Finally the Media Gets Wise to the Sheriff’s Record

Whether it’s a deputy on patrol, a member of SWAT or another special unit, or someone working in the jail, their safety comes first. In a story that aired last night on KKTV, reporter Dianne Derby dug into the rising number of assaults in the El Paso County jail, an unacceptable situation.

11 Call for Action: Deputies concerned for their safety at El Paso County Jail

At the heart of the issue is low manning. There are not enough deputies working in the jail to cover the wards appropriately, leading to increased violence against jail staff. She spoke with two deputies who wished to keep their identities a secret because they feared ‘retaliation.’

That alone speaks volumes and is consistent with the draconian nature of the incumbent Sheriff and his autocratic rule that has driven away good people. If morale were in the toilet, that would actually be an improvement.

The attrition rate in EPSO has been through the roof during his tenure, in the double digits, which has only exacerbated the low manning crisis.

Sheriff’s Dismal Appearance

Ms. Derby interviewed the Sheriff on camera. He came across as flippant, incompetent, and clueless about how to protect his troops. He had no answer for why assaults are on the rise, a strong indication he’s in way over his head.

I found the following exchange to be emblematic of the problem:

Dianne Derby: They (jail staff) want to know what you can do to make them feel more safe.

Sheriff Bill Elder: I can take everybody off of patrol and put them back in the jail.

Instead of a serious and thoughtful response, the Sheriff gives a snide reply that is both unrealistic and petulant. The troops deserve better. The public expects more.

I wish Ms. Derby had asked a few other tough questions.

  1. How about pinning down the Sheriff on accountability and transparency of the Public Safety Tax? The $17 – 22M he receives annually is supposed to put MORE deputies on patrol and in the jail. Why are fewer assigned when EPSO is flush with cash?
  2. Aren’t there other places in EPSO where deputies are currently assigned to lesser important work? Can’t they be put in the jail or on patrol?
  3. Isn’t manning low overall due to lousy morale and high attrition on the incumbent’s watch?
  4. What about all the new positions the Sheriff has created for his staff at the expense of deputies? There are some new jobs on his watch that pay big bucks to loyal staffers and campaign workers. I wonder how many deputies they could have purchased instead…
  5. Isn’t it true that in recent weeks, assigning one deputy to cover two wards has become the norm? In his interview the Sheriff said that happens, ‘sometimes.’ Lately it sounds like most times.
  6. Hasn’t the Sheriff put civilian Detention Specialists in charge of wards instead of deputies? That’s what we’ve heard. What happens when there’s a need to make an arrest or engage in a use of force situation?

We’ve spoken with many people who currently work in the jail and the stories we’ve encountered are chilling. There’s tremendous frustration over silly things. We heard from several about the policy that prohibits personnel from wearing black gloves when handling inmates (necessary for EPSO personnel safety, by the way). They’ve been told the gloves ‘intimidates the inmates.’

Good grief. Right out of the left-wing Hillary Clinton playbook. They are in jail, for goodness sake. They SHOULD be intimidated. Maybe it’s the lack of intimidation that is causing some of the assaults? Food for thought.

With Me, Personal Safety Comes First

When I’m Sheriff, we’ll work hard to solve the manning situation in both patrol and the jail. It starts with an immediate surge of people from the fluffy duties many of them are currently performing.

We’ll reorganize and eliminate unnecessary jobs that are nothing but political payback for supporting the incumbent’s campaigns. I’ll rollback the corruption and cronyism. I’ll invest the savings in new deputies.

We’ll manage the PST money and ease the SO off of it. No one should face the ‘fiscal cliff’ they do now under the current Sheriff. He plans to ask for an extension of the tax – which he cannot account for now – and has no plan for what to do if he doesn’t get it. Instead of firing 200 people in one day like he will if he fails to solve the tax problem, I want to build in a solution that preserves everyone’s jobs permanently.

My troops will get the training and equipment they need to do their jobs. We’ll recruit the best we can to fill the voids in manning right now. We’ll change policy where it makes sense to free up the staff to make wise and prudent decisions and not to be constrained by ridiculous policies and procedures.

When use of force is necessary, I’ll back up the troops. Public and media scrutiny be damned. I give top cover and I don’t throw my folks under the bus.

The safety of my people will always trump politics.