Our view: Winches worth a whirl


Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall's request for winches for each of his department's vehicles has merit, but we're not yet convinced the program is worthy of full implementation. Rather, we think the Routt County Board of Commissioners should support a pilot program to determine the effectiveness and need for winches on all Sheriff's Office vehicles.

Wall has lobbied for winches on Sheriff's Office patrol vehicles since he campaigned for sheriff in 2006. The sheriff says winches have legitimate public safety value, and we agree with him. Wall contends winches could be used for limitless applications, including pulling crashed or damaged vehicles from roadways, removing dead animals from roadways, lowering law enforcement officers down cliffs or embankments to administer first aid or tend to injured persons and freeing people trapped under or behind heavy objects.

Some fire department and Search and Rescue vehicles have winches, but Wall argues that time lost waiting for such a vehicle to reach an accident scene could be the difference between life and death.

"It's more important for us because we're the first responders," Wall said. "We're there first. It's my intention to provide a public safety service to the people of Routt County."

Although we believe Wall's intentions are good and just, we also are sympathetic to some of the concerns expressed by Routt County commissioners, who are responsible for approving funds to purchase the winches.

Wall said portable winches, which fit into trailer hitches, cost about $1,700. Fixed winches installed on the front of Sheriff's Office vehicles will cost as much as $2,500 a piece. Wall wants two portable winches to be shared by older vehicles and fixed winches to be installed on all newer Sheriff's Office vehicles. His department has about 15 deputy patrol vehicles.

Installing winches on all Sheriff's Office vehicles could cost upwards of $40,000 - no small chunk of change, particularly considering the county's 2008 budget already has been approved. Any money for winches would have to be approved as a supplemental budget item.

Commissioners also are concerned about the county's - and thus taxpayers' - liability as it relates to Sheriff's Office use of winches, as well as creating competition between the public and private sectors.

If used appropriately, the winches shouldn't pose much competition with local towing companies. Wall says deputies won't respond to calls from residents simply looking to get pulled out of ditches. And as far as we're concerned, any use of the winch that applies directly to public safety is a worthwhile use, not to mention appropriate for the Sheriff's Office.

The liability issue is a bit more complex and involves conflicting legal opinions. Commissioners say they have been advised use of winches does create liability problems; Wall says they pose no more liability issues than currently encountered by Sheriff's Office deputies who carry loaded weapons and sometimes must drive at excessive speeds.

Ultimately, we'd like to see an agreement whereby the commissioners fund the purchase of several portable and fixed vehicle winches to be used as part of a six-month test program. Wall should provide the commissioners a written communication form outlining the "limitless" potential uses of vehicle winches and how they relate to public safety. Wall also should guarantee that deputies won't use the winches for tasks that don't directly relate to public safety.

Reviewing the results of such a test program will provide the basis for an objective decision regarding a full-scale implementation of the winch program.


nightbird 9 years, 1 month ago

An editorial about winches on Sheriff's Office vehicles give me a break! I just looked at who is on the editorial board - this is not community leadership this is just silly waste of newsprint and ink. In the future please try and stick to some "real" community issues. I hope that the Pilot Editorial Board can do better in the future.


CoJustice 9 years, 1 month ago

I would like to hear Wall state for himself that deputies are declaring themselves as first responders and assuming the responsibilities of "lowering law enforcement officers down cliffs or embankments to administer first aid or tend to injured persons".

I am assuming the Sheriffs department is declaring deputies qualified by State regulatory schemes and compliance to perform such action, and leading the public to believe that is now the responsibility of the Sheriffs department.

The County attorney needs to obtain pertinent facts that examine the covered liability insurance as a result of negligent acts, failure to act or respond within the scope of their new duties and certification, and whether they will assume legal liability acting as medical personnel as an agent of the County.


sickofitall 9 years, 1 month ago

lol. "Our View" . Call a freaking tow truck is my view. Since when do we need the police to be tow truck drivers?


summerbird 9 years, 1 month ago

Are the county vehicles able to take the extra stress the winches will place upon the chases of the patrol cars? These are not built like tow trucks! It is always nice when our public servants can perform a public service, but tearing up patrol cars and the added cost of replacing them before their time should be checked out.


boatski 9 years, 1 month ago

Do Sheriff offices in other Colorado Counties have winches on their vehicles? Who are they, how many do they have and what are they using them for? Gary go out and get some hard facts on this issue.


bloggyblog 9 years, 1 month ago

blog thinks that while the sheriff's are busy pulling all the 'good' people out of the ditch. the 'bad' people will be busy robbing the bank.


id04sp 9 years, 1 month ago

When I come up behind a car in the ditch on 129 and a RCSO vehicle sitting behind it with the lights flashing, waiting for a tow truck, I see a traffic hazard. Having to swing around two vehicles in a double-yellow with limited sight distance is a hazard to me and the guy coming over the hill in the other direction. Five minutes and a winch to get somebody out of the travel lane is well worth it. It wouldn't be that bad if people on CR-129 didn't drive like fools, but they do, so why not face reality and do the most beneficial thing?


CoJustice 9 years, 1 month ago

When I come up behind a car in the ditch on 129 and a RSCO vehicle sitting behind it with the lights flashing, waiting for the deputy to give a free tow on taxpayer's money, I see a traffic hazard, deputy safety, occupant hazard and possible vehicle damage. Having to swing around two vehicles in a double yellow with limited sight distance is a hazard that the deputy has created.

The deputy's safety was far more important than the impatient drivers and tow expense.


colowoodsman 9 years, 1 month ago

I agree with nightbird- tackle a real issue like illegal immigrants working 'under the table' and taking jobs from honest taxpayers while not paying taxes themselves!!!


SilverSpoon 9 years, 1 month ago

A public versus private issue?

Who responablity is it to get cats out of trees? Firemen Can't wait for the fireman? A police officer should be able to pluck you out of a snow bank. We pay their salaries; if they can provide that kind of service, it is worth it. Maybe they should put winches on half of the vehicles, to save mone. In this town, there are normally 3 first responders within minutes. Odds are one of them would have the winch.

Did they get the hybrid cruisers like they said they were? Or are Green Team initiatives getting swept under the rug.

In nederland, they use jeep liberty's as cruisers. Steamboat uses big cruisers which use a lot more gas. Eat less donuts, and save more gas, if you fit in a smaller vehicle.


Mary Stanton 9 years, 1 month ago

I believe that ALL emergency personnel, including police officers of ALL kinds are considered First Responders as far as an emergency situation is concerned. It also doesn't always make sense for the police officer to get the the vehicle who has gone off the road and have to just sit there and wait with the driver until a tow tuck can be dispatched, especially on really bad snow storm nights. when it quite literally could be hours before one is available.

CoJustice - its no different then when John Doe is the first one upon the accident and has a truck with a tow roap and being a good samaritan by helping the stuck driver out. The only difference is that you aren't going to get a ticket by the Good Samaritan once you've been pulled out of the ditch.

For those who are truly concerned about the safety of the deputy, perhaps they instead should to be patient and wait with your hazards on instead of "Having to swing around two vehicles in a double yellow with limited sight distance." That sounds like the safest option for all involved.


AmebaTost 9 years, 1 month ago

Seems like the girls got the bank even without the winches!


QuitYerWhining 9 years, 1 month ago

The rescue vehicles have winches to pull themselves and other rescue vehicles out of a stuck position. They dont use them to lower rescuers or pull victims to safety. Do some research before rather than take someones word for what thier uses are.... By the way I think all EMTs and Fire fighters should carry guns so they can shoot the locks off of stuff when they need to get into a place to perform a rescue....


Joyce Cusick 9 years, 1 month ago

I believe that the few will make it bad for the rest of us. I can see someone sueing the county for damage to their car after they were pulled out of the ditch by a deputy. I could see a law suit for someone extricated from their car and injured or a workman comp claim after a deputy is injured. I believe that if used properly there would be a benefit. I also believe that all deputies should be train in the proper use of a winch system. I would agree that a test should be run with two or three vehicles. I would not agree to putting them on all the vehicles, especially the older units that wil be traded next year. Stats should be kept on when and where they are used. Maybe the RCSO should develope a release form that could be signed by the driver or they can wait for a wrecker. I also believe that Mr. Wall should present the facts as to the costs, liabilities, policies, etc. If I remember correctly, the commissioners did not want to put push bars on the front of patrol vehicles due to liabilities.


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