John Berry wants to be the face of the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office.
Berry, a Republican running in 2014 to replace Ted Mink as sheriff, said a change in philosophy is needed in the department. And he says that change starts with the sheriff himself.
“I think the sheriff should be the face of Jefferson County. People should know who you are,” Berry said. “You need to be out more, involved, out seeing the public. I’m not going to be the 9-to-5 sheriff. … There needs to be more talking to the citizens of Jefferson County.”
Berry used Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio as an example of the type of sheriff he would be — the face of law enforcement and the county. While he also believes illegal immigration to be a problem, Berry hasn’t made it the focal point of his campaign.
“I believe it’s important that a citizen can come to talk to a sheriff if he wants to,” Berry said. “I want to be another Joe Arpaio. Many of the things he’s done, I’m very impressed with. I’m not saying we’re going to be totally a Joe Arpaio. But we’re going to look at the things he’s done and see what we can adapt to our sheriff’s department. When a man has an 80 percent approval rate, he’s doing something right.”
Berry, a resident of north Jeffco, served with the Antonito Police Department and the Conejos County Sheriff’s Office starting in the early 1970s. Before leaving law enforcement in 1988 to move to Denver, Berry was the third-ranking deputy in Conejos.
Conejos County Sheriff Robert Gurule worked with Berry in both departments. While it has been about 30 years since they worked together, Gurule said Berry was a positive person to work with.
“I always got along real good with him. I always thought he was a nice guy,” Gurule said. “He was always in a happy mood and liked to joke.”
After leaving law enforcement, Berry worked in private security for several organizations until his son died in an accident in 1995.
“I decided I needed to have some time off. I had to deal with the loss of my son, and doing security just wasn’t what I needed to do at the time,” he said.
Berry worked for two paint companies and recently began working in concrete foundation repair, with no plans to seek political office. But he said the current state of the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office, along with recent gun control legislation, led him to run for sheriff.
“I’m like a lot of people. I like to complain and gripe. I was griping one night, and some friends of mine said, with my law enforcement background, ‘and the things you’ve done in the past, if you want it changed, maybe you need to do something about it,’ ” Berry said. “It’s time for good men to come to the aid of their country, and it needs to start somewhere. If it needs to start at the county and work up to the federal level, that’s the way it’s going to have to be.”
A pillar of Berry’s campaign is his staunch support for the Second Amendment. Berry said the laws passed in the last session of the state legislature were an assault on the U.S. Constitution.
Berry said he signed the recall petition for state Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, because of her support for that legislation.
“The Second Amendment is one of the things that’s part of our Constitution. That’s what our country was founded on. And, unfortunately, we have gone so far from the Constitution. When you start telling people you’re going to start taking their weapons away from them, it’s a touchy subject,” Berry said. “People have died so we can have those rights. As a constitutional sheriff, there’s no way I’m going to enforce a law that says I’m going to take people’s guns away if they’re law-abiding citizens.”
Berry said that while Mink has supported gun rights, the next sheriff should be more vocal about the issue.
“Not only do you need to say that — you need to do that,” Berry said.
Another concern for Berry is deputy pay in Jeffco. The Sheriff’s Office is being sued by a group of employees who claim they were promised raises and have failed to receive them.
The lack of raises has led deputies to leave the Sheriff’s Office, Berry said, adding that each employee who leaves represents a loss of taxpayer investment.
“The current administration obviously has done absolutely nothing to try to do something to get those raises,” Berry said. “It’s a shame we have lost so many deputies. The taxpayers are paying them to get their certifications or post-certifications, and then they are going to other agencies.”
Berry pledged to institute pay raises for deputies if elected sheriff.
Contact Ramsey Scott at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.