Almost daily, police vehicles from multiple agencies snake down the driveway to the jail waiting to pick up and drop off inmates. Inside, there's another wait for inmates to be processed. There can be so many people in the booking area, it's standing room only. Deputies pack three at a time into cells built for one. More than 80 inmates squeeze around each other in an area which is supposed to hold 30.
Foot, waist and hand chains clank loudly. Heavy metal doors slam shut. The noise goes on and on while deputies carry out carefully choreographed safety procedures to book and release inmates. The inmates are moved into packed pods, where three adults share a cell the size of a chicken coop. Space is so tight, inmates have to be triple-bunked.
The jail was built in 1986 to hold 386 inmates. But on many days, the number hovers around 1,200. The noise, chaos and crowding eventually takes its toll.
"It's extremely stressful," Deputy Muhtalar Dickson says. "We have people all over the place. I understand the job comes with some aspect of your safety and security being at risk, but it seems like now more so than ever, it's an even more dangerous place to work."
In 2018, assaults on deputies hit an all-time high. Inmates assaulted 24 employees, a 120% increase of the past three years. Inmate on inmate assaults also increased. So far this year, 10 employees have been hit, kicked and knocked out cold.
The chief of the Detention Bureau, Vince Line, has never been more concerned about his deputies. They're dealing with more people today who have been arrested for more serious felonies compared to low-level offenders in the past. On top of that, almost every other inmate they deal with suffers from a mental illness or has drug and alcohol abuse issues.
"Ultimately, it's my responsibility to maintain the safety and security of this facility and follow the statutory requirements. It's also my responsibility to do whatever is necessary to make sure that our staff stays safe and returns to their families at the end of the shift." Chief Line said.
The growing danger to staff is just one reason why the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office needs a new detention facility. There's not enough room to expand and create new programs for the mentally ill, workforce training or life skills counseling - a key factor in reducing repeat offenses. On top of that, electrical and plumbing systems are failing.
Sheriff Tyler Brown says the county can't keep spending one-fifth of its building maintenance budget to repair the jail again and again. Brown says the county needs a new, modernized jail built to serve future generations of public safety needs. The detention facility is the oldest in the entire seven-county metro area.
"We are pushing our current jail facility to its limits. The jail is crowded. Space is tight. The stress on everyone is building. It's like a pressure cooker. A new facility will cost about $465 million. If we don't do it today, tomorrow, the cost will sky rocket," Sheriff Brown said.
The Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners has formed a long-range planning committee of residents and business leaders to study the issue. Its report and recommendations are expected this fall. Learn more.
Dog Walker Watch
Learn how to be the eyes and ears for your community!
Come join our Arapahoe County Sheriff's deputies on Thursday, July 4 from 7:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. at the Cherry Creek State Park Dog Off-Leash Area located at 4201 S. Parker Road in Aurora. They will be stationed just as you walk in the front entrance.
Learn all about our Dog Walker Watch program which encourages neighbors to help law enforcement be the eyes and ears of the community. Our deputies will teach you how to effectively observe and report suspicious activity.
And you don't have to be a dog walker to participate -- that's just the name! The program is for everyone and requires no special training. Because law enforcement officers can't be everywhere, citizen involvement is essential. Many arrests of criminals come as a direct result of citizens contacting police about suspicious activity.
What is suspicious activity?
Behavior is suspicious. People are not suspicious.
1. Vehicles traveling at a low speed, or at a high speed, especially in the overnight hours.
2. Approaching vehicles in driveways, but not going to the front door.
3. Apparent transactions occurring from a vehicle.
4. Vehicles parked in an unusual location, either unoccupied or idling.
5. Knocking on your door, but looking for someone you don't know...and doing that at multiple homes. They are checking to see if the home is unoccupied.
The non-emergency number for the sheriff’s office is 303-795-4711. Always call 911 if it is an emergency. Be specific - describe the behavior and location. Answer questions from the dispatcher. Finally, remain calm, speak clearly and find a safe location.
Keep it REAL
Be safe this 4th of July. Keep 9-1-1 open for REAL emergencies
Our dispatchers get thousands of calls from people on the Fourth of July, mostly complaining about illegal fireworks. That makes it hard for dispatchers to sort through the calls and find critical incidents about injured people and fires. Calling the emergency line when it’s not a crisis slows down dispatchers from getting help to people who really need it.
The sad fact is, other crimes don’t stop happening on the holiday and our deputies need to respond to those crimes quickly. Help our dispatchers prioritize calls and don’t call 9-1-1 to complain about noise, to learn what fireworks are legal, or to ask how can you throw out old fireworks.
Instead, check out these answers to frequently asked questions:
Q: What’s legal in Arapahoe County? A: If it leaves the ground or explodes, it’s not legal in Arapahoe County and Centennial. That means no firecrackers, bottle rockets, lady fingers, mortars and roman candles. These are legal to use: fountains, wheels, sparklers, snakes and ground spinners.
Q: What if I hear people setting off illegal fireworks? A: Please don’t call dispatch about it, unless you have an exact address where it’s happening and names of the people setting them off. Otherwise, our deputies have no way to respond appropriately.
Q: What if I see my neighbors building a bomb-looking device? A: Please call 9-1-1 or ACSO dispatch at 303-795-4711 immediately.
Q: What if someone is hurt – or something is on fire? A: Please call 9-1-1 or ACSO dispatch at 303-795-4711 immediately.
Q: What is the penalty for using illegal fireworks? A: Colorado law provides that the sale or use of illegal fireworks is a Class 3 misdemeanor resulting in a fine of $50 to $750 and up to six months in jail.
Coffee With A Cop
Join your neighbors and deputies for coffee and conversation
The mission of Coffee with a Cop is to break down barriers between deputies and the citizens they serve. By removing agendas and allowing opportunities for citizens to ask questions and voice concerns, you can get to know the deputies in your neighborhood.
Our next Coffee With A Cop will be:
Saturday, July 13
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
McDonalds, 6300 S. Broadway, Littleton, CO 80120
Questions? Please contact Deputy Amanda Cruz at email@example.com or 720-874-3750