Now that Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher has been on the job for more than three months, he says he hopes to keep up the good work of the office while continuing to make progress.
“I hope that when you walk out your front door, you feel safe,” he said during an interview in his office on May 7. “In my mind, public safety is the No. 1 thing government does.”
To that end, one of his first priorities is to increase the number of school-resource officers in his jurisdiction, which includes Arapahoe and Eaglecrest high schools along with nearly 40 other public schools and 34 private schools.
“We all know what happened in December,” said Walcher, referring to the shooting at Arapahoe High School. “Seconds saved lives.”
Deputy James Englert, Arapahoe's SRO, was able to respond to shots fired by student Karl Pierson in less than a minute.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office currently has full-time officers at both high schools and some middle schools, with deputies splitting time among other middle schools. Ideally, Walcher would like to keep full-time officers at each high school and middle school, and increase visibility at the elementary schools.
“We have a plan for how they would be deployed,” he said. “It's not just what we want, but truly what we feel we need.”
He'd also like to establish an internal training department, a function now shared among several law-enforcement agencies, and get the crime lab added to the list of nationally accredited departments within ACSO.
“That's indicative of an organization that voluntarily wants to meet nationally recognized standards,” said Walcher. “It's fiscally conservative, very efficient and very transparent. Now, are there changes I'm going to make over time? Yes, there are.”
He said he's already made some organizational changes at the jail, which houses 15,000 to 18,000 inmates a year and up to 1,100 on any given day.
“Ensuring the right management and accountability is critical,” he said.
Many of those inmates come from Aurora, which is currently investigating the possibility of becoming its own county. Walcher, a Colorado native who has lived in Aurora for 20 years, said should that happen, the city would either have to build its own jail at a cost of around $100 million, or pay for beds that it now uses for free at Arapahoe County's jail.
Walcher said he might have to close modules if Aurora builds its own facility, and jobs could be lost.
“I don't agree with all the numbers in the study, but it would be challenging and expensive for them to become their own city and county,” he said.
Walcher, who worked his way up the ranks at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office from 1988 until former Sheriff Grayson Robinson recruited him in 2009, said ACSO has historically enjoyed good relationships with all the municipalities within and around the county, sharing resources and respect.
“We all work well together in the community,” he said. “We overall have the same commitment to what we're doing. … The crooks don't know when they're leaving the city of Littleton and moving into Centennial.”
After 33 years on the job, Walcher said he still likes to check in with patrol. When he's out and about, he'll stop if he sees one of his deputies with somebody pulled over, and he's been known to pull people over himself. His emphasis on transparency extends to his employees, he said, and his door is always open.
“I'm proud of all of our employees and the work that they do,” he said. “And I love to get out in the community, too, I love to hear back from the people we serve. We need you to be our eyes and ears.”
Walcher took the reins as sheriff after Robinson retired at the end of January. Walcher, a Republican, is seeking election to the office this November. He does not have a Republican opponent, but two Democrats — Randall McCarter and Tyler Brown — are seeking the office.