Q&A: Mesa County sheriff candidate Pat Arotin
Name: Patrick P. Arotin
Occupation: Deputy sheriff, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office
Education: AS degree, criminal justice; BS administration of criminal justice; MS strategic leadership
Professional work history: 8 yrs. 10 months active duty U.S. Navy (Hospital Corpsman); Persian Gulf War veteran/Assigned to Navy shore and sea commands (overseas and in country) as well as U.S. Marine Corps commands. Two honorable discharges with various combat and service medals awarded; 3 yrs. Service with Maryland National Guard (Baltimore, MD); 2 yrs. as a surgical technician/assistant (Frederick, MD) while serving in the National Guard; 10 months as a correctional officer (Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Frederick, MD); 5 yrs. 8 months as a police officer (Frederick Police Dept., Frederick, MD); 8 years 10 moths as a deputy sheriff (Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Grand Junction, CO) and still currently employed there; 2 years adjunct professor/lecturer at Colorado Mesa University
Assignments include: Special operations (Law enforcement), Trainer/Instructor, Supervisor, Patrol, Fraud investigations, Background Investigations, Bike Team, Prisoner Transport, Courthouse security, Traffic operations, Undercover operations. And various military assignments.
Years in Mesa County: 8 1/2 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?
As a current Sheriff’s Department employee, I have a thorough understanding of the existing programs and positions in the office. Given that, and my years working directly with the public as a patrol deputy, I can prioritize positions based upon the effect they have on the citizens the office serves. The office has over recent years been forced to eliminate several positions. These cuts have primarily affected road deputies and correctional staff, while command structure, which includes the highest paid positions in the agency, has remained largely unchanged. Should there come a time when more cuts are necessary, certain positions or collateral duties may be scaled back or eliminated, with the main priority in deciding what is trimmed being continuing to provide timely professional service to the citizens who deserve quality in public safety.
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?
Over the 15 years of my law enforcement career and 12 years military service, I have come to understand cops and soldiers are motivated by more than the salaries they receive. Those willing to sacrifice in service to their country and community should expect wages that can provide a good quality of life for them and their families. Beyond that, what can motivate a valuable employee to stay as their agency struggles with shrinking budgets and cuts is quality leadership. Cops and soldiers are willing to endure many hardships, but they must believe their leadership understands their struggles and is personally invested in their success. This personal investment is not displayed when there is a disinterested command structure and a distant leadership model. Deputies who are struggling to make ends meet, and in some cases seeking public assistance to feed their families, should not have to see highly paid command officers unaffected by cuts, and current perks that go along with those positions. That personal, invested leadership is the type I am uniquely qualified to provide. Over the course of my career, I have never been so far removed from the street level work of law enforcement to forget what it takes to work long hours in harsh conditions. I can provide leadership from an understanding of the unique challenges those I lead are facing.
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?
MCSO’s “national reputation” stems from the hard work the employee originally in charge of developing the program did in working with the FAA and other agencies to craft policies related to the use of unmanned aircraft. The unmanned aircraft MCSO uses are strictly to provide an additional measure of safety in critical incidents. They are not in use to gather evidence necessary to develop a criminal case. The aircraft have been used to locate lost or injured people in terrain that would make a foot search difficult and time consuming. They have also been used to more safely get an idea of a suspect’s location and determine if they were armed in a standoff. Using an unmanned aircraft in that instance provided deputies distance and cover they would have had to give up to assess the situation first hand. The information gathered helped determine tactics and the placement of responding deputies. Any changes I would consider would involve open discussions aimed at showing the general public the capacity and purpose of the unmanned aircraft in the hope they would see them as a valuable tool rather than a threat.
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?
Over the years I have been employed with the MCSO I have held a variety of positions from working a district as a patrol deputy, to supervision to my current position in court services. I have seen first-hand areas that are overstaffed and others very much in need of greater numbers and better equipment. My focus in any reorganization will be to provide the best trained most motivated and highest quality service to the public possible. As stated in an earlier question, full time positions have been eliminated from the MCSO. That has occurred without significant changes to the command structure. I believe, whether to address the smaller numbers supervised or to change the environment which is contributing to attrition in the agency, no organizational changes should be undertaken that do not involve a careful analysis of leadership positions. I intend to take a close look at all positions and make necessary changes in order to fill each and every spot with employees I believe from past experience will provide the type of service the citizens of Mesa County deserve.
5. Under your leadership, will MCSO continue on occasion to partner with federal law enforcement agencies?
Mesa County is blessed to have vast areas of open space and public land. Much of that, through agreements over which no sheriff has control, has fallen under federal control. That being the case it is impossible to think the MCSO will not on occasion work with federal agencies. However, it should be noted most past work with federal agencies has stemmed from their requesting the assistance of the MCSO. This can be something as simple as providing backup to a Monument Ranger on a traffic stop to something as complicated as providing incident command on a search and rescue or wild land fire. To the extent any federal agency seeks to engage in law enforcement actions within the county, I will ensure they take those actions under MCSO oversight. I have prior experience working in cooperation with various federal agencies and will lean on that as I consider the role of the sheriff’s office in any action on behalf of a federal agency. With that said, I do not support giving arrest authority for state and local violations to federal agents, as has been given in state bills passed over the last several years.