Ramirez his use of force was justified.

A number of community members told the Commissioners that they disagreed with that assessment, and that action was needed to restore the community's trust in the Albany County Sheriff's Office.

Many cited that Colling was hired despite knowledge of his previous use of lethal force in Las Vegas. Some said that his presence on the force made them feel unsafe and called for him to be removed from the sheriff's department.

As elected officials, the Commissioners control the county's budget but they don't control the personnel decisions made by Sheriff Dave O'Malley, who is also an elected official.

Yana Ludwig, who co-founded Albany County for Proper Policing (ACoPP), acknowledged the group's goal was to terminate the employment of Derek Colling, but that wasn't their only goal.

"We're interested in a holistic dialogue about law enforcement and public safety." She suggested the Commissioners take a look at how officers are trained to react.

"I invite you to look at the number of hours that police officers in this state, statewide, this is not just Albany County, are spent being trained in shooting firearms," said Ludwig, "and when to use your firearm versus de-escalation and mental health issues."

The Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Commission provided Wyoming Public Radio with the last 10 years of records. Out of over 180,000 entries, a search for courses with crisis intervention or mental health in the title yielded just over 12,000 results. Less than 30 courses had de-escalation in the title. That's compared to 19,000 courses with firearms in the title.

Ludwig suggested that Ramirez's death could have been avoided had Colling been trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation.

"But I would like you to actually make your own assessment and look at the number of hours that officers are trained in different ways to respond," said Ludwig.

Data from POST indicates Colling does not have training in these areas.

Sheriff Dave O'Malley told Wyoming Public Radio that he plans to have six officers, and possibly more, attend a Crisis Intervention Training along with officers from the Laramie Police Department this coming June.

Several people spoke in support of Colling including his father Rick Colling who is a Wyoming Highway Patrol Officer.