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Brian Kozak

Cheyenne Mayor, Former Police Chief Frustrated Over ‘Tragic’ Levels Of Property Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The current mayor and former police chief of Cheyenne are both expressing frustration over high levels of property crime in the city.

Mayor Patrick Collins told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that it “frustrat[ed] the hell” out of him to see how much property crime and vandalism is taking place in the city, while former police chief Brian Kozak said the city’s property crime rate exceeds those seen in larger Colorado communties.

“I don’t know if it’s drug-related. I don’t know if it’s people with too much time and not enough to do,” Collins said. “If you go into our parking garage right now, the second, third and fourth floors, it’s not just graffiti, it’s gross stuff. They’re breaking into the bathrooms in our parks, it’s just going on and on.”

Cheyenne Parking Garage

In his weekly “Mayor’s Minute” column issued on Friday, Collins called the levels of property crime being seen in the city “tragic” and called on residents to report any illegal activity to the Cheyenne Police Department.

Collins told Cowboy State Daily that the 110 police officers in the city could not be everywhere at once.

“If you see something that looks funny, I’m hoping that what would happen is someone would pick up a phone and say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t look right,'” he said.

Upon winning the mayor’s race in November 2020, Collins announced he would not reappoint Kozak as police chief because of what he called “sobering” crime statistics. Kozak disputed Collins’ allegations and said the incoming mayor was releasing misinformation.

Kozak, who is now a candidate for Laramie County sheriff, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the property crime levels seen in Cheyenne and in the county are exceeding those seen in larger cities such as Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley, Colorado.

“For example, Natrona County had 24 home burglaries last year, whereas Laramie County had 154, and they’re pretty consistent in population to us,” Kozak said. “Weld County in Colorado, which has traditionally had high crime rates, had 142 home burglaries. So we’re above them.”

One reason for the increase in the property crime rate, Kozak said, was the closure of the Laramie County Detention Center to people arrested on property crime charges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure encouraged perpetrators to commit more and more crimes over the last two years, he said.

Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove’s reluctance and occasional refusal to prosecute certain low-level crimes was also a contributing factor, Kozak said.

“We need to make sure our detention centers are kept open,” he said. “I think there should also be a task force created with our local law enforcement to really look at this property crime data and go after the people committing these crimes.”

Kozak believed a relatively small number of repeat offenders were responsible for the rise in crime rates.

Collins said the police department and current Chief Mark Francisco are aware of the issue of property crimes, but that Cheyenne was a relatively big city and crime was taking place in a number of different locations.

Francisco was not available for comment on Monday.

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Judge Rules In Favor Of Cheyenne Police In Blood Draw Lawsuit, Former Chief Praises Decision

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The former chief of the Cheyenne Police Department on Tuesday praised a federal judge’s decision in favor of the department in a case over a blood draw in a driving under the influence case.

Former Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday he was glad U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled in favor of the police department.

“I think the judge made a good decision once the court looked at all the facts in the case,” he said.

On March 8, U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl ruled in favor of Cheyenne and several individual officers accused of violating the rights of Cheyenne resident Michael A. Sena’s rights.

On Oct. 30, 2019, Sena was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol after he crashed his vehicle and showed other signs of impairment. Following his arrest, he was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, where blood was drawn.

Sena sued the department, arguing that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated because officers used an invalid search warrant to take him to CRMC and make him submit to a blood test against his will.

But Skavdahl said the initial observations and tests by police at the scene, including a breathalyzer result, a failed eye test, slurred speech, the odor of alcohol, poor balance and Sena’s admission to drinking alcohol, all supported a the issuing of a warrant for a blood draw.

Kozak said during his time as police chief, he and the department were sued about two to four times a year, so the situation was nothing new. However, this case was definitely unique, he said.

“The key is to make sure we have a good basis for training and policies and to have good leadership in place,” he said. “It’s part of the job, being sued. We’ve never had judgement against us, that held us liable, during my entire career in law enforcement. You’re going to get sued, but you do your job right, it’s going to be OK.”

Sena also claimed that he was physically assaulted by an officer who was trying to get him to cooperate for the blood draw. The officer’s statement “You know you’re going to end up in the hospital, right?” should be considered excessive force under the Fourth Amendment, Sena said.

But Skavdahl wrote than when read in context, the officer’s statement about the hospital did not appear to threaten violence, but referenced going to the hospital for a compulsory blood draw.

“This comment does not seem to rise to the level of threatening language. Similarly, the officer’s threat to perform facedown stabilization, absent any accompanying physical act, is not excessive force,” Skavdahl wrote.

Kozak said the lawsuit was unusual because it challenged a very common police practice.

“The allegation is that we violated his constitutional rights by obtaining a search warrant…so it’s kind of odd we were being sued for doing what most officers are trained to do,” he said.

He noted that it takes about 10 minutes for an officer to obtain a search warrant for a blood draw.

Kozak’s successor also praised Skavdahl’s decision last week.

“The judgment confirms that the officer’s actions in the arrest of Sena were constitutionally sound, and that Sena’s claims were without merit,” Cheyenne Police Chief Mark Francisco said. “Further, the judgment confirms the department’s training and policies are in line with state statute.”

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Former Police Chief: “Cheyenne Is A Sanctuary City For Criminals”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Crime has increased so much in Cheyenne and Laramie County that the city has become a sanctuary for criminals, former Cheyenne police chief and current Laramie County sheriff’s candidate Brian Kozak claimed over the weekend.

Kozak officially kicked off his campaign for sheriff over the weekend, when he discussed his goals for improving the county law enforcement if elected but also criticized the work of the current law enforcement leaders.

“The jail currently is not allowing peace officers to arrest criminals for property crimes, even if they have an arrest warrant,” Kozak said during the event. “Now, recently, they they started accepting felonies, but not misdemeanors. As a result of that, Cheyenne has become a sanctuary city for criminals.”

He repeated this twice.

Kozak told those attending the event he wanted to restructure detention services to assist the entire criminal justice system within the county while reducing recidivism.

Kozak also noted that property crimes in the city have significantly increased over the last year. For example, burglaries in Cheyenne have gone up 86% in the last year and vehicle thefts have increased 89%.

“Those stats are the worst increase in crime I have ever seen in my 35 years of policing,” he said. “It’s even worse than Denver.”

During the press conference, the former police chief held up an AR-15 announcing that he was giving it away as part of a raffle.

He said the raffle helps communicate that he supports gun rights.

“Well, this should send a message that I do,” he said, noting that he’s an advocate of large caches of ammo as well.

“If the feds want to pass a law saying you can’t have large magazine capacity. Okay, I’m giving off a 60 round magazine. So whatever,” he said.

After serving as Cheyenne’s police chief for 11 years, Kozak stepped down in January when incoming Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins announced he would be replacing both Kozak and the head of the city’s fire department.

The former police chief’s other goals for the county, if elected to be sheriff, included reconnecting with county residents and businesses and invest in the employees of the sheriff’s office.

“When I was chief at the Cheyenne Police Department, we had one of the lowest turnover rates within policing,” he said. “Other agencies would contact us to see what’s your secret. The answer I tell them is leadership.”

Neither Cheyenne Police Chief Mark Francisco nor Laramie County Sheriff Danny Glick immediately responded to Cowboy State Daily’s requests for comments.

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Cheyenne Police Chief Not Going Quietly After Incoming Mayor Asks For Resignation

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What’s going on with the Cheyenne Police Department is fascinating to watch.

It’s incredible, actually.

The incoming mayor has told Chief of Police Brian Kozak that he is going in another direction and will no longer need the chief’s services.

Instead of going quietly in the night, the chief — who has full support of the outgoing mayor — is using the time between the transition to build a case to stay.

Kozak is a popular figure in Cheyenne. Not only is he the longest serving police chief in the history of Cheyenne (10-plus years) but he has good statistics on his side.

Cheyenne is enjoying the lowest amount of property crime in the history of the city. This has happened while there has been cutbacks in the police department and the city has grown. It’s not an anomaly either. There has been a steady decrease.

After declining for two weeks to comment on his decision to let Kozak go, the incoming mayor Patrick Collins told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that bad crime statistics were the main reason for his decision.

Kozak disputed every charge and explained why Collins’ conclusions are incorrect or the stats are not valid.

“The big question is why would he not go to the agency who can explain crime patterns within the city? I’m just really surprised that he wouldn’t come to me or anyone in the agency to explain the crime rates and why we might have differences in our city and in reporting,” the chief told the newspaper.

Putting that back-and-forth aside, Kozak is touting his successes not only in a letter that he wrote to the Cheyenne City Council which, of course, has been made public. But also in a video he shot and posted on the police department’s popular Facebook page.

It’s not just a popular Facebook page in Cheyenne. This Facebook page has received national attention — numerous times — because of the humorous nature of the posts

Kozak has a big, big megaphone.

And he’s using that megaphone to tout his successes and to instill a bit of fear in the community that if the future mayor moves too fast, there could be a significant departure in personnel.

“We have 15 employees eligible for retirement and another 7 will be eligible this year,” Kozak wrote to the city council.  “They are panicked and looking for other jobs. Others are looking to lateral to other agencies. Morale is the low, employees and the community are demanding a ‘time out’ to make sure the leadership transition is done fairly and professionally.”

Kozak is suggesting a 16-month transition period where he would work with his department on helping to find a qualified replacement.

To make this even more interesting, he says that after those 16 months, he will run for Laramie County Sheriff.  

Because the incoming mayor has no power for almost a full month, Kozak is taking full advantage of his “diplomatic immunity” (kind of like Lethal Weapon 2) and is doing whatever he wants.

He announced on Tuesday that he is releasing a four-part video series on the Facebook page on the “overwhelming community support” his department enjoys in Cheyenne.

In the first installment, he said that the department conducted an internal poll and 100% of the respondents said the department is going in the right direction.

“One-hundred percent of our employees said the police department is going in the right direction and doing the right things,” he said in the video. 

Then he started talking about the community engagement programs that he launched as chief of police.

“We have the ‘Police and Community together [program]’, we have the Citizens Advisory Committee, we have the ‘Neighborhood Night Out,’ he said.

Quoting Sir Robert Peel, who is known as the father of modern policing, Kozak mentioned Peel said that use of force had to be approved by the community.

“That is why we put community members on our use-of-force board,” Kozak said.

“Number one tip in leadership for a police department is service before self.The community comes first. We are doing this job to serve the community. Always engage the community and ask questions before you make changes to the police department before the changes occur to get the public’s buy-in,” he said.

Based on the vitriol that Collins has toward Kozak — as evidenced in Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle — the future mayor is not going to change his mind.

What Kozak is doing, however, is building a case with the public for an upcoming run for sheriff. And he’s doing so on that popular Facebook page.

It’s a fascinating strategy for Kozak. There is little downside to what he’s doing because he’s so popular in the community.

For those unfamiliar with him, you might think — by these actions — that he’s a huge egomaniac. Actually, he’s just the opposite. 

He’s a humble, soft-spoken person who is well-liked. 

What he is doing is unconventional to put it mildly and should be very entertaining for the next month — not to mention his forthcoming run for sheriff.

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