Sheriffs to discuss working relationship with feds

Western Slope sheriffs are stressing their good working relationships with the federal government in advance of what is billed as a sheriff’s roundtable to discuss the “constitutional sheriffs movement” and “burdensome presence of the federal government” in the Western states.

Six county sheriffs, five from Colorado and one from Utah, are scheduled to participate in the roundtable sponsored by the Western Slope Conservative Alliance on Wednesday.

“What I want to talk about is what I think works right in my partnership with the federal government,” Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said Monday.

“There’s a big group that wants me to be a federal government hater,” Hilkey said, noting that he has had differences with federal agencies, state law enforcement and “the police department right next door,” but that they don’t inhibit him from working with those agencies.

Organizer Doug Thompson acknowledged that the conservative alliance runs the risk of being painted as “radical right-wingers” by sponsoring the roundtable.

“That’s not what this is,” Thompson said. “This is to educate people about exactly what the state constitution and the U.S. Constitution allow a sheriff to do.”

Organizers didn’t ask the sheriffs about their politics, Thompson said.

“It will be interesting to hear what they have to say,” Thompson said. “We wanted different opinions.”

Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee said he hopes to make a point of how well local law enforcement and federal agencies work together.

“We have a good relationship with our federal partners right now,” McKee said. “There’s a lot of mutual respect there and we need to work hard to maintain those relationships.”

Hilkey, who had disagreements with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement several years ago over jail inspections by them said he’s not a part of the constitutional sheriff movement and is largely pleased with the role of federal agencies in the region.

Federal law enforcement activity “has definitely made the community safer with respect to drug stuff,” Hilkey said. “We work with them on fire stuff, land issues” and other functions.

Other participants are Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap, Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins and Grand County, Utah, Sheriff Steve White.

To the best of his knowledge, Thompson said, the roundtable will mark the first time the sheriffs from those counties have gathered for a public discussion.

The roundtable will be 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Grand Junction Masonic Lodge, 2400 Consistory Court.


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