Grand County sheriff candidates debate issues
KREMMLING — Grand County sheriff candidates Brett Schroetlin and John Stein clashed on several issues during a debate here on Oct. 15 that also featured candidates for other elected county offices.
All those candidates — for coroner, assessor, treasurer, clerk and county commissioner — are running unopposed.
See the Friday, Oct., 17, Sky-Hi News or http://www.skyhidailynews.com for sheriff candidate profiles.
While Stein and Schroetlin agreed in broad strokes on various issues during the debate, a few subjects revealed clear philosophical differences. Topics were raised based on questions from the audience of about 30 people.
“Morale’s not as bad as it’s being presented,” said Stein, who has been undersheriff for about a year.
He said steps taken during that time — more equipment, training and a pay for performance system — have helped boost morale in the department.
Schroetlin, who defeated incumbent Sheriff Rod Johnson in the Republican primary, said poor morale in the sheriff’s office is one of the main reasons he decided to run.
“Whatever is happening there at this time is not working,” he said, suggesting that upper management needs to spend more time in the field working with rank and file deputies as well as be more active about recognizing good work.
In response to a question about sharing information with the public, Schroetlin said he intends to enhance communication with the public by making one his officers a public information officer (PIO).
“I think it’s very important … to have someone out there” communicating with the public, he said.
He said he also intends to use social media more and to conduct quarterly meetings with the public, “where law enforcement and the community come and talk.”
“I’m not in for larger government,” said Stein, who is running as a write-in candidate. He said no PIO is needed because the sheriff and undersheriff can handle those tasks.
“We are Grand County; we are not Denver,” he said.
One of the sharper disagreements of the evening occurred over the issue of traffic enforcement and the sheriff’s department’s role.
“Increasing traffic enforcement is not what I’m about,” Stein said, explaining that he thinks the sheriff’s office is already doing its part.
“I want to keep traffic enforcement realistic and appropriate.”
A gentleman in the audience responded that Highway 9 is the “most dangerous road out there. … I don’t think I’ve ever seen a deputy out there.”
Stein responded that deputies are not ordered to stay off Highway 9, and he noted it is the Colorado State Patrol’s job to enforce traffic laws.
“We don’t want to duplicate services.”
“Traffic enforcement is a necessity of law enforcement,” Schroetlin said, adding that many other crimes are uncovered during traffic stops.
He also said citizens have called dispatch about 400 times so far this year complaining about drunk drivers and other traffic problems. He said the sheriff’s office needs to be more responsive to them.
“We’re about visibility,” he said, adding that one state trooper for 1,800 square miles is not enough. “We want enforcement on the roads.”
The candidates also disagreed about whether it is beneficial to deputize officers from Granby and Winter Park-Fraser.
“I think it brings trust among the agencies,” Schroetlin said. He said it would lead to expedited officer backup in field situations too.
Stein disagreed and said it creates additional liability, which could cost thousands of dollars in additional insurance premiums per deputized officer.
“That’s a huge cost to taxpayers,” he said.
“The liability is already there,” Schroetlin said. “Liability is a part of law enforcement.”
Stein said that under mutual aid agreements the liability is split among the agencies that respond to a given situation but that it would all be shouldered by the county if police officers were deputized.
Stein reiterated that morale in the sheriff’s office is not as bad as it’s being made out to be, particularly by “disgruntled ex-employees” who were held accountable and who are now angry.
He also disputed that his candidacy is about preserving the status quo.
“It’s continuity,” he said, preserving initiatives and improvements that are in the works.
Plus, he added, “Change is difficult for employees,” and changing upper management would cause disruptions in the department.
He also disputed assertions that the department is understaffed.
“We’re actually above [minimum] staff,” he said.
Schroetlin said he would keep his closing statement brief and simple:
“Are you happy with the law enforcement you’ve received during the past 20 years?” he asked. “Do you want the old, or do you want the new?
“Make a decision based on what your heart tells you.”
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