FREMONT COUNTY – The man chosen by voters to steer a new course for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office says the biggest challenge initially will be dealing with staffing shortages and boosting morale. Cañon City Police Deputy Chief Allen Cooper won the Nov. 6 three-way election to replace retired Sheriff Jim Beicker. “I had no idea the level of support I had in the community until after the votes were counted,” Cooper said.
Cooper will take over a department mired in scandal and controversy in recent years as deputies within the department were caught stealing and hiding evidence from crime scenes. “This problem has been years in the making,” Cooper said. “I think it was just inattentiveness to detail, maybe a lack of direct supervision, maybe a misunderstanding of what your responsibilities as a leader are.” Cooper says that, in his discussions so far with rank-and-file within FCSO, morale is an issue. “Their thought was, you know, ‘We got egg on our face and we just got it wiped off, and bam, we got hit again.’ And I think that’s what brought the morale down. It was just one after another,” Cooper said.
Cooper, who started with Cañon City Police in 1988 after volunteering as both a police officer and a deputy, says short-staffing in both the jail and the patrol division will be challenges from day one. “There are shortages there, but that’s something that’s now becoming common in law enforcement,” Cooper said.
Cooper says changes are certain upon his arrival in office, but not necessarily dramatic ones. “One of the things I don’t want to do is I don’t want to go in and make drastic changes,” Cooper said. “Statutorily, I’m required to name an undersheriff, and that was my first step.” His selection for undersheriff was Cañon City Police Sgt. Derek Irvine, a former Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy who began in 1996 and then was recruited to CCPD by Cooper in 2002.
Patrolling more rural areas of Fremont County will be a priority, Cooper says. “There are differences in what people want to see. Some parts of the county want more law enforcement, some are satisfied with the status quo, but they want their problems solved,” Cooper said. He says illegal marijuana grows are not pervasive in his county, but are “a problem.” “If we’re made aware of an illegal grow, then we will investigate, and if we find that there is an illegal grow, then we will seek warrants to deal with that,” Cooper said.
Cooper will be sworn into office in January.