Teller Elected Leaders Prepare to Gun Down Plans for a “Statewide Police Force”

Officials Say New Legislation Strips Away Local Authority

Trevor Phipps

Now that the 2024 legislative session is in full swing, local leaders are loading their political guns and gearing up for serious battles in the state trenches.

The Teller County commissioners and sheriff have been spending much time recently fighting a slew of legislation being introduced by Colorado lawmakers.


During recent meetings, the commissioners promised to testify against legislation that may work for urban areas but could cause harm to those living in the state’s rural regions, such as Teller County. Over the last couple of weeks, many bills have been brought to the table that Teller officials say strips away key aspects of local authority and gives more undue powers to the state.


Last week, County Commission Vice-Chairman Dan Williams, Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell and El Paso County Sheriff Joseph Roybal joined forces and spoke out against Senate Bill 24-003, entitled “Colorado Bureau of Investigation Authority to Investigate Firearms Crimes.”


If passed, the Teller commissioners and sheriff contend that state law enforcement agencies would have the authority to step on the toes of local agencies. In fact, the Teller representatives weren’t alone with their thoughts, as there were officials from across the state who also testified against the bill.


Currently, the bill is still in its early stages and the local officials testified against it while it was being considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The local officials hoped to entice the lawmakers to kill the bill while it was still young before it made its way to the Senate floor.


However, first efforts to defeat the bill proved to be unsuccessful as a motion to refer the bill to the Committee on Appropriations was passed by a 3-2 vote on Feb. 5. The bill will now be discussed by the second committee before it will be on the floor of the state Senate and House.


Consequences of New Anti-Rural Legislation


Currently, the bill is still young and has raised a number of questions. Essentially, the bill aims to give the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) the authority to investigate any crimes involving firearms. The bill also appropriates around $1.6 million to the Department of public safety for CBI to conduct the investigations.


If passed, the bill would add investigating crimes involving firearms to the list of CBI functions outlined by state statutes. Specifically, CBI would have the authority “to investigate illegal activity involving firearms statewide, including investigating illegal firearm transfers and attempts to illegally obtain firearms.”


The bill then appropriates the $1.6 million for the ’24-’25 fiscal year to come from the state’s general fund. The bill also gives CBI the authority to use those funds to conduct the investigations.


“The general assembly finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety or for appropriations for the support and maintenance of the departments of the state and state institutions,” the bill states.


Setting the Stage for a “Statewide Police Force”


Overall, local leaders feel that the state is overstepping their authority. Moreover, they contend it violates state law that gives local municipalities the duties of law enforcement. According to Mikesell, the bill gives CBI the authority to investigate crimes involving guns without having to notify local police or sheriffs.


“The state Constitution does not allow a statewide police force,” Mikesell explained. “So, this bill is directly against the state Constitution and state law where CBI is to assist local law enforcement not supersede them. So, what this is doing is allowing the state now to supersede local law enforcement throughout Colorado and district attorney offices without notifying us about any type of gun investigation.”


Mikesell said that the bill would allow state law enforcement agents to do things like audit gun stores. They also could reopen any investigation that is conducted by local agencies.


“It also creates a risk that if they don’t tell us they are doing an investigation, then we don’t know if we are investigating the same case,” Mikesell said. “If their officers are in plain clothes and our officers are in plain clothes, it could create a circumstance where we have blue on blue issues and somebody could get hurt.”


Mikesell also said that he doesn’t know why the state believes CBI needs to have the authority to investigate local gun crimes. In fact, he notes there has never been an issue involving local law enforcement agencies not investigating serious crimes, especially those involving weapon violations. In addition, the sheriff noted that agencies associated with CBI have the same training as local law officers.


Commissioner Williams also said he had a number of issues with the bill including the fact that the funding was coming out of the general fund. “We have had sheriffs in rural Colorado since 1876, nothing is broken they are protected by statutes,” Williams stated. “It is offensive to me that they would have to ‘step in’ for firearm crimes. I assume everyone has a firearm up here.”


Williams said that with the state legislature being controlled by the Democratic Party there will probably be more anti-gun bills introduced before the current session is over.