When Danny “D.J.” Riley fell short in an ambitious bid to petition his way onto the Republican primary ballot in March for the Teller County sheriff’s position, most political observers concluded his campaign was dead. But Riley opted to continue the fight and is making the first attempt in recent years as a write-in candidate for sheriff. “I am not a quitter,” said Riley. “I was told there has never been a successful write-in (for the Republican primary). Well, I say there is a first time for everything.”
Moreover, both Riley and his prime campaign manager and future undersheriff (if elected) Joseph Divido contends that the issues haven’t changed since they entered the race, and many residents and former employees of the sheriff’s department have urged Riley to continue his campaign. “We have received an overwhelming amount of support. A lot of people aren’t happy with what is going on with the running of the sheriff’s department. There is a lack of leadership,” related Riley.
Riley cites a definite need for more community policing and better training. “There are too many ‘Chiefs’ and not enough ‘Indians,’” said Riley, who depicts an agency equipped with an ample supply of administrators and commanders and a lack of on-the-road deputies. “That will change if I am in office. I will also try to bring back some of the former deputies who have been forced out,” said Riley. And as a former military veteran for 20-plus years and polygraph expert, who has worked as a contractor for the U.S. State Department doing several stints in Iraq and Afghanistan, Riley says he knows the importance of training. He believes the current lack of training within the agency has caused a huge bombardment of lawsuits against the agency. “The county is going to go bankrupt if this continues,” added Divido, who cites a number of cases involving staunch civil rights violations. He says the new administration, if elected, would change the mindset regarding deputy training and in dealing with the public. “You have to have trust from the community. You don’t need a ‘Gestapo.’ There are too many lawsuits for a county like Teller,” said Riley.
He also would like to do what he can to increase the salary level of entry-level deputies and officers. “Right now, they don’t get paid any more than a door greeter at Wal-Mart. That is not right,” explained the sheriff candidate.
As for other key goals, Riley said he wants to take a stronger stand against meth (methamphetamine) labs and more serious drugs. “I am death on meth. I am not going to tolerate that behavior.” He doesn’t believe the current sheriff’s administration has been strong enough in the war against serious drugs.
When it comes to recreational marijuana, Riley says the voters of Colorado have voted on this issue, and so it’s not worth pursuing resources in hassling adult pot smokers or those who grow cannabis plants. “As long as they follow the rules of the current law (Amendment 64), I don’t have a problem with it.” In addition, Riley is somewhat skeptical about the possibility of expanding and improving the jail. “We don’t need a Taj Mahal facility. If people go to jail, I don’t want them to want to come back,” said the candidate.
He also favors using inmates for outdoor work-duties, such as picking up trash. Riley also wants to review Teller County’s overall jail situation if elected, especially from a fiscal perspective. “One of the first things we plan to do is have a forensic audit done of the agency,” said Divido.
Like his opponent, Riley is a prime supporter of Second Amendment rights regarding gun ownership. “Everyone who lives in Teller County should have a weapon. I am a definite pro-Second Amendment person,” said Riley. While agreeing that his views are fairly similar to the incumbent sheriff on this issue, he believes Ensminger has overstated the role he and other members of the County Sheriffs of Colorado have played in legally opposing several of the new gun laws. “That is a political ploy,” said Riley, who doesn’t view his opponent as any more of a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights than himself or most people in Teller County.
Riley also touts the fact that he is not taking any political contribution money or seeking endorsements. “I don’t want to owe anyone any favors if I get elected. I am funding my campaign completely myself and am not asking for donations.”