11 Call for Action: Deputies concerned for their safety at El Paso County Jail

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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - Deputies at the El Paso County jail say attacks on law enforcement officials are happening so often they fear for their lives.

In fact, data obtained by 11 News shows the number of assaults more than doubled in a year.

Two of those deputies agreed to speak with 11 News on camera as long as we hid their identities.

"There's been numerous assaults on deputies lately," said one deputy. "A couple of those deputies, the reason they didn't get hurt worse is because another inmate saved them."

According to the El Paso County Sheriff's office, in 2016 the total number of inmate assaults on deputies or staff members was 33. In 2017, it more than doubled to 73. So far in 2018, there have been 31 and we're only through the first half of the year.

"One day you'll be watching 20 inmates and you might be in a different ward and get doubled up, now you got to watch 160 inmates by yourself for 10 hours," the deputy said.

We brought their concerns to Sheriff Bill Elder. 11 News anchor Dianne Derby sat down for a one-on-one interview with him.

Dianne Derby: In some cases the deputies are having to watch two wards.
Sheriff Bill Elder: Sometimes.
Derby: Is that okay to you?
Elder: No, absolutely not. But there's a lot of other factors involved in how we get there.

Elder said he's down deputies because some are out on family medical leave. Plus, he's waiting for 33 cadets to graduate from the training academy to go to the jail in September. Some of them will replace people who will move to patrol.

Elder said the population of the jail keeps increasing, too, adding to the danger. When we looked at the numbers, the jail population went up about 56 inmates from 2016 to 2017. We did the math. The numbers did go up by 3.7 percent but assaults on deputies went up more than 121 percent. So why did the assaults more than double? Elder said he doesn't know why but says the contempt for cops is becoming the norm.

Derby: They say to me they don't feel safe.
Elder: I'm sure they don't.
Derby: They want to know what you can do to make them feel more safe.
Elder: I can take everybody off of patrol and put them back in the jail.
Derby: But that's not realistic.
Elder: It's not and we talk about that.
Derby: So what's the other option? Just wait for this academy?
Sheriff Elder: Wait for this academy. That's number one.

Meanwhile, these deputies are left wondering if their next shift will be a safe one.

"The inmates have 24 hours a day to watch you, they see what goes on, they see what's happening," said one deputy. "They can hear what's going on on the radio."

We checked and assaults between inmates at the jail are up, too. Sixteen more were assaulted between 2016 and 2017 but that number is far fewer than assaults on deputies for that same time period.