Eagle County Sheriff’s Office believes Gypsum needs to beef up its deputy corps
Eagle County Sheriff’s Office proposes addition of two deputies, which would cost the town approximately $500,000 more annually
Ever since 1911, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office has been providing law enforcement services to the town of Gypsum.
Ever since 2012, the town of Gypsum has contracted with the Eagle County Sheriff’s office to have four deputies assigned to the town — three as patrol officers and one as a school resource officer.
But as 2021 rolls on, representatives from the sheriff’s office have appealed to Gypsum officials saying they need to beef up their deputy corps.
Armed with statistics that show Gypsum has seen an 18% increase in total calls for service between 2012 and 2019 — from 6,106 to 7,215 individuals calls — Eagle County Undersheriff Dan Loya made the appeal to members of the Gypsum Town Council to add at least two more patrol officers for the community.
“We thought it was best to propose this now and get the information out there,” Loya told the council members during a recent meting.
In support of the request, Loya noted that Gypsum has an estimated population of 8,600 residents patrolled by its four deputies. The town of Eagle has a similar population and employs 12 police officers. The town of Avon employs 20.5 officers.
Loya said comments from deputies assigned to the community spurred his examination of the caseload in Gypsum.
“The deputies brought it to my attention how busy it is downvalley,” he said.
In 2019, Gypsum calls accounted for 17% of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office’s total calls for service. The four Gypsum deputies handled 3,246 of those calls, or 45% of the total. The remaining 3,925 calls, or 55%, were handled by other patrol deputies.
Those number are only going to increase, Loya predicts.
“With more growth and more population, there is going to be more calls for service,” he said.
‘Big pill to swallow’
It won’t be cheap to increase law enforcement services in Gypsum, Loya noted. For 2021, the town’s lawn enforcement contract totals $1,055,325 and the sheriff’s office estimates it will cost between $500,000 to $525,000 to add two more deputies. That includes salary and benefits and $160,000 for fully equipped vehicles.
“So, we don’t expect the town to immediately say ‘here’s a check,’” Loya said.
But the sheriff’s office does want to start the funding conversation and urged the town to consider the addition of one deputy in 2021 and the second deputy in 2022. That would bring the initial cost this year to around $215,000 — a pro rated cost because it will take time to get a new deputy hired and trained.
“We are not looking for the big bite all at once,” said Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek.
Instead, he said the sheriff’s office wants to work with Gypsum officials to incrementally increase the Gypsum deputy numbers.
In response, members of the council said they were willing to consider expanding the contract, but noted they would have preferred getting the request when they were finalizing their budget for the coming year, back in the fall of 2020.
“This seems like an unusual time to be asking for this increase,” said council member Tom Edwards. “I would be in favor of increasing something in 2022.”
“It’s a lot of money. It’s a big pill to swallow, but we brought it on ourselves, with all the densities we have approved,” said council member Chris Estes.
Council member Bill Baxter asked the sheriff’s office to come back with some more detailed statistics about the number, nature and location of Gypsum’s law enforcement calls.
That information will be part of the annual report that the sheriff’s office provides to Gypsum officials, tentatively planned for the second meeting in February. As part of that presentation, sheriff’s office representatives said they would put together a more formal proposal for additional deputies for the town council’s consideration.