Where do I stand on Constitutional issues? Click Here.
My Vision for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office
I want to return the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to its once-vaunted greatness as a Triple Crown, Gold Medal standard-holder in all accreditations. Together, with the fine EPSO professionals who serve this community, we can transform it into the premiere law enforcement agency in the State of Colorado, indeed even in the country.
I feel within me a calling to serve this community, and from the citizens, a calling to make this happen. From the men and women of the EPSO, I’ve heard your yearning for change.
Why Me, Why Now?
No other candidate in this race has a better record of proven success, transparency, accountability, leadership, and executive experience.
My family and I moved to El Paso County 12 years ago and we’ve made it our permanent home. After 12 Air Force assignments in 25 years, we were ready to settle down. Once we arrived, we knew this was it. We were finally home.
When I finished my second career in law enforcement and security academia in May of this year, thinking I was ready to fully retire, I realized I wasn’t yet done. I have more to give, and since I love this community very much, I want to give back to the citizens of El Paso County.
I felt a calling, a calling within that drew me to public service. But it was also a calling from you, the citizens, yearning for change in the Sheriff’s Office. I conducted an informal listening tour as I went about my daily business, speaking to many people in our community, and it was from these discussions I set my sights on becoming your next Sheriff.
My campaign has been up and running barely two months as I update this page, and in that time my Committee and I have spoken with upwards of 300 members of the EPSO. Our one consistent takeaway is a genuine hunger for new leadership, a new direction, and a change in the working climate. That became my third calling and it has strengthened me and inspired me to plow forward with the determination I’ve shown throughout my career when I have a goal in mind.
The men and women of the EPSO want — and deserve — a new leader, one focused on them and their professional development, one forged in the fires of solid executive and leadership experience. No other candidate in this race has as much experience leading law enforcement agencies as I do, and as a complete outsider, I will begin my first day of office untainted by cronyism. The professionals at EPSO deserve no less.
Equally important, the citizens of El Paso County deserve more. You are owed full accountability and transparency when it comes to your precious taxpayer dollars. I will never have anything to hide, nor will I hide anything.
I am a career LEO who knows law enforcement, but I am also unstained by politics. I won’t entangle myself in it, and I choose to rise above it. I am NOT beholden to any special interest groups.
- My only special interest is YOU, the taxpayers.
- My integrity is not for sale.
I want to restore the public’s trust and move beyond the past. I’ll do this by ensuring we instill integrity as a core value in the office. It cannot be just a slogan; it has to be an intrinsic value everyone at EPSO holds dear.
I’ll do this by example and by rewarding those who do as well. I’m already leaning forward and declining to take campaign cash from current EPSO employees. Let that sink in…a candidate for office who tells one group of people he doesn’t want their money.
It’s unethical for any boss — present or future — to shake down employees for campaign donations. At a minimum, it creates a perception of bias and every future decision I make as Sheriff would be shrouded in questions about who did or did not make a donation, so it’s best to take none.
Accountability and Transparency
The citizens are owed and they deserve full accountability and transparency in their Sheriff’s Office. This is especially true with taxpayer money and the EPSO budget. You will know where every penny of your taxpayer money goes in real time. I will receive budget briefings at least weekly and we will post them to the EPSO public website immediately after I see them.
I will hire a professional comptroller and auditors and we’ll scrub the books to track down every cent. If that review discloses irregularities, I’m not averse to bringing in the Department of Justice to assist.
The Public Safety Tax (1A Ballot Measure from 2012) is a looming disaster if it is not managed well before it sunsets in 2020. Right now, it’s poised to be a fiscal cliff over which the professionals at EPSO will fall unless it receives proper leadership and attention. When that tax money stops, dozens of people will lose their jobs overnight, severely impacting officer and public safety. I won’t let that happen.
We’re already devising a plan to turn the cliff into a glide-path, a gradual shift in personnel and operations that will see only a handful of people affected on sunset day. It can be done by reconfiguring the pools of money under which positions are coded, shifting more deputies into the general fund salary base and managing normal attrition. We also will create savings by cutting the bloated command staff and reorganizing accordingly.
Live Within Our Means
There have been reported budget issues within the EPSO related to a lack of transparency and to alleged overspending. We’ve been told that funds have dried up and created serious officer safety issues as well as public safety concerns. There’s no reason the EPSO should be out of money with two and a half months left in the year, especially not with the added Public Safety Tax money it receives from the generous citizens of this county. We’ve addressed these problems in an ongoing series of ‘Follow the Money’ posts. YOU, the taxpayers, deserve better fiscal discipline, accountability, and leadership.
- Follow the Money: Public Safety Tax and Other Funding
- Follow the Money: Where’s the Oversight?
- Follow the Money: Never-Ending Lawsuits and YOUR Money
Cut the Fat
I’ll also do a top-down, bottom-up review of every program similar to many drills I participated in during my Air Force time. From this we’ll determine:
- Must-Dos: Mission essential programs. These will stay, but we may tweak them for greater efficiency.
- Nice-To-Dos: We’ll examine return on investment and keep those that make sense and have value for the cost.
- Fat: These will go.
As a Reagan Conservative, a fiscal hawk, I’m always guided by less government and lower taxes. That will be foremost in my mind as we examine everything we do in service to the community.
There are many foundational pillars to Professional Development:
- Career Progression Planning
- Merit-Based Promotions
- Collegial, Respectful and Professional Working Climate
- Quality-of-Force Issues
We will have a new mentorship program in the office, one that fosters learning and leadership. It will mirror what I know from my USAF career. My hope for a legacy is that I will leave the sheriff’s office having groomed a future crop of deputies to be leaders in their communities and in the EPSO. From this I’m confident a future sheriff will come up through the ranks to lead the force with the same values.
Education is key in my experience. I’ll look at new and innovative opportunities for education in many arenas:
- Continuing education for degree advancement (possible partnerships with local and online colleges)
- Leadership training (possible partnerships with the local military community for leadership learning opportunities)
- Specialized law enforcement education (there are hundreds of schools and programs out there that we may be able to avail ourselves of)
Empowerment is a powerful concept, and we’ll make it work. Empowerment means each member of the EPSO is charged with making prudent decisions and exercising authority that is appropriate for their level. It requires trust up and down the chain of command. Leadership must trust deputies to make smart decisions and deputies must trust that leadership will back them up when they do.
No one has a lock on good ideas, not even the brightest and most experienced among us. Empowered people are able to bring their ideas and suggestions to the attention of management without fear of being criticized. It’s how people and organizations grow.
One of the greatest legacies of leadership is the creation of new leaders. Part of that process involves having a defined career path and a merit-based system to channel people upward as they step through their careers.
In the Air Force, each career field had a pyramid chart that told an officer at a glance what it would take to move from the rank of Second Lieutenant to Colonel. A Sheriff’s Office should be no different. Each newly-minted deputy should know upon graduating from the academy what it will take to rise to the highest non-elected position in the EPSO.
I’ve written extensively about this in a Message to the Troops: Professional Development & Career Progression
Every member of the office will receive honest and fair evaluations, and the very best, most qualified, and readiest among them will get promoted first. It’s simple, really. When people know that by being their best they have a better chance for promotion, then they will do their best all the time. That makes for a better force and a better relationship with the community.
My only job as the Sheriff will be to certify that a promotion board met and followed all policies and procedures correctly, fairly, impartially, and dispassionately. If it has, then I sign off on the promotion list without regard for who is on the top or the bottom. I will never move names up or down based upon emotional attachment, disagreement, political sway, campaign donations or for any other reason. That’s another benefit of having an outsider as your next Sheriff who refuses to accept campaign donations from employees.
Collegial, Respectful, and Professional Working Climate
Professional development and career progression are hampered when the climate is hostile, bullying, unprofessional or crony. Everyone must feel valued and respected, safe from sexual or other forms of harassment, and free to report abuse without fear of retaliation. There’s no place for that in a law enforcement agency, nor will it be tolerated on my watch. I have never permitted it before in my professional life, and I’ve always implemented and ENFORCED a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior.
Hostile working climates lead to lawsuits, but the lawsuits are never paid for by the people who engage in the misconduct. The taxpayers are always on the hook for the costs of defending against lawsuits and for the settlements themselves. There have been so many lawsuits against the EPSO in recent years that it’s difficult to keep up with them. The citizens deserve better.
My objective is to make the path for promotion and leadership clear from the moment a deputy graduates with a badge to the day she retires, hopefully at the top-most rank in the office. All along the way, she comes to work each day looking forward to the challenge that day holds, committed to serving the public, and excited to be part of a high-performance team that respects her as a professional.
There are some fundamental quality-of-force issues I have strong passion for:
Pay and Benefits: I have always supported better pay and perks for employees, and when it comes to the EPSO, I’ll fight for that. If we as a county value what EPSO does – and I believe the majority of our citizens do — then we need to pay those who serve accordingly.
A well-paid force has higher morale which results in greater professionalism on the job and in the community. It also means we can recruit high quality people who will be model deputies and staff.
Manpower: I have heard from several people about the losses since the current Sheriff took office, something in the order of 250 people either quit or were fired. When your total manpower level is 800, that’s nearly one third of the force. Unacceptable. This impacts everything from detentions to patrol to investigations. I address this more in the Operations section, below.
In the five times I was the Chief, I always went into each new job seeking to learn first before making drastic changes. I’m a firm believer in the adage, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ I’ll assess the full functioning of the sheriff’s office across all arenas: administrative support, law enforcement, and detention. If something needs correction, I will get it done.
Even before taking office, however, there are issues I am aware of now that I know will need my hands-on care once I arrive.
We will rethink the entire business model of the jail. What’s happening there now isn’t working, and the EPSO is struggling to meet accreditation standards, so improvement appears to be in order. We’ll look at civilianizing certain functions in the jail. There will always be a sworn staff present to handle duties a POST-certified professional must handle (arrests, use of force situations, etc.), but not everything requires a deputy. The idea is to make better use of civilians — who cost less in terms of salary and training — and preserve precious deputy resources for sworn duties.
No one loses a job in this. Instead, we create MORE jobs by converting functions to civilian staff in the aggregate. Similarly, in other functions throughout the EPSO, I’ll look at what is best-served by hiring a civilian expert (like IT, budget, motor pool, etc.) and moving deputies into critical sworn roles. When we free up deputies, we can move them to duties more commensurate with their valuable training and skills.
We’ll also look at new and innovative ways of managing the prison population and determining if better options exist outside the jail for non-violent, low-risk, no-flight-risk offenders. Despite my telephone conversation with Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, AZ the day my campaign went public, I won’t erect a tent city jail for inmates. That might work in the warm climate of Arizona, but it gets cold here. Although the military manages to place troops in harsher weather extremes and keeps everyone safe.
We’re told patrol has suffered from a high initial attrition rate within the last few years, so much so, that patrols thinned out in the rural and unincorporated areas of the county. That also led to increased response times and impacted officer safety to this day.
Additionally, budget mismanagement allegedly has resulted in a lack of training money to ensure patrol deputies maintain regular firearms proficiency. In addition, funds reportedly don’t exist to repair patrol vehicles, so once a car breaks down, it’s parked. If true, these are unacceptable conditions and present a safety risk to the deputies and the community.
It won’t happen on my watch. I’ve managed multi-million dollar budgets before and I’ve never run out of funds, certainly never even ran low two and a half months before a budget year ended.
Related to Public Trust issues is Community Outreach. Not only will I institutionalize integrity, accountability, transparency and fiscal discipline, I will be accessible to you.
As the People’s Sheriff, I serve YOU. That means I want to hear from you, all the time. ‘Coffee with a Cop’ is a fine idea, but it’s insufficient. I want to be a visible presence in the community by getting out there among the citizens of this county. I get restless behind a desk, so I tend to roll up my sleeves and work with the troops. I believe in walking about the workplace to see how everyone is doing. By workplace, I mean the Sheriff’s Office AND the public, among the people I serve. If you see me on the street, out shopping, at church, in a restaurant, and yes, even out fishing with my daughter, by all means come up, talk to me, and get to know me as I get to know you.
I want to look at forums like Town Halls and speaking engagements where we can interact with each other, respect one another, and most importantly…LISTEN to each other.
During my five times serving as a military Commander, I had an open door policy. I’ll do the same as your Sheriff. I’ll set aside time periodically for anyone to come see me to discuss any topic at all. You will always get a follow-up to any issue you want followed-up. I cannot guarantee outcomes, but I can promise a response.
You can’t get much more military than me. And in a military community like ours, that experience and know-how is important. I want to reach out to the various installations in the area and seek to partner with the military in new and innovative ways. I mentioned possible leadership training previously, but there may be other opportunities as well. The military has experts in a variety of functional fields that could benefit the sheriff’s office, so we’ll explore that more.
This is where I stand on the major issues and my reasons for running. I hope to be your sheriff, and with your support, I will be.
Next Steps…GET INVOLVED!
Mike needs your help to make this a successful election. Please consider making a generous contribution to his campaign by visiting our Get Involved! Page.
(Note: While he appreciates the interest, Mike requests members of the EPSO to NOT donate to his campaign. He wants to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.)
Also, volunteer to work on his campaign at the Grassroots level. We can always use people who are ready to roll up their sleeves and jump in. Contact the campaign and we’ll discuss ways you can help out.