On Tuesday, Boulder police Chief Greg Testa will don his uniform — not a suit — for the final time, ending a nearly 40-year police career spent mostly with the Boulder Police Department.

“Boulder is a special place, and it has been an honor to serve this community over the past 32 years,” Testa said in a statement in June, when he first announced his retirement. “From three presidential visits, rallies and protests to reading with kids at the library, community soccer games and daily interactions with community members and colleagues, I am proud of the community partnership that is being built with the department.”

Testa declined to speak to the media regarding his retirement. He did however, speak to Boulder City Councilman Bob Yates, and the transcript of that interview was released.

“I will miss the people,” Testa told Yates. “I love getting out in the community. That’s why I wear my uniform most days, rather than a suit. I want to be visible. I like being out connecting with the community. I will miss those interactions with people.”

With more than three decades working in the same community, Testa interacted with a lot of people.

“I worked with him a lot of years at the Boulder Police Department” said Erie Police Chief Kim Stewart, who was a commander with Boulder before moving east. “He is the consummate gentleman, a kind soul, and he genuinely cares about people.”

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

District Attorney Stan Garnett, right, and Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa stand by the Broadway Street bridge over the Boulder Creek in 2016 near the scene of an officer-involved fatal shooting.

‘A focused, realistic look’

Testa told Yates that his own brush with police growing up in Denver is what set him on the path to a lifetime in law enforcement.

“When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, I liked to watch the TV show Adam-12,and I admired what those cops did,” Testa told Yates. “Then, when I was 16, I was a victim of a violent crime myself when I was kidnapped and robbed at gunpoint. They said they would blow my head off. After the incident, the police who responded were so professional and kind. It left a big impression on me. I wanted to be like them. So, I became a police officer at the age of 21.”

Testa began his career with the Northglenn Police Department and worked there for almost four years before joining the Boulder Police Department in 1987. He has been there ever since, working his way up through the ranks as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant, commander and deputy chief.

In 2014, he was appointed interim police chief following the retirement of Mark Beckner, and he was later appointed to the job on a permanent basis.

“What a DA looks for in a police chief first of all is a well-run, well-managed department,” former Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett told the Camera. “Then, a high level of integrity and significant expertise in areas that are needed. Boulder police definitely had that under Greg.”

In Testa’s time as police chief, Boulder police were the first in the county to implement a department-wide body camera program, give officers Naloxone to combat opioid overdoses, and create a mobile app. He also started the EDGE Co-Responder Program with Longmont Police Department and Boulder County Sheriff to support mental health needs on police calls and started the Homeless Outreach Team.

“As I have grown older, I have learned the value of patience,” Testa told Yates. “It has helped me through difficult situations. You have to be empathetic to provide service to the community. You have to care about people. Everybody has a story in life. As I drive around and see someone who may be having a problem or asking for money, I wonder, ‘What is their story?’ Everyone has a story. We need to understand what the needs are and break down barriers. There are very few absolutes in life. Very few things are black and white. Most things are gray. You realize more of that, the older you get.”

Of course, Testa’s time in office has not been without controversy. In 2014 a decorated Boulder police detective was arrested and later convicted of tipping off a sex sting target, while the department was also criticized by some for its response to protests regarding Black Lives Matter and gun restrictions.

Most recently, a Boulder police officer’s viral interaction with a black Naropa student picking up trash stirred racial tension in the city, while stop data showed black people were more likely to be stopped by Boulder police.

Testa did not address any of those incidents in the interview with Yates.

However, Garnett said in his experience with Testa, he found the chief was never one to try to sweep problems under the rug.

“If there was a problem with an officer or anther issue, (Boulder police officials) were teammates in helping us address the issue,” Garnett said. “There was a high level of integrity, a high level of competence, and a willingness to cooperate and respect the DA’s role.”

In addition, Garnett said Testa did a good job of walking the fine line between being receptive to community concerns while also defending his department.

“What I also really appreciate was that a lot of times issues arise in a community like Boulder where, having spent 18 years in elected office, I think the public dialogue is divorced from the reality of what is happening,” Garnett said. “What’s important is to have a leader of a police department who listens and address the community’s legitimate concerns, but also doesn’t get overwhelmed by community sentiment that is disconnected from the reality of what is happening.

“Greg took the time to listen and respond, but also to make sure people understood the police officer’s point of view and perspective on these really difficult issues. One of the things that happens in Boulder is you have an issue and, rather than talking in the context of what happened, it gets discussed in the context of what happened somewhere else in the country, and that isn’t always that helpful. Greg was good I think at providing a focused, realistic look at what was happening in the community.”

‘He genuinely cares about people’

When Testa retires, Boulder police Deputy Chief Carey Weinheimer will take over as interim police chief until the city can make a permanent hire. When asked what he would tell the new chief, Testa told Yates the key was surrounding yourself with good hires, which Testa said he did with Weinheimer and fellow Deputy Chief Curt Johnson.

“You’ve got to surround yourself with good people,” Testa told Yates. “And, you have to trust them. When I look at the decisions I’ve made as chief, the best ones were the people I hired, particularly my two deputies. Don’t shy away from asking people for advice. Don’t rush into decisions. Be patient. Be patient.”

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