From Todd Combs
I would like to take a moment of your time to announce my bid for a second term as your Sheriff. As your Sheriff for the last three years, my team at the Sheriff’s Office has accomplished much and provided the law enforcement needed throughout the county in some very trying times. I will outline some of the challenges we have faced.
When I arrived there was a shortage of staff to fill the schedule both on the patrol and jail sides. I hired experienced personnel on the patrol side and let them mentor the younger deputies that were wanting to get into law enforcement. This has proven to be a good experience for all the deputies involved. The jail was understaffed when I arrived and we were sending most of our prisoners to Washington County for housing at a high cost to the county. Sgt. Joe Wells was given the opportunity to fix the issues and hire staff. This confidence was not misplaced and succeeded, within six months in bringing back those inmates and becoming a fully functioning jail that houses inmates for other counties as well as our own.
The previous administration lost all the files associated with the sheriff’s office. This required the rebuilding of procedures to make the office run smoothly. I empowered the staff to streamline the process and take initiative to make changes where they saw fit. The administrative staff of the office has done an outstanding job in making an efficient environment to work in. We are still using this principle as new ideas arise to better serve the county.
The arrival of COVID to our nation and county brought many new challenges to law enforcement. The jail had to install protocols to attempt to keep it out of our jail population. We had COVID infect several inmates but the protocols put into effect by Sgt. Wells and his jail staff kept us from experiencing an outbreak as some of the other jails and prisons did. The other challenge COVID brought is the releasing of individuals on Personal Recognizance bonds in an attempt to keep them out of jails where COVID might have been present. We are still experiencing the effects of this due to the amount of cases that were continued during this period as courts almost came to a standstill.
The events surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of Officer Chauvin has altered the face of law enforcement probably forever. I personally think there were good and bad changes that came about out of the aftermath. Law enforcement officers need to be held accountable but stripping away qualified immunity in Colorado for officers has caused many to leave the profession or move to other states. The ability to make decisions in literally seconds with poor information and poor compliance by suspects by law enforcement is now judged by the court of public opinion with a presumption of guilty being the start of any trial. I can tell you I had to personally talk with Yuma County Deputies who were and still are worried about losing everything they worked for because of liberal policy makers and their feel good laws.
To address my staff’s concerns about recent legislation I am a huge proponent of training, which will put the deputies in real life situations where their decision making and de-escalation skills are put to the test. Everything from scenarios involving a pursuits to shoot-don’t shoot situations, which are all done under pressure. Team meetings revolve around solving situations that may have arisen and the experienced officers offer suggestions to the new deputies. I believe this has given staff the confidence to handle the challenges that present themselves in the course of their day.
I saw a need in Yuma County for a team of individuals that could handle the high risk calls and warrants that might occur. It was a long process of training but we now have an operational team (SPEAR Team – SPecial, Enforcement And Response) that can respond to calls to assist deputies or other agencies. I have called on the team and its individual members numerous times for everything from high risk search and arrest warrants to back up on vehicle and foot pursuits in the county. A Sheriff from another county used the SPEAR team in his county to effect the arrest of an individual in his jurisdiction.
The rise of thefts in our county rose substantially in 2020 and 2021. Thieves were and still are targeting the county. My agency was frustrated in our attempts to thwart these crimes. Late night patrols, overtime shifts and stakeouts seemed to be fruitless. Then the citizens of Yuma County got involved and they helped us take down the thieves. I, to this day, maintain we could not have done it without their help. Unfortunately some of the individuals involved in these thefts are now back out in our communities and we are starting to see the reports of more thefts. My team will still do everything in our power to catch these individuals.
Fiscally we have been financially responsible with the citizen’s money and have stayed within or below the budget approved by the County Commissioners. As stated above the jail is now making revenue for the county from the housing of other counties’ inmates. I was also able to sell the excess military equipment and use the proceeds to buy equipment needed for the operations at the office.
Above are some of the past challenges I have faced as your Sheriff. The future holds challenges also. The ability to attract and hold on to good people in the law enforcement profession, due to the current anti-police sentiment and low pay, is going to be a daunting task. Dealing with the liberal legislation coming out of legislature and how it affects crime (example: loosening drug laws and the related increase in thefts of every kind) is going to be an unknown factor that is yet to be seen. The hesitation to incarcerate the guilty for a length of time that will a deter crime, either due to COVID or liberal reclassification of the penalty’s for breaking a law, means you will see people with criminal intentions in our communities more often. The bias toward the law breaker and not the law keeper as it relates to citizens in our society are just some of the other challenges I see in our future.
As your Sheriff, I can honestly say the job has been one of the most satisfying things I have done in my career in 30 years in law enforcement. If you re-elect me as Sheriff I will continue to provide the citizens of Yuma County with the professional and trained law enforcement organization that it expects and I will persevere through the challenges ahead. Thanks for your time and I would appreciate your vote, TC.
From Todd Combs