Name: Michael Phibbs
Profession: Chief of police
Biography: Mike Phibbs is a third-generation Coloradan and seasoned law enforcement leader with 30 years of experience. He has been the chief of police at two different agencies and has served as an undersheriff. Mike holds a master’s degree in criminal justice executive leadership and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He leads all lobbying efforts for the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. Mike has served on boards, including the Peace Officer Standards & Training Board and the North Central Region for Homeland Defense. Mike is a proud husband and a proud father of two adult children.
What made you interested in running for sheriff?
I decided to run for sheriff because I was very disappointed when I viewed the policy positions taken by the other candidates for the office of sheriff. Several candidates regarded the election as a Republican-only contest and took extreme political positions to appeal to that base. And several candidates had separate issues surrounding their credibility. Another candidate had no information available at all. I believe that everyone in Douglas County should have a choice in the election of the sheriff, not just one political party. The next sheriff should be selected based on experience and qualifications, not party affiliation.
What are your plans for enforcing the Red Flag law?
Colorado has a mental health care crisis. This law's actual court order is called an Extreme Risk Protection Order. This law is about mental health and community safety, not gun rights. As chair of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police Legislative Committee, I participated in the stakeholder process for this bill. We lobbied to get amendments to this law that we believed to be fair and workable. This law has been applied sparingly. I would use this law only in situations with "extreme risks" and if no other viable options are available to help individuals in crisis.
How will you address the threat of school shootings in the community?
I am the chief of police for the largest college campus in the state of Colorado, with a population of about 44,000. I am a subject matter expert in school safety for the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance. I believe we can prevent school shootings by strengthening behavioral threat assessment teams. Design features could be incorporated within schools to mitigate the consequences of shootings. Emerging technology should be explored. Additional training could be provided to our school communities to improve response to active harmers. I do not support the idea of arming teachers in Douglas County Schools.
How will you address the threat of mass public shootings in the community?
The North Central Region All Hazards Region (NCR) manages the State Homeland Security Grant Program and organizes large-scale training exercises. I have served on the board of the NCR and fully supported the multi-jurisdiction approach it offers for major public safety events like active harmers. As the police chief of the Auraria Campus, I hosted a large-scale multi-day exercise for 35 different agencies. As sheriff I will continue to support these efforts. I will also support efforts to make mental health services more available to individuals in crisis before they become a danger to themselves or our community.
What changes do you think need to be implemented in the sheriff's office to improve operations and/or make the community safer?
A complete staffing analysis needs to be conducted at the sheriff's office. Patrol deputies tell me that coverage on shifts is minimal, and there can be long waits for community members needing services. Detention deputies tell me they fear for their safety because staffing levels are diminished. Programs staffed by deputies that are not part of the essential functions of the DCSO need to be evaluated, and potentially suspended, until core responsibilities can be met. This is a known issue that current leaders at DCSO have not made a priority to address. Recruiting and retention of staff should be prioritized.
What is the biggest challenge the sheriff's office is currently facing and how will you address it?
The civil unrest surrounding law enforcement for the last three years has created challenges for law enforcement. Legislative changes and media have negatively impacted the recruiting and retention of peace officers. Staffing should be a primary area of focus for the DCSO. My nine years of experience chairing the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police Legislative Committee has given me the skills to work collaboratively with the legislature to remedy the unintended negative consequences of recent legislative police reform efforts. My daily work with college students preparing to enter the workforce has provided me with recruiting strategies.
How can the sheriff's office improve the relationship between law enforcement and those who feel they can't trust police?
Trust is difficult to earn and easily lost. Trust must be a core value for everything a law enforcement agency does. For the last eight years, I have been the chief of police for Colorado’s most diverse community. I have continuously improved my and my department’s cultural awareness and increased my partnership-building skills. My absolute commitment to accountability and transparency has helped me earn the trust of my community. Starting a volunteer advocacy group to help individuals fearful of law enforcement can help build trust. Having a truly diverse community advisory board can be an essential tool in building trust.