Meet the candidate: Rod Johnson for Grand County sheriff
Ryan Summerlin June 13, 2014
Name: Rodney (Rod) Johnson
Occupation: Grand County Sheriff
Education: High School, Colorado Mountain College Law Enforcement academy, 500 plus hours of in-service executive leadership training from County Sheriffs of Colorado.
Number years in Grand County: 30 years
Original hometown: Born in Grand Lake
Family: Married to lovely wife Vicki for 40 years, raised two sons, and three granddaughters.
1. Why do you seek the position of Grand County Sheriff?
I am seeking re-election as Grand County Sheriff because I am passionate about providing proactive and professional public service to Grand County. Not only is law enforcement my career, but Grand County is my career.
Since day one as a deputy sheriff, I have been committed to Grand County knowing I wanted to start and finish my career here. I remain dedicated, proactive, and supportive of this wonderful community we live in. If I am fortunate to be re-elected, I will continue to lead with honesty, integrity, and understanding for the next four years.
2. Strengths and experience you bring to the job:
I took advantage of learning the subject of being sheriff before I became sheriff. I spent years learning every aspect of sheriff’s office, both civil and criminal. I learned budgeting, jail management, leadership, emergency management, legal liability, employment law, fire management, proactive law enforcement response and investigation, water and agricultural law, civil law as pertaining to the sheriff’s responsibility as a court officer, and the overall justice system. This foundation continuously is built upon with training, knowledge, and experience to lead an approximate 55 person workforce and oversee a $4 million dollar budget.
3. What is the biggest challenge to law enforcement in Grand County and why?
Most people think of law enforcement duties as arresting criminals and giving out traffic tickets, when it really is a service organization caring for the safety of the public and providing for a significant part of administrating criminal justice. Given the fact that crime has gone down, and county is a very safe place to live, there is an ever-increasing demand for civil non-criminal services that weighs the heaviest on the sheriff’s office. These demands of services are related to aspects of detoxification, crisis interventions, mental illness and substance abuse treatment, and conflict resolution. Limited local resources require effective and efficient management to “do more with less”.
4. Describe your approach to marijuana enforcement. And what are the inherent challenges?
There are few if not any area of law that has undergone the kind of changes that marijuana has gone through. My approach is that of protecting our safety and wellbeing. Trying to protect the community and way of life in Grand County we all love is going to be a real challenge. The effect on our young people is a key issue. Enforcing state law and observing the Constitutional rights of the people must be adhered to. It looks like we have not seen the resting point to what the laws and regulations are going to be, but whatever they are is up to what the people want.
5. Please name a certain event in which you were proud of how the sheriff’s department handled the situation and tell us why.
There are so many situations that come to mind which make me proud. However, the one that would have to be near the top would be the June 4, 2004, dozer incident. The deputies of the sheriff’s office acted with cool heads keeping the safety of the public a priority while faced with an incredibly difficult situation.
6. Please name a certain event in which you feel the sheriff’s department should have acted differently in a situation and tell us why.
Some years ago there was a fire at the YMCA and the sheriff’s office could have done a better job of notifying the neighboring subdivision homeowners. The fire did not go anywhere, but if it had it might have been difficult to do an evacuation Technology has allowed for increased notification services, multiple types of notifications (text, email, reverse 911), equipment, and training have prepared for a better response if, when we are faced with a similar situation.
7. Are there ways the various law enforcement agencies in the county can work together more effectively? Please explain.
The sheriff’s office works very well with all the agencies in the county, not just law enforcement. We are constantly assisting each other in handling calls, transporting individuals, investigating incidents, managing wildland fires, and coordinating search and rescues, to mention a few. If there was something we could do a little better, it would be to have a better understanding for each other’s priorities in order to delegate tasks accordingly. We currently train and/or have inter-government agreements with all fire agencies, county agencies, and multiple state and federal agencies. We constantly revisit this to continue to evaluate effectiveness and improve as needed.
8. What do you think the law-enforcement priorities are according to most Grand County citizens? How do you know?
I believe the main concern by the majority of people placed on the sheriff’s office is public safety through keeping the peace and problem solving. Having a lot of contact with people in Grand County about how they think the sheriff’s office should operate, I have rarely run into anyone who says we should arrest more people or give out more tickets. Today people want their sheriff’s office to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities with common sense. The most difficult part of law enforcement is to not overreact or underreact. I would be the first one to say we have not always done it perfectly, but I have always strived to meet the circumstances with the appropriate measures.
9. What do you think makes a good leader?
Leaders must have the desire to do the right thing and be willing to be involved at all levels. It is important to be open for change that makes sense, to be accessible and approachable to the public in order to get the information necessary for making the correct decisions, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating. A good leader strives to make sure individuals who carry out these responsibilities have adequate training and tools to carry out their duties. The leader must be aware and conscience of what the cost is to the people. This is not only a fiscal responsibility, but a perception and integrity of the community that must be held high. Last, but not least, be up to taking responsibility when errors are made.
10. Give examples of how the Grand County Sheriff’s Office will be transparent under your leadership.
The sheriff’s office has been transparent for over 20 years under my administration. My office releases daily call logs to many agencies to maintain transparency. All actions and records are covered and defined under Colorado State Statute, title 24, article 72, part 2 and 3 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. These statutes were created out of the Colorado Open Records Act. Most of the official actions and records within the sheriff’s office are covered under part 3 and are that of Criminal Justice records. The Sheriff has a responsibility to protect the integrity of the investigation and prosecution, as well as protect the victims before considering the release of such records. I take that responsibility very serious, and I say “when in doubt give it out.”