Chat with Wiggins
Republican Routt County Sheriff candidate Garrett Wiggins will be our guest for a chast at 2 p.m. Firday on steamboatpilot.com. You can submit questions for Wiggins anytime prior to the chat by visiting steamboatpilot.com
Gary Wall, 65, is the Democratic candidate for Routt County Sheriff. He sat down Friday for an online chat with steamboatpilot.com. Below is a portion of the questions and answers from the chat:
Q: We have a serious problem in North Routt (Willow Creek Pass and Hahn's Peak areas) with dogs off leash, and with barking dogs. If elected, what will you do as sheriff to enforce the existing laws? So far, nothing has been done about this problem.
Wall: I realize there has been a shortage of deputy sheriffs in North Routt and that's one of the issues I will be addressing : with the Routt County commissioners. There was a time when there was a deputy sheriff that lived in Hahn's Peak, and I would look into hiring someone who lives in Hahn's Peak. I lived in Hahn's Peak for about two years and am aware of those problems as well as problems in the winter with the snowmobile issue. I'm not confused about those problems and will implement some program to improve those issues in North Routt.
Q: What would you say is the biggest difference between you and Republican candidate Garrett Wiggins?
Wall: I get asked that question frequently. The biggest differences are that I have been promoted to a detective sergeant position and hired as a police chief. I have experience in supervising law enforcement officers and managing a police department. My opponent has never been promoted to a supervisory position during his 18 years as a patrolman. I understand he has managed individuals in the private sector, as have I, but there's no comparison in supervising people in the private sector versus law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers carry deadly weapons with them and have the awesome powers of arrest. Supervising people with these powers is substantially different than supervising people in the private sector.
Q: A lot of people in Routt County are most familiar with you because of the critical stance you took against law enforcement a few years back. A lot of people took from that process that you thought local law enforcement was too tough on suspected offenders, particularly juveniles, and that you, for lack of a better phrase, will be "soft on crime." Is that a fair perception? Why or why not?
Wall: It is not a fair perception that I am soft on crime. Three years ago I was hired in my capacity as a private investigator by many people in Steamboat Springs to look into what many people felt was an abuse of power and discretion by the three law enforcement agencies. We put ads in the newspaper asking people if they had been targeted, harassed or intimidated by the Steamboat Springs Police Department, Colorado State Patrol and Routt County Sheriff's Office. Many, many people responded with their complaints.
After analyzing and investigating these complaints, it was decided to go public with these complaints and we did so at a Steamboat Springs City Council meeting. The first meeting we attended, approximately 20 people, in addition to myself, gave their names and related how they had been targeted, harassed or intimidated. Never once did any of them suggest the laws not be enforced, the complaint was how the laws were being enforced and how people's civil liberties and constitutional rights were being violated. At a subsequent meeting of the City Council, an additional 15 to 10 people got up and made the same complaints. A year later, I again went in front of the City Council and explained to them that my clients felt a big improvement in the SSPD. That was not the same feeling with the (sheriff's office or state patrol).
Q: Turnover in the sheriff's office has been identified as a problem. How would you address this issue as sheriff?
Wall: I was hired as police chief in Vail to solve the same problems that I know exist in the sheriff's department: excessive turnover and poor morale. Through my management skills I was able to solve those problems in Vail by recruiting and retaining qualified people. I will have close contact with all the employees and listen to their complaints and suggestions and solve those problems, which maybe at the root of the turnover. I am not confused about how to deal with the employees at the RCSO as I was successful in doing that in Vail.
Q: You said before that you are a strong believer in civil liberties. Do you think the present sheriff's office isn't respectful enough of civil liberties? If so, how will you address this issue as sheriff?
Wall: I do not think they are respectful of people's civil liberties and Constitutional rights. All officers take an oath to uphold the Constitution. Those laws are the most important laws of our country. Individuals who exercise one of their constitutional rights should be respected, and law enforcement officers should not intimidate people into relinquishing those rights. I will in detail explain my philosophical view about respecting individual rights and hire individuals that agree with that philosophy.
Q: How would the sheriff's office be different under Gary Wall than it has been under John Warner?
Wall: I intend on solving excessive turnover and poor morale and I intend on insisting that officers respect people's civil liberties. I am going to put the 'serve' back in the 'serve and protect' and insist that in addition to enforcing laws, the officers look for ways to help and assist people. I am going to dramatically improve the investigations into serious crimes so that the District Attorney will not have excuses to plea bargain or dismiss cases because of an improper investigation. In addition, the officers are going to look into the cases to make sure that we have not arrested and charged an innocent person as has happened in the past.