By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
More than 25% of the deputy’s positions in one of Wyoming’s largest sheriff’s departments are vacant and a former Cheyenne police chief is blaming the shortage on a problem with leadership.
The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office force is down by 47 deputies, more than 25% of its deputy positions. Eight positions filled by civilians are also vacant, former Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak, now a candidate for sheriff, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.
“Many of the deputies have reached out to me saying they’re leaving because of leadership issues within the agency,” Kozak said. “Several of them who have left have asked if we would consider hiring them back if there are leadership changes.”
Kozak added that current department staff have also asked whether he would consider re-hiring them if they were to quit now and return if he is elected sheriff in November’s election.
Laramie County Sheriff Danny Glick, sheriff’s Capt. Don Hollingshead and community relations manager Brandon Warner did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Monday.
Glick is retiring at the end of his term. In addition to Kozak, Hollingshead is also running for the office.
Kozak said that the issues within the department seem to have gotten worse since he was ousted as chief when Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins took office last year.
“I know Sheriff Glick is retiring and I have a suspicion that he’s maybe backed out a little bit to let his captains run the show,” Kozak said. “I think that’s when the issues started to appear.”
According to a Laramie County human resources survey conducted in 2021 and shared by Kozak, 55% of the sheriff department’s staff did not believe management takes employee feedback seriously, 62% believed the environment in the department did not encourage high morale and the same percentage also believed leadership did not communicate with employees. The survey showed 64% of employees believed the department’s leadership did not apply policies consistently.
“I’ve heard from employees that there are unfair disciplinary processes where different things happen to different employees according to who you are,” Kozak said. “Their ideas aren’t appreciated for improvements. Someone will stick around for pay, knowing it’s going to get better. So it’s more than just compensation.”
The majority of surveyed employees also said they were not compensated fairly, but Kozak said that Glick was working with Laramie County Commissioners to rectify the salary issue.
The department is actually down one one deputy in addition to the 47 vacant positions. The deputy has been off duty since being shot in a standoff on April 2.
Kozak noted that the cost to recruit and train a new deputy can cost up to $100,000.
The former police chief said it was important for people to know about the deputy shortage in the sheriff’s department because response times can be significantly delayed as a result.
“Half the deputies [gone] are from patrol and the other half are from the detention facility,” Kozak said. “So on the patrol side, they may only have three or four deputies working at night and they’re covering 2,500 square miles of county. It could take a while for a deputy to get to you if you need help.”
On the detention side, the short staffing means inmates are indirectly supervised and usually locked down for longer times because there are not enough deputies to watch them.
If elected, Kozak said he would change the leadership culture in the department immediately, because he said that the best way to recruit for the agency is through the employees within it.
“It’s important to make sure employees know you’re working for them on their behalf to make the environment better,” he said.