Q&A: Mesa County sheriff candidates Steve King and John Pennington

Sheriff candidate Steve King



Sheriff candidate John Pennington.



Q&A: Mesa County sheriff candidate Steve King

By Staff
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Name: Steve King
Occupation: Mesa County sheriff deputy, Colorado state senator for Senate District 7
Education: Associate of Applied Science (criminal justice) from Colorado Mesa University; Bachelor of Arts (psychology with a minor in political science) from CMU; Colorado P.O.S.T. Certified Peace Officer from the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy.
Professional work history: Seven years full time at Mesa County Sheriff’s Office; eight years part time MCSO; four years Colorado House of Representatives; four years Colorado state Senate; 18 years with the Grand Junction Police Department.
Years in Mesa County: 37 Years

1. MCSO has lost nearly $4 million in funding over the past five years, including 27 full-time employee positions. If you had to cut more, what would you eliminate?

I’ve worked closely with Sheriff Hilkey and his administration to understand the cuts that have happened and how they’ve affected Mesa County. The agency is at a critical crossroads and future cuts could affect delivery of service in ways we have not seen before. The citizens of Mesa County and our county commissioners need to decide what type of agency and service they expect. Do we want an agency that is proactive in trying to prevent and solve crimes, or do we want to be reactive and document the incident well, after the fact? Sheriff Hilkey has said that the next tier of cuts would likely be the jail alternative programs, as counterintuitive as that is ... as I look at it, I suspect he’s right, but that would be a hit on all of the good work the local criminal justice system is doing in our county and is known for throughout Colorado.

2. MCSO employees have not seen merit raises or cost of living raises in five years. Many are applying for and taking jobs with other jurisdictions. Providing you don’t have to cut the budget, do you have a strategy for retaining ​those employees?

Being connected to the sheriff’s office for seven years full time as a violent crime investigator and eight years part time when I was in the Legislature already has given me a glimpse into some of the strategies that the county is looking at to allow the sheriff and their administration more flexibility in shaping their workforce, placement of positions within pay zones and using money saved in retention-type systems such as raises. If we get that budget set, and can use it in evidence-based and strategic ways giving taxpayers a value for their tax dollars, we could do some good things to help retain our excellent work force. We must figure out how to keep these professional deputy sheriffs who we have equipped and trained at great expense, working for our community.

3) MCSO has a national reputation for use of drones. Do you support the program as it exists? What changes if any would you make?
First, I know the Daily Sentinel prides itself on accuracy and the use of the word “drone” is not an accurate term for this technology or its mission statement. The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Mesa County was done for the purpose of creating a body of research that did not exist in the civilian law enforcement world. MCSO did that research in a very transparent and ethical way and created policies that prohibit the kind of abuses that some people expected to happen. Now, through their partnerships with the industry we are lucky to have additional tools to find lost people, do aerial crime scene photography, accident reconstruction and even help locate danger fugitives if necessary. It would be irresponsible not use tools like this cost-effective cutting edge technology to save lives. Having said that, I want to be very clear with the citizens of Mesa County, “I would never tolerate the improper use of these or any other MCSO tools.” I’m proud that this research was done in an ethical way by an ethical agency.

4. In your analysis of MCSO, do you plan on reorganizing the agency? What do you see as excess and what needs to be augmented?

I realize that I will be standing on the shoulders of giants whose effort and service for the citizens of Mesa are unmatched in the history of our county. Having said that and taking that into account, it is fair to say that there will be significant change at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. The change will come in both fundamental and incremental degrees. I am a strong believer in evidence-based decision making and problem-oriented policing. I am in the process of doing my due diligence in order to determine the scope, width and depth of organizational change in the coming years. Through this process I am reminded of the wisdom of the 105-year-old woman when she was asked the secret to her longevity? She said, “welcome change like an old friend.”

5. Under your leadership, will MCSO continue on occasion to partner with federal law enforcement agencies?
As your Mesa County sheriff, I will get Mesa County taxpayers a value for their federal tax dollars from the federal agencies in our county. I will trust but verify when dealing with our federal associates. When they attempt to usurp their legal boundaries in our county I will push back. I will do that with all of the power and authority of the Mesa County sheriff on behalf of the people who I have sworn to serve, protect and defend.



Q&A: Mesa County sheriff candidate John Pennington

By Staff
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Name: John Stanley Pennington
Occupation: Directional driller
Education: BSW in Social Work, University of Wyoming
Professional work history: Investigator, Department of Children, Youth and Families, Clovis, New Mexico — 1994-1998; Counselor, The Prairie Institute, Casper, Wyoming — 1998-2000; energy industry/directional drilling contractor/consultant, JBP LLC — 2005 to present.
Years in Mesa County: Seven.

1. MCSO has lost nearly $4 million in funding over the past five years, including 27 full-time employee positions. If you had to cut more, what would you eliminate?
Hopefully no more cuts will be necessary as the economy continues to rebound. As a responsible public employee I will be vigilant in my fiscal duties. I’ll work closely with the SO staff and we will spend our available dollars as wisely as possible.

2. MCSO employees have not seen merit raises or cost of living raises in five years. Many are applying for and taking jobs with other jurisdictions. Providing you don’t have to cut the budget, do you have a strategy for retaining those employees?

The economy took a nose dive and Mesa County has been slow to recover. We are all living leaner. However, my number one mission as sheriff is to find enough money in the budget to issue a well-deserved and significant wage increase to the line officers who put their lives on the line for us. It is unsatisfactory that they have gone six years without a raise. Utilizing ongoing assessments I would find and eliminate redundancies, find and sell unneeded, underutilized equipment, and use volunteers where appropriate, including a revitalized sheriff’s reserve unit. “Mission” is vital to morale. People want to be respected and rewarded and feel like a part of something important. MCSO will be an effective and dynamic work environment with achievement-based rewards. I will lead MCSO effectively and we will get through tough economic times together.

3) MCSO has a national reputation for use of drones. Do you support the program as it exists? What changes if any would you make?

Generally speaking, people don’t feel comfortable knowing there are drones flying overhead. The drone has been paid for by American citizens, but some resent feeling as if they can be spied on. We will hold on to the drone, but it will be used only when prudence suggests it needs to be used. Like the Bearcat, it will not be used as a patrol vehicle against American citizens. It will not fly sorties over Mesa County taking random photos of people, their homes or effects. If it’s required to have a look at someone or something, it will require, as per the Constitution, a warrant from our jurisdiction to search with any and all legal means at our disposal.

4) In your analysis of MCSO, do you plan on reorganizing the agency? What do you see as excess and what needs to be augmented?
It’s about public safety. Under skillful leadership, assets which do not serve a vital role in crime prevention and intervention will be reassigned appropriately. MCSO’s primary focus will remain public safety. MCSO will be a merit/achievement based organization. The annual or semiannual review boards and advocacy group will be assembled and will base their analysis of performance on deputy professionalism in all aspects — fitness, arrest procedures, custody, treatment of inmates and leadership.  Overall, the MCSO will be a proudly cooperative but independent organization and force for readiness for Mesa County.
Many people currently do not trust their government. They don’t feel protected by armored vehicles patrolling their streets. They rarely hear the good stories of our heroes in uniform and the public is often fearful and distrustful of law enforcement. I will work to regain trust and solve any disconnect between Mesa County citizens and MCSO and set the tone for cooperation with other law enforcement agencies. We will strive to become an independent and efficient SO, while empowering American citizens to pursue their lives free of fear from overreaching government agencies. I will foster a culture that is sensitive and responsive to our Colorado and U.S. constitutions and we will work toward a more representative form of law enforcement with the concept of liberty at the forefront.

5) Under your leadership, will MCSO continue on occasion to partner with federal law enforcement agencies?

Yes, at the pleasure of the county sheriff.


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