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As the primary election for the next sheriff of Douglas County draws near, Colorado Community Media has asked each of the four Republican candidates to answer questions about how, if elected, they would run the office.
Their responses along with self-written bios are below:
These answers have been edited for clarity by Colorado Community Media.
John Anderson: I’m Commander John Anderson. I served over 40 years with the Castle Rock Police Department. On April 14, 1978, I was hired as the fourth officer in the agency serving as patrolman, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, commander and acting chief of police. I graduated from Northwest University’s School of Police Staff and Command.
Holly Kluth: Starting as a patrolwoman in 1989, my husband and I moved here and raised our family. Serving 32 years as a deputy, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, chief and undersheriff, I worked for four sheriffs. I hold a bachelor degree in criminal justice, a master's in psychology and attended the FBI National Academy.
Lora Thomas: Lora Thomas is a Colorado native and 30-year resident of Douglas County. A 26-year veteran of the Colorado State Patrol, she was the first woman captain and major in CSP. She served as coroner from 2011 to 2015 and has served as county commissioner since 2017. She holds an associate arts degree in criminal justice, a bachelors of science in finance and an MBA.
Darren Weekly: I’m a Colorado native. I have 28 years of exemplary service with DCSO. I have been entrusted by four different sheriffs to perform in key roles to make DCSO what it is today. I’ve lived in Douglas County for over 25 years. I’m happily married and have one daughter.
Weekly: My top priority is to put more uniformed deputies in marked cars on the street without raising the budget. I believe there are commissioned positions within the organization that do not require a commissioned deputy. Over the years, various positions have been pulled from patrol as well as the detention division and re-allocated to other assignments. As a former patrol and detention division captain, I thoroughly understand the workload our staff endures. With respect to the patrol division our staff needs to have more unobligated time to do more proactive patrolling and traffic enforcement.
Thomas: There must be thorough, systemic change in the culture of leadership. Cronyism, nepotism and authoritarianism permeate the structured leadership in DCSO. I will put an immediate end to that. Every position of rank and responsibility will be merit-based. I will empower decision making up and down all levels of the chain of command, but with increased responsibility will also come increased accountability. I will bring a new day of pride, professionalism and integrity to DCSO — it will become a place where people are enthusiastic to work and where dedicated law enforcement personnel throughout the state will want to join.
Kluth: While line level staff and mid-level management have excelled in keeping Douglas County the lowest crime rate in the front range, the past few years of extremely political leadership, recent hiring of ex-sheriffs who don’t live in the county having no connection to it and politicized personnel decisions by upper management has left the office with a lack of leadership and placement of citizens and employees second. I want leaders in place that have a connection to Douglas County and are committed to fair and effective leadership, mentoring, motivating, supporting employees and being accountable, accessible and approachable to citizens.
Kluth: My education is specific to law enforcement, leadership and many of the current issues we are facing today, such as mental health, the rise in crime, drug and youth issues, as well as recruitment, retention and professionalism of staff. I have served or supervised every area of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, can step in on day one knowing the people, the budget, the operations and the challenges. I can give a new vision and mission the perspective of what I’ve spent the last 16 months hearing from the citizens and staff of Douglas County since I announced my candidacy.
Weekly: I have more in-depth operational sheriff’s office experience at nearly every level in every division of the organization. Experience matters. Nobody knows DCSO like me, and I appreciate the work the amazing staff do there every day. As a former K9 handler, SWAT operator, detective, Douglas County regional SWAT commander, and division commander for professional standards, patrol, detentions and as the current investigations division commander, I have the most in-depth knowledge of the entire organization. I’m also a FEMA certified Type III incident commander for the Douglas County Incident Management Team and have real life experience handling major incidents in Douglas County.
Anderson: I served 32 years of my 40 years as a commanding officer. I'm a private businessman. For over 40 years I've invested in Douglas County with a large cattle operation and other businesses.
I've given back to many programs, I'm an auctioneer and have raised money for:
I’ve served on many community business and nonprofit boards.
Thomas: I have an unmatched legacy of effective leadership in law enforcement and elected public service. In this time of rising crime, we need cops. But the sheriff is not just another cop; she runs the largest law enforcement agency in the county — an $85 million budget and 600 employees. To run an agency that big we need a leader whose skills and experience go far beyond mere policing. I am that leader.
Anderson: Red Flag is a violation of our United States Constitution. Red Flag also violates our First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments. I vehemently oppose Red Flag, this unconstitutional law.
I’ve sworn to uphold the Constitution of our United States. We The People and I will never fail to do so.
There are Constitutional laws that currently exist that authorize law enforcement to take immediate custody of the suspected mentally disturbed person through due process and not our guns as red flag allows, based on a phone call and preponderance of the evidence.
I will not enforce Unconstitutional Red Flag.
Thomas: I do not believe any county resources should be used in confiscating the private property of our citizens without proper observation of their rights. As sheriff, it is my legal duty to effect service of process of court documents. However, I believe that is where my legal duty re: Red Flag ends.
In nearly all cases where DCSO has invoked Red Flag, the same result could have been obtained by merely bringing the matter into the criminal justice system, where proper process can be afforded. There also exist civil avenues under the law in removing guns from dangerous or incompetent persons that afford proper constitutional due process.
Kluth: I will do everything in my power to keep citizens safe but will not use a process that violates someone’s constitutional rights of due process and probable cause before denying a right guaranteed by the Constitution. As a sheriff I swear to uphold constitutional rights for all citizens. The entire foundation of our criminal justice system is based on those rights. The current Red Flag law violates rights and denies basic constitutional guarantees, denies the accused a defense, has nothing to do with mental health and does nothing to help someone alleged to have a mental health issue.
Weekly: I’m a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment. I don’t agree with the Red Flag law. As sheriff, I will work with the legislature to reform it and protect the Constitution. DCSO has executed these orders on four individuals. One was delusional, firing shots inside his home. In another case, the person posted he actively wanted to kill people. It’s my duty to protect life. I will exercise every means to protect our community from individuals who are a threat without using the Red Flag Law, unless they are suffering from severe mental health issues and are an imminent threat.
Thomas: I have always supported the carrying of firearms by licensed adults in our schools. Our school board has been steadfastly resistant to permitting anyone other than law enforcement or uniformed security carry in our public schools. I have always supported school resource officers and have approved millions for additional SRO’s. But one or two officers per school is not going to provide the necessary armed security necessary to deal with armed attacks.
As sheriff I would continue to offer as much assistance as possible in training and encouraging responsible carry of firearms in schools by all qualified adults.
Weekly: DCSO has Community Response Teams where we pair a mental health clinician with a patrol deputy. It has connected people who have mental illness with services who may do harm to themselves or others. DCSO also does a tremendous job of thoroughly investigating all threats to the community to include inside of our schools. DCSO does not stop until all leads on the threat have been exhausted. Additionally, I support well-trained armed staff and School Resource Officers. I will advocate for school security and sheriff’s office personnel to train together annually on critical incident response and unified critical incident management.
Anderson: Internal protection is paramount. Gun free zones are an open invitation for armed individuals to enter our schools.
I would make recommendations to the people of Douglas County and our school board:
I will create a team of deputies who will have direct communications with teachers and teachers with them so that no information is lost or delayed.
Kluth: I sat on the Physical School Safety Funding committee after the STEM shootings. I know what best practices are, like physical school characteristics and a close relationship with our school district and with the private and charter schools. Sharing of information and resources, collaborative efforts, training together, following nationally recognized best practices and ensuring armed staff, security or School Resource Officers at all schools can protect our children and make our schools safer. Continued education of students and staff, employing cutting edge technology and working together with schools will make sure our most vulnerable citizens and staff are protected.
Weekly: From 2017 to 2021 crime in our service area has increased 9%. Respectively, our citizen service population has also increased 8% over the same period. When you normalize the data to account for the increase in population, crime only increased 1% from 2017 to 2021. From the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2022 overall crime in our service area is down 37% compared to the same time frame as last year. DCSO does an outstanding job analyzing crime trend data to target hot spot crime areas efficiently and effectively. DCSO works smarter to catch criminals preying on our community.
Anderson: Crime has several prevention levels:
(Editor’s note: The Sheriff’s Office disputes this claim, stating there is a higher number of responders and multiple teams that respond to calls)
Thomas: For more than five years as county commissioner, I have worked to tackle the root causes of crime — homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse. I will use that knowledge and experience to help find practical, proactive solutions to crime. I also want to expand partnerships with programs like the Douglas County Mental Health Initiative, which emphasize treatment rather than incarceration.
I also want to embrace technology and innovation to combat crime. I will increase access to very valuable resources — our military veterans of all generations and most importantly our deputies who patrol our streets daily and know the problems and can identify effective solutions.
Kluth: The rise in crime is due to lessening of penalties for violations, policies that fail to hold criminals accountable, lack of secure borders keeping drugs and drug cartels out of our nation, an attitude of condoning those that are using drugs and committing crimes to obtain them, lack of robust abstinence and deterrence education and legalization of prior criminal conduct. I will ensure tough on crime policies, concentrated enforcement, I’ll promote partnership with communities and citizens, work with surrounding communities and legislators, and enlist advanced and visionary technology to detect and solve crime to keep this county safe.
Thomas: The most important thing that must be done is the systemic change in the culture of leadership at DCSO. The law enforcement community is close-knit, and it is well-known which agencies have the best leadership and work environments. I will ensure that DCSO becomes one of those agencies where people will want to come and work. As commissioner, I have worked to improve the compensation of DCSO personnel, including pay increases, tier realignment and increased retirement benefits. As sheriff, I will continue to work at maintaining excellent compensation while bringing a new day of pride, professionalism and integrity to the working environment.
Weekly: We need to elect a sheriff who never forgot what it was like to do their jobs and will fight to ensure they have the resources they need to perform their jobs safely and effectively. I am the only candidate who has worked and led in nearly every position within the sheriff's office. We also need to maintain proper staffing levels as well as ensure we have schedules that are conducive to the personal lives of our staff. If we fail to do that, employees will go to an agency that will be more accommodating to their personal lives.
Anderson: Ask the people of Douglas County to transfer funding from the Justice Center tax fund from brick and mortar to more boots on the ground. Millions and millions of dollars are being wasted every year on pet capital projects.
In turn, increasing jail and patrol personnel will offer more advancement opportunities and stronger morale through safety and confidence to better protect our schools, communities and businesses.
I will evaluate salaries, benefits, and retirement for improvements and increase training from the current 50 annual hours up to the targeted goal of 135 annual hours. Public safety and officer safety are first.
Kluth: Employees need to feel safe in their position, be motivated in their jobs, be assured of their status and be appreciated, recognized and involved in solutions. I will make sure assignments and promotions are fair and without political influences. I’ve always fought for pay and benefits and as the sheriff, will make sure their voices are heard. I initiated our employee wellness program and supervised it for the first few years. Making sure staff has the resources and benefits to keep them mentally and physically healthy is a priority in our work where emotional and physical stress takes a toll.
Weekly: DCSO has always been a great place to work. It offers competitive salaries and benefits compared with other agencies in our area. We have never had trouble recruiting. In fact, veteran cops from both Denver PD and Aurora PD are now coming to DCSO because they know they are respected and appreciated by the administration as well as the community we serve. I also would offer that those with prior law enforcement experience, prior military, academy graduates at or near the top of their class, or who have a college degree may start directly in the patrol division.
Anderson: A good leader must know their audience, or in this case, Douglas County culture.
Great leadership attracts great personnel. Leadership will constantly focus on honesty, integrity, transparency, common core values, customer service and advanced top of the line training.
When possible, assign deputies take home cars, ensure their worth and value, fair promotional process and assignments that employees desire at every opportunity.
Salaries, retirement and benefits are key to help with supporting their families.
When we create community policing, those assigned deputies will feel at home with their community, while harmonizing these cultures.
Kluth: First pay and benefits must be comparable to other local agencies to attract the best staff. The internal morale and reputation of the office and its leadership is second. A bad leader within the chain of command can create stress, roadblocks and inefficiency. I want to ensure all staff work as a team, are collaborative and support the goals of the office and that we never lose a staff member due to bad supervision or frustration with leadership. Exceptional and fair leadership is imperative, opportunities for growth and promotion and satisfied and healthy employees serve the citizens with professionalism.
Thomas: See my response to the previous question.
Kluth: The fentanyl and other drug crises must be approached by collaborative efforts with local, state and national law enforcement partners. Nationally the borders need to be controlled and drugs and drug cartels intercepted and prosecuted. Our State needs to pass tougher laws targeting users, distributors and organizations. We must stop legalizing drugs and philosophically condoning them. Locally we need to enforce current laws, fight for tougher ones, educate our youth and citizens in their dangers and ensure we have the staff available and trained to intercept, enforce and work with local, state and national partners to prosecute individuals and organizations.
Thomas: The job of the sheriff is to enforce the law. It is up to those in the general assembly to give law enforcement, including our prosecutors, the legal tools to help get dangerous drugs off our streets. The flood of illegal drugs coming across our border is also something of which the sheriff has no control or role in addressing. My sheriff’s office will definitely take all drug crimes extremely seriously, including efforts to educate the public — especially young people — about the deadly risks of abusing all illegal drugs.
Weekly: DCSO, in cooperation with the Castle Rock, Lone Tree, and Parker Police Departments have a unified task force called the “Impact Team”. This group of highly-trained and highly-motivated detectives work narcotics cases all over Douglas County. They aggressively pursue all information on any fentanyl cases to identify both the dealers and users. When a drug-related death occurs, DCSO identifies the dealer through a thorough investigation in order to file homicide charges on the individual. As your sheriff, I will ensure these partnerships with other agencies continue and we will aggressively file cases on drug dealers.
Anderson: As we know, fentanyl is a border crossing drug. States north of the border have no initial control.
I will have two specialized teams or units: One team focuses on homelessness, sex trafficking and the elderly. The second team will focus directly with school interrelationships and drugs such as fentanyl.
Our fentanyl team will establish direct communication with the U.S. Border Patrol, ICE, DEA, FBI, as well as local agencies. Communication and iInformation are effective and when streamlined directly to a small sheriff’s investigative team, this is very powerful.
Resources and plenty of them are key to fighting this dangerous problem.
Thomas: In addition to working with the County Sheriffs of Colorado on important legislation, I look forward to bringing many years of experience in working directly with members of the general assembly on all matters that impact public safety in Douglas County. I worked with a coalition to kill SB21-62, a dangerous “Get Out of Jail” bill. Last year I was appointed to a subpanel to make recommendations to the legislature on spending $450 million on behavioral health bills this session. I am known as a statewide leader in this field by legislators and executive directors, and I have had success at working with others on legislation.
Weekly: I have already established good relationships with members of both the Colorado House and Senate, to include many who are currently running for those offices. I also have already been consulted on potential legislation for 2023. I will be an active partner with both our legislators and district attorneys in order to fight against any legislation that infringes on our individual rights, decriminalizing criminal behavior and any “bail reform” legislation. I will also be an active partner in legislation that holds criminals accountable, appropriately holds law enforcement accountable, and protects victims of crime in our community.
Anderson: I will focus on Constitutional laws and stronger jail sentences.
Working with legislatures, as we know, depends on the importance, values and beliefs of the law makers.
My course of action will be to revise weak and unconstitutional laws. Laws that better serve and protect our schools, communities and families of every political affiliation.
I will state the facts, be transparent, honest, never defund and always give law enforcement the tools and laws that best serve us all.
Kluth: As an elected sheriff I will be in a position of authority to make a difference for citizens, as well as employees. I was the County Sheriffs of Colorado representative on the Public Safety Communications Subcommittee for the state which ensured collaborative efforts and steering of legislation affecting public safety communications, but I lacked the authority to stand on my own position. If elected I would partner with other conservative sheriffs to take stands against anti-police legislation, government overreach, increasing control of law-abiding citizens and infringement of our guaranteed Constitutional rights.
Weekly: I lead by example. I’ve been endorsed by five current Colorado sheriffs, as well as the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police. They know I never forgot what it was like on the frontline handling dangerous calls, violent inmates or major cases. I’m an honest, ethical, and transparent leader who truly cares. When it comes to the law as well as policy, I play by the book. I would never ask employees to do anything I’m unwilling to do myself. The overwhelming majority of the commissioned and civilian staff of DCSO trust me to lead the organization into the future.
Anderson: My philosophy regarding leadership is based on my belief in our Constitution and God.
Treating everyone equal, with no regard to race, religion, politics, sex or anything that may set someone apart from me.
All employees have value, feelings, and desire to do the best they can. No one will ever be discounted and always be given a fair opportunity.
My philosophy will never allow me to bend on our beautiful Constitution.
I will never back down from any of my said beliefs or any challenge that may try to persuade me to do so.
Kluth: I’m a proponent of servant leadership and know giving people the tools, resources and support they need to succeed, creates leaders that are self-motivated and inspired. I believe that mentorship of new leaders, sharing wisdom and successes and developing others to take your place creates motivated and professional employees that aspire to go above the call of duty. I try to create teams to work on ideas and issues together so that all can share in successes. My style is to collaborate with stakeholders and make their goals the group's goals knowing that ultimately our duty is to serve the citizens.
Thomas: During my 26-year career with the Colorado State Patrol, I developed a reputation as the go-to leader for marginal or underperforming operations/units and making them effective. They knew that I am tough and no-nonsense, but fair, honest and square-dealing. Those who worked for me knew that my expectations would always be high, but that I would always make sure they had the tools and support they needed to succeed. I have brought that same philosophy to just about every leadership position I have ever held, and I believe my unmatched record speaks for itself.
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