BY FREDA MIKLIN
On April 21, Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown held a Facebook live event in which he answered questions and recounted accomplishments of his office since he was elected in November 2018. Brown, a Democrat, will be a candidate for re-election for a second term as Arapahoe County Sheriff on November 8. His opponent will be Republican Kevin Edling, a 26-year veteran and command officer with the Denver Police Department.
In February 2019, Brown began, “We had to deal with the bomb cyclone,” a winter storm with extremely high winds, snow and rain that created dangerous conditions throughout the state. “We recognized that we had to have an independent, continuously running emergency operations center…We opened that up in 2019.” Then COVID came and, “Our emergency operations center served…as the place where we managed our resources…It was also a central hub where we managed the resources coming in from the federal government…We delivered 1.8 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to community partners, including hospitals, local municipalities, and nursing homes…We also handled the first round of CARES Act money and we were able to open up an alternative 50-bed care facility at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds that was ready to handle people dealing with COVID that didn’t have a place to recover.” He credited previous Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson for his forward thinking during the H1N1 flu that resulted in a stockpile of PPE ready to distribute.
Brown noted that the Sheriff’s Office was re-accredited in 2019 “as a triple-crown accredited law enforcement agency,” as it had under the three Arapahoe County sheriffs who preceded him in that office.
“We’ve also been able to solidify the contract (for police services) with the City of Centennial, making sure that, regardless of who’s sitting in this seat and the political process that takes place, there’s not going to be an interruption in law enforcement services to the citizens of Centennial, which we have a very large contract with” he added.
Moving on to the Arapahoe County Jail and the impact of COVID, Sheriff Brown said, “A lot of our protocols inside the detention facility were designed to make sure that the people in our custody didn’t have the exposure to the virus and to make sure that our staff was safe…Making sure that our deputies were safe was paramount in a lot of the decisions in that process.”
In response to a question about the use of mental health professionals to assist sheriff’s deputies, Brown said, “Proud to say that we have a partnership with the City of Centennial, as well as support from the county commissioners here in Arapahoe County to run a co-responder team. We have five mental health clinicians plus a director to that unit that respond and handle calls in conjunction with our deputies, but also in situations that they feel it’s safe for them to go out and contact those individuals…Last year, we responded to over 3,000 mental health calls and were able to divert approximately 900 individuals from the criminal justice system, using our co-responders.”
To the question of how sheriff’s deputies deal with people who are experiencing homelessness, Brown responded, “We try to provide individuals with resources as long as they aren’t involved with criminal activity, via our co-responders. If there is criminal activity inside of that, we take that seriously and address it. Public safety is something that we are committed to and we will continue to be committed to.”
On the issue of the large increase in auto thefts, the sheriff said it is a huge problem in the state, adding, “We are looking at ways that we can mitigate that and lower it and also making sure that those individuals, when they are arrested, are held accountable for those actions… Here at the Sheriff’s Office, we are retooling a couple of our investigative units, allowing them a little bit more freedom to hit hot spot areas of crime that we see through our data collection model.” When another citizen pointed to that fact that he heard a news report that said, “the number of auto thefts in Arapahoe County have risen from 3,049 in 2019 to 6,306 in 2021” while he was sheriff, Brown pointed out that many of those thefts are in cities that have their own police departments (e.g., Aurora, Englewood, Littleton, Greenwood Village, Sheridan), adding that the Sheriff’s Office was part of a task force that it found was not effective, so he brought their investigator back “to work on auto thefts that are in our response area.” He said his office is utilizing its “special response team” and its “special investigations unit” to address the problem.
Like many in law enforcement, Brown said he was “requesting that our legislators have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to fentanyl,” which he feels should be a felony for any level of possession.
Brown said that 50% to 60% of the inmates of the Arapahoe County Detention Center (Jail) have self-reported mental health issues and, “If you add in those with substance abuse problems and unreported mental health problems, “we’re probably in the high 80% or low 90% range.”
A question about citizens who record sheriff’s deputies with their smartphones brought this response: “Our deputies wear body cameras. Anyone is free to film whatever they want, as long as they stay far enough away to make sure they don’t interfere with our deputies’ work. They are American citizens and are free to exercise their right to film. It is not a concern to us.”