Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn has been with the department for over 44 years. He has seen a lot. And he will be the first to tell you that Montrose is not Mayberry (from the TV show). “There is no Mayberry,” he states.
If people really knew what was happening in Montrose, they’d be shocked.” He offers a ride-along to anyone who wants an eye on crime in this town of some 22,000. “They ought to come out and ride with us any night of the week” he exclaimed. “We used to say Friday or Saturday. But you don’t have to come out on Friday or Saturday to see what’s happening. It’s all the time.”
“There’s a lot of things happening since the state legalized marijuana,” he said. “It’s not the marijuana itself. I think we’re attracting a whole new element to Colorado. For every heroin overdose you hear about, there are 300 users. It’s become so serious there is a methadone clinic opening on S. Townsend.”
Chinn was born and raised in Delta County. His family had a fruit farm–apples, peaches and apricots. “It was a meager but very good life.” He has an older brother, a sister, and a younger brother. He started college thinking he wanted to be a high school teacher, but changed his mind after a year. The following summer, he worked as a laborer for the town of Cedaredge. As part of his duties, they let him use the radar gun. It was the lowest rung of law enforcement but, “I really enjoyed that,” he recalled.”
He started taking law enforcement courses at Mesa College (CMU today). “I rode with several officers of the Grand Junction police department and couldn’t get enough.” He applied in Montrose, was hired, and has been with the force for 44 years. When he was first hired in 1973, the patrolmen were called PSOs, public servant officers. The force had 13 police officers; there are 42 officers now.
In June 2005 Chinn was appointed police chief. “The chief is the administrative guy, he’s like the head coach on a football team. He sets policies and directives. He sets the direction of the organization. He hires and he disciplines.
“It’s the greatest honor to be involved with the people here in Montrose. We have such good people here. I’ve enjoyed this job immensely.”
But, he adds, “there’s a lot of things about the job that are terrible. You deal with people in grief, a lot of stress and heartache, whether it’s in a shoplifting incident or a death.”
But the bottom line that makes Tom Chinn so effective with the department is this statement: “I like cops, I really like cops.”