On Thursday, June 3, 2021 Forest Frazee was sworn in by Kiowa County Judge Gary Davis as the Interim Kiowa County Sheriff, replacing Casey Sheridan who announced his resignation last month.
Frazee was appointed as the interim Sheriff in a Proclamation made by the Kiowa County Board of County Commissioners at their last regular meeting on May 27th. A June 3, 2021 statement by BOCC Administrative Assistant Tina Adamson stated:
“The Commissioners visited with Sheriff Sheridan prior to making the decision on appointing a replacement for him. They decided that appointing Forest Frazee would be the best option for Kiowa County since he had already served as an elected official for the county and had all of the requirements needed to serve as Sheriff. Forest was hired as Casey's Undersheriff several weeks ago and they have been working on the transition. Forest was appointed Kiowa County Sheriff effective June 4, 2021 at the May 27th Board of Commissioner’s Meeting and was sworn into office today at 10:00 a.m. Forest will complete Casey's term and will either run for Sheriff again in 2022 or will resign at the end of this term and someone else will be elected.”
Frazee immediately hired Mike Schneider as his Undersheriff and swore him into the position on June 3, as well. Frazee stated, “Mike and I went through the Academy together and we’ve worked together before. He’s definitely an excellent officer; at the caliber I wish I was.”
Being in charge of the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office is not a new gig for Frazee. He served as the Sheriff for just over 11 years from 2003 to 2014 until his beloved wife Sharon Frazee’s health required him to resign his position to take care of her during his third term.
After Sharon passed away Frazee took his considerable knowledge and skill level to Las Animas and was a Commander in the Bent County Sheriff’s Department under Sheriff Jake Sixx since 2019.
Frazee says his biggest goal for the KCSO is to pick up the training opportunities considerably. His reasoning is obvious, “There’s a negative image of the SO, but we have some very talented young officers who will only gain confidence through strong training opportunities. We already have a June 18 training scheduled on Use of Force.”
Frazee will also encourage his deputies to be professional in the line of duty. “Professionalism is sometimes hard, but it is vital to separate the officer from the individual person at all times while on the job.”
Another issue Frazee will pursue is the pay scale for his employees. His staff is young but very talented and Frazee feels if they put in the training time and continually improve their skills, they should be compensated by paying them more than the Department currently does. “I’d like to develop our personnel into highly trained professionals. And in order to retain quality individuals we need to pay for it. The pay issue has plagued the KCSO for many years. I want to find ways to improve this situation.”
According to Frazee, another major issue law enforcement is facing is the bombardment of legislation coming down from the state and federal levels. “It’s enough to make individuals want to exit law enforcement. We’re lucky here that generally the community strongly supports law enforcement.”
Frazee will be spending a lot of time making sure the department’s policies are current and provide guidance for his employees.
But even more challenging than lack of money, less access to training opportunities and low moral among employees is what they face on a day-to-day basis as they patrol the towns and county.
Frazee states, “With the increase in traffic on Highway 287 and the establishment of the Love’s Store in our community we have seen a huge spike in not only petty crime but also more serious issues. In my last year as Sheriff in 2014 we had 73 jail days. Now we have 2-3 jail incidents every day. Love’s has brought added patrol pressure onto our deputies.”
These issues don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Across the southeastern part of the state, and really across the state of Colorado, the jails are overflowing and over capacity. In Bent County inmates who can’t be trusted in society are over-burdening the system as 70-80% of them sit in jail waiting for trial.
New laws that have lowered what used to be felonies such as robberies or theft are now misdemeanors. If the charge is a misdemeanor with a less than one-year penalty, they have to be housed in the county jail. More and more criminals are having to remain in county jails where the capacity is at the bursting point. Frazee says, “At times, the SO has in the past had to look north into Washington County for jail space.”
Frazee believes the huge spike in crime is directly associated to Colorado legalizing Marijuana. “Since we decriminalized marijuana the property crimes have gone through the roof.” Frazee says there are so many issues associated with marijuana, but one strange result is that illegal marijuana is still sold because it is generally cheaper because it isn’t taxed. “The transport of marijuana out of state is a constant stream.”
Finally, COVID has been very difficult for law enforcement, particularly because the trainings literally stopped. In addition, ammunition is extremely hard to find, let alone for training, but also for professional use by the officers.
Frazee is extremely proud of the team he has assembled at the Sheriff’s Office and looks forward to helping each and every one of them to develop into excellent officers. In addition to Schneider as the Undersheriff, the department personnel include Sargent Josh Swanson, Deputy Kayla Murdock, Deputy Josh Roberson and Security Guard Darrell Hollis. Erica Bellomy has been hired to replace Debi Derby, who recently resigned, as the SO Administrative Assistant. All were sworn in on June 3, 2021, along with their new Sheriff.