A trio of candidates from across the political spectrum are aiming to become Arapahoe County’s top cop.
Republican incumbent Sheriff Dave Walcher is facing challenges from Democratic candidate Tyler Brown and Libertarian Eric Mulder.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office employees more than 700 people and patrols nearly 200,000 people in a nearly 900-square-mile swath of the metro area, including large chunks of unincorporated Arapahoe County that abut Aurora. The office provides full-time patrol services to Centennial, Bennett, Deer Trail and Foxfield, according to the sheriff’s 2017 report. The office is also charged with booking, detaining and managing people at a 1,458-bed jail, which holds about 1,000 inmates on any given day. There are about 17,000 bookings into the jail each year, with the average stay clocking in at 22 days, according to the annual report.
Walcher was appointed to the sheriff’s post by the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners in February 2014, and then formally elected later that year. A former FBI agent, Walcher spent the bulk of his law enforcement career — more than 20 years — with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Brown, who ran against Walcher for the same seat in 2014, started his policing career as a patrolman in Northglenn before working in the armed officer division of Aurora Public Schools. He’s been an officer with the Mountain View Police Department since 2015. Located just northwest of Denver, Mountain View spans about 12 square city blocks and boasts a population of about 520 people, according to recent census data.
Mulder has no prior law enforcement experience, but he served as a chaplain’s assistant in the U.S. Army for about six years. During his time in the military, Mulder was deployed to Afghanistan for about 11 months, he said.
Mulder said his discontent with members of the Trump Administration inspired him to run for sheriff.
“The big reason I wanted to run is that I’ve observed that the Department of Justice, but especially Jeff Sessions, is trying to exert an undue level of influence over local law enforcement,” he said. “Research shows extensively that mass incarceration and the war on drugs and civil asset forfeiture — these things don’t reduce crime.”
Republican Dave Walcher was appointed to the sheriff’s post by the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners in February 2014, and then formally elected later that year. A former FBI agent, Walcher spent the bulk of his law enorcement career — more than 20 years — with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Democrat Tyler Brown started his policing career as a patrolman in Northglenn before working in the armed officer division of Aurora Public Schools. He’s been an officer with the Mountain View Police Department since 2015. Located just northwest of Denver, Mountain spans about 12 square city blocks and boasts a population of about 520 people, according to recent census data. Brown unsuccessfully ran against Walcher for the same seat in 2014.
Libertarian candidate Eric Mulder has no prior law enforcement experience, but he served as a chaplain’s assistant in the U.S. Army for about six years. During his time in the military, Mulder was deployed to Afghanistan for about 11 months.
On why he wanted to run, Brown trumpeted his distance from the office and newcomer’s perspective.
“I’m a fresh, outside face — I’ve never worked in a sheriff’s office,” he said. “I think we’ve seen a continuation, and even though it’s a new office holder, they come from the same administration as previous sheriffs. I think a new, outside, progressive and innovative candidate will be able to really truly bring some changes to law enforcement.”
On gun control, Walcher and Brown said they supported the state’s so-called red flag bill, which would have allowed judges to order law enforcement officials to strip guns from people who display dangerous behavior and are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. The local version of the measure died in a Republican-led senate committee on a party-line vote last winter.
“I think that the use of those red flag laws would be a great resource and tool for law enforcement,” Brown said.
Mulder said he was opposed to Colorado’s proposed red flag law as it was written, citing concerns that the bill could circumvent individuals’ right to due process.
Walcher said he was swayed to support the measure following multiple police fatalities in Colorado jurisdictions at the hands of mentally unstable people last year.
“I want law abiding citizens to have guns if they want them, but I don’t like crooks having guns and I think people having mental health, not just challenges, but mental health emergencies — we need to do smoothing to get guns out of their hands,” Walcher said.
Walcher said he was at the scene shortly after Douglas County Deputy Zack Parrish, 29, was shot and killed by a gunman suffering from PTSD last New Year’s Eve.
“That, to me, was one of those incidents that there’s all these red flags, there’s all these warning signs,” he said.
Shortly after Parrish was killed, Walcher said his own officers arrested a man in his apartment near Parker Road and East Florida Avenue who displayed similar behavior as the gunman who killed Parrish.
“We had a guy who was coming off the rails,” Walcher said. He had PTSD, he had a formal level of training in fire arms, his family knew he had problems, maybe he had stopped his medications — it was really going down this road of what happened in Douglas County.”
After establishing probable cause, Walcher’s officers executed an arrest warrant and apprehended the man without incident.
Upon searching the suspect’s home, Walcher said officers found nearly 10 guns — including pistols, rifles and shotguns — all loaded and staged throughout the apartment in unincorporated Arapahoe County.
To combat opioids in his jurisdiction, Walcher said he was proud his jail recently began carrying methadone, which is used to treat opioid users going through withdrawal symptoms.
Opioids rank as the top cause of fatal overdoses in Colorado. Last year, 560 people in the state fatally overdosed on opioids, which slow the body’s rhythms and can cause users to stop breathing.
In Arapahoe County, fatalities tied to opioids dipped from 59 in 2016 to 52 last year. Meth deaths in the county stayed flat at 19 fatalities between 2016 and 2017.
All of Walcher’s officers now also carry naloxone, or Narcan, to revive users who have recently overdosed. Walcher said Arapahoe County Sheriff’s deputies have resuscitated seven people suffering from overdose symptoms using Narcan in recent months.