Stein, Schroetlin vie for Grand County sheriff
Years in law enforcement: 21
Years in Grand County: 5
• Park County Sheriff’s Office, deputy, 1993-1997
• Telluride Mountain Village, interim police chief/paramedic, 1997-1998
• Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, deputy, sergeant, crisis intervention team, SWAT, 1998-2008
• Grand County Sheriff’s Office, started as investigator, promoted to lieutenant and undersheriff, 2009 to present
Education: 48 college hours, Police Academy graduate, estimated 6,000 hours ongoing training
Years in law enforcement: 15
Years in Grand County: 12
• Loveland Police Department, officer, 1999-2000
• Berthoud Police Department, officer, 2001-2002
• Grand County Sheriff’s Office, deputy to lieutenant, 2002-2006
• Winter Park-Fraser Police Department, sergeant, commander, served as acting chief fall 2007
• Colorado Division of Gaming, part-time Winter Park-Fraser PD, 2007
• Winter Park-Fraser PD, detective/K-9 handler, Grand County deputy coroner, 2007 to present
Education: Some college, Police Academy graduate, plus an estimated 1,600 hours of ongoing training
The only contested local election facing Grand County voters this year is the race for sheriff, which pits Republican candidate Brett Schroetlin and write-in Republican candidate John Stein, who is the current undersheriff. Schroetlin defeated incumbent Sheriff Rod Johnson in the primary election in June.
The Sky-Hi News conducted interviews during the past week with both candidates about a range of issues. Here are the results.
Why did you choose law enforcement as a career and what do you like about it?
Stein: “It’s what I always wanted to do. … Public service … being able to help people out in any type of need.” Stein also said he relishes being a mediator and “bridging gaps” among different people and groups.
Schroetlin: He said when he was 10 years old, he offered a soda to a police officer operating a radar gun from his patrol car across the street from his house. The officer invited him into the car and while Schroetlin was there, the officer pursued a speeder. He said he was hooked. “It was kind of neat, because that cop took an interest in me.”
What is your guiding philosophy toward law enforcement in Grand County and what are the key challenges here?
Schroetlin: “Get out there where people can actually talk to us.” Honesty, integrity and transparency are the watchwords of his campaign. He said he wants to conduct quarterly community meetings with law enforcement officers and citizens to help build trust and connections to the community. He also said he intends to form a citizens review board to hear complaints about the way cases have been handled, in addition to conducting a citizen’s academy where people can become more familiar with law enforcement training.
Stein: He said he wants to be effective, realistic and reasonable. “That will mean the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. … It’s about doing what’s right, regardless of the popularity.” He also emphasized community policing and said he intends for deputies to become closer to the community. Many of the challenges here, he said, are due to the fact the county is not large enough to justify institutions such as a detox or mental health center but is big enough to have genuine needs for both. Thus, the key is doing more with less.
What are your top three goals upon taking office?
Stein: To continue internal improvements already under way and plan for costly upgrades, such as the dispatch console, that are looming. “We just have to budget and plan for it.” He said grant writing will be key to avoiding undue taxpayer burdens. His second goal would be to forge more strategic alliances with businesses and nonprofits to make the most of community resources as well as greater use of crisis intervention teams. And, initiating greater community policing policies focused by better use of computer software that shows the most likely areas where crimes will take place.
Schroetlin: Increasing employee retention and boosting morale in the department are his highest priorities. He estimates about 100 officers have left the department during the past 10 years. He also said he would like to implement a capital-replacement schedule to address infrastructure needs such as inadequate locks in the jail and the need to update the dispatch console. In addition, Schroetlin said he intends to take steps to enhance communication among the office and the public.
Would you have joined the county sheriffs’ lawsuit against state gun control laws last year, and would you enforce those laws?
Schroetlin: He “absolutely” would have joined the lawsuit because that would represent the majority view in the county, he said. He also wouldn’t hesitate to enforce the laws, though “we’re not going to go out and actively find situations.” Nevertheless, “my job as sheriff is you have to enforce the laws. … That’s what’s got us into the situation we’re in now,” selective enforcement of laws.
Stein: He said he would have joined the lawsuit and that he would, as sheriff, enforce the laws in spirit, rather than by the letter of law and his office would not be proactive about enforcement. “There are certain things government should not be dictating [but] we also have to look at the public safety aspects of it.”
Is there a morale problem in the Sheriff’s Office and, if so, how would you address it?
Stein: He said the morale problem “is not like what is being stated by the opposition.” It’s not that bad, and some steps already have been taken to address morale, such as enhanced training opportunities and a pay for performance policy. “Now the guys are excited. … Morale has increased because we’re giving them training.” It’s about needs versus wants, he said, and there are grants in the works to provide more equipment and ammunition to enhance training.
Schroetlin: “A lot of people think morale is about money, but it’s not.” He said more concerted mentoring and coaching are needed and that there is “total disconnect” between patrol deputies and management. “It’s about making them part of the team.” He said there is a need for more training and restructuring within the office, as well as participation by top brass in day-today police work. “The top is never out there. ”
The questions below were tailored for each candidate.
To Schroetlin: The district attorney publicly endorsed Rod Johnson during the primary. Is that going to be a problem if you’re elected?
He said it didn’t bother him. “People were worried about that more than I was.” He said he just perceived it as support for the incumbent GOP candidate.
To Stein: Some people have criticized your selection of Rod Johnson as undersheriff. How do you respond to that?
He said Johnson’s presence will help prevent repeating mistakes, which can be perceived as negative by employees. He said it will ease the transition and would last for “no more than four years. … It’s controversial keeping him, but who has more law enforcement experience in the county?
For the record: Schroetlin has said he intends to make Granby Police Lt. Wayne Schafer his undersheriff if elected. In part, he said, he did so because of Schafer’s familiarity with running the Grand County Jail during his tenure there.
To Schroetlin: The concern is being expressed that you would “militarize” the Sheriff’s Office. How do you respond?
He said he thinks the office is sufficiently well armed as it is, and since some high profile national cases, militarization has become a buzzword. “I really don’t know where they’re coming from,” he said of the allegations. He said he hasn’t talked about SWAT teams or any other form of stepping up militarization of the office and he doesn’t intend to.
To Stein: Much has been made about a bankruptcy, a business “failure” and a home foreclosure in which you were named or involved. How do you respond?
The bankruptcy “was all my ex-wife. … The majority of that was medical.” As for the business failure, he said he had sold the business in question a year before the “failure” was entered in court. However, the name of the business still contained his name, he said, so it appeared the court action was directed at him. Besides, a judgment was never entered and the case was dismissed. As for the foreclosure, he was ordered by a judge to stop making payments and that his ex-wife would henceforth be responsible. However, his name remained on the mortgage, so he was included in the foreclosure.
For the record: The Sky-Hi News was anonymously presented with court documents pertaining to these issues and others. We authenticated the documents and examined them. Mr. Stein’s version of the business failure and foreclosure appear to be correct. With respect to the 2005 bankruptcy, his ex-wife presents a different version of events. Their divorce was not amicable. The bankruptcy entailed about $130,000 in debts, much of it credit cards.
To Schroetlin: Some people are suggesting you don’t have enough administrative experience to be sheriff.
He responded that as a lieutenant at the Sheriff’s Office he managed budgets and dealt with personnel and related issues and that he has similar experience as a commander in the Winter Park-Fraser Police Department. He said he ran that department for three months while the chief was at an academy, including during the budgeting process. “I don’t want it to be about just me. … You lead on your past examples.”
To Stein: Did the shooting last year affect how you approach your job or make you a better law enforcement officer?
“It’s sad,” he said. My kids were “in therapy for a long time.” He said it hasn’t changed the way he approaches his job and that he wouldn’t do anything differently. He said the man was suicidal and was threatening his family, so he protected himself and them.
For the record: Stein and his wife shot and killed 32-year-old Joshua Stevens in front of their Hot Sulphur Springs residence in April 2013. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, assisted by the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office, investigated the incident and found no wrong-doing on their part.
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