Just weeks after the Kiowa County Independent reported that the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) was thriving and showing the utmost professionalism and transparency, despite the absence of KCSO Sheriff Forrest Frazee, we have learned that KCSO Undersheriff Murdock, Deputy Negley, and Deputy West have each resigned and taken positions with other agencies.
In an interview with Kiowa County Sheriff Forest Frazee, he expressed concern for the department. “December is going to be a very difficult month for Kiowa County. With the office down to just two officers and the county putting pressure on the overtime issue I am concerned about the service coverage that can be provided.”
In addition to these concerns Frazee is due for some minor surgery this week related to the severe injuries he suffered in an ATV accident last summer. “I expect to be out 3-7 days healing from the surgery.”
Frazee explained that Deputy Negley whose last day was November 20th leaves KCSO for Washington County. KCSO was Negley’s first post out of the academy, “ Deputy Negley was learning fast and put in a lot of extra time training. He was developing a great rapport with the community and learning the jargon of the area during the extensive geographical training.”
Deputy West who joined KCSO during this past summer came from the Springfield Sheriff’s Department and worked his last day in Kiowa County on December 2nd joining Deputy Negley in Washington County. “Deputy West had developed an expertise in firearms and was also getting used to the unique characteristics associated with place finding in Kiowa County. He had also excelled in martial arts training.”
Former Undersheriff Kayla Murdock, an Eads native, rose through the ranks beginning as an office deputy, graduating “Top Cop” at the Otero Law Enforcement Training Academy
in 2020 and served under both former Sheriff Sheridan and Sheriff Frazee has accepted a position with Cheyenne County Sheriff’s Office, where she has already began using her vast experience and training from Kiowa County to protect and serve the citizens there. Sheriff Frazee had this to say about Murdock, “Kayla was the leadership in the office. She put in the extra time, took every training opportunity she could and was the anchor in our office. She’s going to be missed greatly because of all she contributed to the organization in her leadership role.”
Sheriff Frazee goes on to say, “All three that resigned were high-quality individuals. Collectively they had hundreds of hours of training including at the sheriff’s academy, and hours of individual skills training in various aspects of law enforcement—firearms, combat, etc.”
Frazee indicated they all apologized personally to him and said they ‘wanted to stay’ but were unsure of their future with the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office, and the pay situation in Kiowa County was also just not doable for them.
In less than one month’s time, on Monday January 2, 2023 Sheriff Frazee will pass the torch for the last time to Sheriff-Elect Bryan Williams. Immediately after the Oath of Office has been taken, there will likely be no time for celebration as Williams will inherit the mountain of responsibility that comes with being Sheriff.
Part of that responsibility is working in partnership with Kiowa County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) who are the administration, policy and financing segment of county government. Kiowa County Administrator Tina Adamson stated, “Each elected official has the ability to run their office as they wish but in accordance with the rules and responsibilities set forth in the Colorado Revised Statutes for each office.”
When asked if the BOCC feels that there is cause for concern that three members of our Sheriff’s Office have quit just a month prior to new leadership, Adamson responded that, “It is always concerning when we lose employees. Any department working short-staffed is an issue, but the Sheriff’s Department is especially a concern for public safety. Fortunately, we live in an area where surrounding departments work with each other so we are hopeful this will be the case until such time as new employees are hired.”
Although the Kiowa County BOCC has already emphasized to the KCSO that they don’t want to pay any overtime in 2023 as their budget is going to more than likely be short. Frazee states that the entire crew at KCSO has had to work overtime even while fully staffed because of all the call incidences recently. The Town of Eads Clerk Robin Fox has indicated that the 2023 budget for the town will show an increase from prior years as Sheriff-Elect Williams has asked for the increase to assist with paying wages. Fox states that the 2023 budget is not yet complete and would not state the amount that will be spent for law enforcement by the Town.
Another obstacle to overcome that will likely be felt long before his swearing in, is that Williams will be tasked with finding qualified persons who will replace those deputies that have been lost to other jurisdictions. This will require time to recruit, go through a hiring process, and then training which comes at the expense of the Kiowa County taxpayer, in hopes the new deputies will be retained long enough to pay for the cost of training and providing benefits for the time they are employed here. This goes without mentioning the obvious need for the sheriff to assist in responding to calls, being on-call, as well as all other duties that are assigned to him alone due to being understaffed.
Our community has become accustomed to a sheriff’s deputy responding to most if not all ambulance calls, fire calls, and other calls for civil and criminal matters. Deputies also assist with other counties in investigations and even the not so uncommon high-speed chase across counties.
The time that Kiowa County is without an adequate amount of coverage by deputies will impact all the services and protections that the KCSO has been known to provide. Along with their specific duties including a great deal of paperwork, sheriff’s deputies also appear in court on occasion to testify and/or to provide security during court docket days. In addition, they run traffic control for funeral processions, and a numerous list of other duties that we all may not specifically associate with the Sheriff’s Office.
All of these things can and likely will be affected by the lack of deputies that are now employed by Kiowa County. This will require asking other agencies for assistance with Kiowa County business, which in turn will send Kiowa County taxpayers’ money directly to those agencies and/or their deputies who do not engage in the economics of Kiowa County.
As if this were not enough, there are also a number of legislation issues that will need to be complied with, some of which will begin in 2023. Most notably SB-217 which was signed by Governor Polis on June 19, 2020 as the Police Integrity, Transparency, and Accountability Act. This bill not only requires that all peace officers wear body-worn cameras when they make contact, but also gives the general public the ability to request any body-worn camera footage with only a 14-day turn around to the person or persons who request it.
According to the bill itself, this will require much review of said footage of each requested contact as it will be the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office to redact any account of juvenile or victim identity or other information that is linked to an ongoing investigation. This bill also has required a form be filled out for every contact that a peace officer makes with a subject. This form alone adds a minimum of 5 minutes per contact but will require more time depending on the type of contact and if there is an investigation pending.
Because of SB-217 there is to be a mass compiling of information that must be sent to the Department of Justice for all Sheriff’s Office activity. You can review the details of SB-217 here. https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb20-217
Law enforcement across the state of Colorado and the entire nation is changing and all sheriffs are responsible to educate not only themselves but their entire office to ensure 100% compliance with any legislation that passes. Crime now is not the same crime as we saw even a decade ago when a small county could rely on just one or two officers and a sheriff. Recently in Kiowa County our deputies have stopped the transport and potential distribution of the deadly and highly addictive Fentanyl, seized other drugs, means to distribute drugs, weapons, and even responded to reports of prostitution resulting in an arrest being made.
To think our small oasis on the plains is far enough away from the larger city problems to worry is naive, two major highways that pass through our county, one which connects Mexico and Canada, makes us more susceptible to these problems whether they are only passing through or stop here and handle nefarious business.
With all that said, as of the writing of this article, KCSO will now only consist of two officers. Jacob Marlow who will likely move from Corporal to Undersheriff. Prior to moving to KCSO he was a Lieutenant from the Prison System in Bent County. Currently Marlow lives north of Lamar but would like to find a home in the Eads area for his large family.
Avery Snover, KCSO K9 Deputy, is in the process of training Kiowa County’s K-9 dog while also “takes on a ton of the call responsibility” according to Sheriff Frazee.
Daryl Hollis and Jo Liebl will remain in the office, Frazee states that he is, “Thankful for those two individuals as they are well-rehearsed in procedure and are organized. They will keep the office and the courthouse security maintained, no doubt.”
The big question is, “How do we replace the quality we just lost?” Sheriff Elect Williams will clearly have his hands full when he comes into office. Being severely understaffed, Kiowa County BOCC having a watchful eye on overtime, and a community that will still want the same level of service as always. Frazee stated, “He is going to have to hire quality people in order to maintain the office in an effective manner and I just don’t know where he’s going to find them. Currently, the possible replacements I’ve tried to speak with have taken a ‘wait and see’ position until they see how the transition develops—and the pay in Kiowa County is substantially less than in other counties.”
“If I find quality people, I’ll hire them right now, but we don’t have any takers.”
The Kiowa County Independent wishes the best of luck to those officers who have left Kiowa County to pursue other endeavors and eagerly root for Sheriff Elect Williams when he assumes control of the KCSO. We will wait with our own steadfast and watchful eye to see how the words and actions of new leadership will begin to shape our county and ensure the protection that has been sworn to be upheld.