According to deputies, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office Captains brought them into their office and asked them whether or not they could use the deputies name as part of an advertisement they planned to run in the newspaper in support of Sheriff Kirk Taylor.
Two of these deputies came to KKTV with their complaints and agreed to talk to us as long as they could remain anonymous. The reason for their request was that they didn’t want to lose their job for speaking out and publicizing their grievances.
One of the deputies, a male member of the Fraternal Order of Police, says he was “very intimidated and frightened” by the situation. Several members of the FOP have attacked Sheriff Taylor decisions he’s made in regards to recognizing the organization. The other deputy is not a member of the FOP.
Both deputies told us similar stories of being asked by their superior to lend their name to the advertisement. Both of them say they were uncomfortable answering the questions, and both of them claim to have been on duty at the time of the questioning.
"I did not feel that it was appropriate, I didn't feel my political views impact my job as a public servant," says the non-FOP deputy. Sheriff Taylor agrees with her.
We asked the Sheriff if there are any policies that deal with this sort of thing. He said there were, and that the captains did indeed violate them. He has told us they have been disciplined but because it is a personnel issue, he cannot comment on the extent of that discipline.
Sheriff Taylor also told us, he had no idea this was happening, and that his captains were not acting on his orders. This was corroborated by Deputy Laurie Kilpatrick who says, it was her idea. "This was something that I decided that I wanted to do, and I recruited friends and fellow co-workers to do it with me," explains Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick says, she was incited by a claim made by Sheriff Taylor’s opponent, Randy Wills, during a recent debate. It involves endorsements, specifically the endorsement of the FOP for Wills. According to Kilpatrick, a former FOP member and instigator for bringing the FOP to the Sheriff’s Office, and four others all current or former members of the FOP, the endorsement is a misrepresentation.
Kilpatrick says, the vote whether to endorse Wills was conducted by approximately 13 FOP members, and she says, Wills claimed more than 180 members unanimously voted to endorsement him. She says, that’s a bold faced lie. "It's not fair. It's not fair and it's not right, and that's our job. Our job as law enforcement is to be fair and to be right, and to not use fear and intimidation to get people to do something. Most of the criminals we deal with lie. We shouldn't be in that business," says Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick says, as a line-level employee she contacted members of the sheriff’s office while they were on break or off duty, on her free time. She also says she asked the captains to give her any names they knew supported Taylor so she could contact them. She says, unfortunately some of them may have taken that statement too far.
Kilpatrick says, things could have been handled differently, and the captains should not have asked employees about this in their office, especially on duty. She also understands how some deputies could feel intimidated by being put on the spot like that. “A lot of people, during this time especially, want to keep their jobs… that’s number one on their list. They are concerned with whoever takes office… and that can be scary.”
Kilpatrick says some of her co-workers didn’t want to publicly support Taylor out of fear of what his opponent would do if he wins. The same can be said for our anonymous employees. The non-FOP deputy doesn’t want to be put into a position where her support, or lack thereof, can be used against her down the line.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Taylor assures us that the situation has been dealt with, and has already been stopped. He also released this statement:
“Although I appreciate their passion I assure you that no pressure either direct or indirect came from the command. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply ridiculous,” says Sheriff Taylor.