COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) Colorado is home to several legal battles brewing over the country. We were first to legalize recreational marijuana and have a deep history in connection with gun laws and gun control.
How those rules are implemented depend on who’s enforcing the law. Because Sheriffs are elected officials, they have more freedom to express political opinions.
That’s where Robert Jackson and Bill Elder come in.
Robert Jackson is the Sheriff of Alamosa County, in the south portion of the state. Famous for the Sand Dune National Park, the wide open plains house about 16 thousand people.
Bill Elder runs the El Paso county Sheriff’s office and is in charge of the safety of 699,232 citizens (as of 2017) with one of the largest cities in the state inside his jurisdiction.
Jackson is tied to the Democratic Party, Elder is a registered Republican.
The biggest difference between the two of them comes from stances on marijuana, and how it should be treated.
Elder does not try to hide his feelings about legalized recreational marijuana. He started his law enforcement career in ’79 and a significant amount of it on the metro narcotics unit. “Back when if you grew a SINGLE plant it was illegal,” Elder recalls. “And you know we did (a pot bust) the other day that had over 750 plants.”
He’s still not happy with how things shook out in 2012 with recreational pot. His enforcement tactics now focus on breaking down illegal pot grows, mostly in eastern El Paso County.
Then, there’s Sheriff Robert Jackson.
‘I’m not going to drug test my (employees) for marijuana, it’s legal,” Jackson told 11 News, in a matter of fact tone.
“I’m not advocating that young people use marijuana, I’m not,” Jackson said to clarify.”I don’t think you should smoke it either because it puts smoke in people’s lungs. But alcohol causes us so much damage.”
Jackson says his county’s issues focus more on another drug.
“92% of my intake is heroin addicts. It’s huge.”
Both sheriff’s told me their personal experiences with pot colored their approach as law enforcement, and it’s the same with the controversial “Red Flag Law” passed in the latest legislative session. The law allows law enforcement to take away firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Jackson said he is now catching flack from his democratic supporters now that he opposed the law.
“The democrat county commissioner, (she’) not happy with me, she’s not and I don’t blame her,” Jackson said. “She believes different than me.”
While it crosses his typical party line, Jackson says his stance comes from years of law enforcement experience, and the idea of trying to take those guns from people putting his deputies in extreme risk.
Elder said politics take a back seat to boots on the ground progress. He doesn’t have to agree with everything someone else does, but something has to get done.
“We make it work all the time, I have different viewpoints from people on my staff and we work through those,” Elder admits. ” I have different viewpoints with the chief of police, when Pete (Carey) was chief, I do now with Vince Niski.”
Finding compromises or understanding were priorities for both leaders. As more dramatic shifts in Colorado law hit the books, both Elder and Jackson pledged to keep their personal feelings out of the picture, and enforce rules as they come down.