Pueblo State Hospital May Eliminate Internal Police Force

Move Comes After CALL7 Investigations And Injury Of Patient In July

The Colorado Department of Human Services is considering getting rid of its internal police department at Pueblo's mental hospital after a death and injuries that may have been caused by hospital officers.

The Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo and its police force have been the subject of a series of CALL7 Investigations.

CDHS executive director Reggie Bicha said law enforcement is not their mission.

"I am not so sure we as a health care provider should be in the law enforcement business," Bicha told CALL7 investigator John Ferrugia. "I think we should focus on the health care business."

The latest case is the injury of a man who had his arm broken allegedly by CMHIP officers and not provided medical care for hours in July.

The 39-year-old patient was out of control and police needed to restrain him. However, his arm was broken and he was apparently beaten, interviews and records show. He was tied down and his family contends he was not provided medical treatment for 12 hours.

The officers involved were placed on administrative leave after the incident, and the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office is investigating the situation.

"When there is a possibility that something could have occurred, we want to give that information to law enforcement officials so they can do their own investigation and come to their own conclusions and take whatever actions, independent of us, that they feel is appropriate," he said.

Previously, allegations of wrongdoing were investigated by the CMHIP police department, including the death of Troy Geske, which was highlighted by CALL7 Investigators.

Geske died during a prone restraint -- a technique that had been banned by other mental health division.

"Anyone who is alleged to have participated in something where the could have been a problem should not be responsible to investigate themselves," said Bicha, who was appointed after Geske's death.

A recent report by an outside consultant said an armed, uniform police force is not necessary at the hospital, and the facility could rely on outside police for major incidents.

It may "allow us the ability to focus on what we do well, which is health care and allow law enforcement to focus on what they do well," he said.

Bicha said the internal investigation of the July incident indicates staff did not violate any laws, but he won't know for sure until the sheriff's investigation is completed. That's expected to be finished in the next two weeks.

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