Wyo. Sheriff Tries to Lure Away Colo. Officers with Denver Billboards

May 14, 2024
"We learned that a lot of the officers are frustrated (in Colorado) because they feel like the ability to do their job is restricted," said Laramie County Sheriff Brian Kozak.

CHEYENNE, WY — As the Denver Police Department braces for an expected $8.4 million in budget cuts, or 1.9%, the Laramie County Sheriff's Office is taking advantage of the potential marketing edge to try to poach Colorado law enforcement officers.

This week, LCSO unveiled a billboard in downtown Denver that reads "Work in Wyoming, where breaking the law is still illegal & cops are funded!" Laramie County Sheriff Brian Kozak said this move is a part of LCSO's ongoing efforts to recruit from across the nation.

"We've been focusing on recruiting from Colorado for over a year now," Kozak said. "Last year, in 2023, we focused a lot on digital advertising, social media (and) digital TV in the Colorado area, and we were very successful. We hired 72 people in just one year."

He said that not all were from Colorado, but a large portion of the hires were.

Kozak began the campaign when he became sheriff in early 2023. One of his strategies has been crafting marketable messaging that he feels is appealing to potential candidates. This messaging portrays the area as a community that is supportive of law enforcement, a conservative area, and one that has access to outdoor recreation like fishing, hiking and hunting.

"We actually hired some law enforcement officers from the Denver area, and in talking to them, and on our contact sheets, ... we learned that a lot of the officers are frustrated there because they feel like the ability to do their job is restricted," Kozak said. "So, we're really focusing on that aspect of it to recruit people."

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston said the budget cuts are largely capital, like delaying new furniture purchases in some of the police department buildings, and will not impact the department's public-facing services.

"To say that Denver is 'defunding the police' is a willful mischaracterization of the budget reductions, which actually just delays the purchase of new furniture and shifts the funding source for one cadet class," Johnston's office wrote in a previous media response. "In fact, Mayor Johnston has invested millions to add 167 new police recruits to our force in 2024, and will continue to invest in public safety to ensure every Denverite is safe in their city."

The $8.4 million in proposed police department cuts come along with a $3.8 million cut from the sheriff's office and $2.4 million from the fire department. These cuts are intended to help fund an $89.9 million program aimed at supporting migrant aid. The services in the program will include housing, case management, workforce training and transportation, among others.

DPD Chief of Police Ron Thomas said he is happy they have found a pathway to support migrants coming into Denver.

"We all recognize our need to be partners in this endeavor," Thomas said in an April press conference. "So, certainly, we looked at our core services, not wanting to impact them. We looked at some of our technology services and identified ways that we could actually get the same thing done by, maybe, a service that we already have a contract with. We were able to make sure that we were able to provide all of our core services without having any impact on the budget at all."

In an email to the WTE, DPD said that the pay difference for working in Denver is a primary advantage to Colorado's capital city. The top pay for the officer rank is $24,575 more annually than the top pay for a LCSO deputy sheriff, and the pay gap increases at higher ranks. DPD officers also have opportunities through uniformed secondary employment work, like providing security at sports events.

They also said DPD officers have more opportunity to promote, as they are a large department.

"DPD is authorized for 284 detectives, 233 sergeants and 54 lieutenants, as just a few examples. We are curious to know how many positions in each rank LCSO has," DPD said in an email.

"It's also interesting that LCSO touts Denver in its own recruiting materials, stating, 'Adventure awaits you in the Rocky Mountains or the bustling city of Denver, each within an hour's drive.'"

A recent WalletHub study ranked the best states to be a law enforcement officer based on opportunity and competition, training requirements, and job hazards and protection.

It identified Colorado and Wyoming as the 5th and 24th best states to be a police officer, respectively.

At LCSO, there are currently eight patrol positions open and 17 openings in detention. Kozak said there is almost $1.3 million in overtime spent each year because of staffing shortages. He views these marketing investments as a good way to reduce that budget.

For the billboard, located at 1381 W. Alameda Ave., LCSO spent $2,500 for a 30-day rental. Kozak said he will see how the next month goes and decide whether they want to continue to rent the advertisement. Currently, LCSO is receiving 20 to 40 responses per day from potential candidates expressing interest in one of the openings.

Kozak said LCSO has spent around $40,000 on advertising in the fiscal year.

"But when you think of it, $2,500, with all the media coverage we're getting off of it, all the attention, it's well worth the money," Kozak said.

Noah Zahn is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's local government/business reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3128 or [email protected]. Follow him on X @NoahZahnn.

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(c)2024 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.)

Visit Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.) at www.wyomingnews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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