Sheriff Elder at a recent news briefing.
Some say that El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder expects loyalty to a fault, and a memo that's emerged appears to support that contention.
The Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the memo, which is labeled "Expectations" and reportedly was sent to Elder's top brass recently. In it, he says, "YOU represent ME not just the Sheriff's Office. Everything you do and say reflects on ME, not just the Sheriff's Office." (Elder's emphasis.)
It also states, "The public doesn't care who this staff is, they care who the Sheriff is."
"You are not free to start rumors, engage in side bar or closed door discussions, or become outwardly critical of me or ANY member of the staff.
" (Elder's emphasis.)
If they do, the memo says, "you will not survive."
Why is this important? Because as the Independent
reports in this week's issue
, some believe there's hell to pay if a sheriff's employee steps forward with a complaint against one of Elder's big supporters.
Elder reportedly is still bothered by the dirtyelder.com
website, which obviously has tentacles into the department and is highly critical of the sheriff. Elder even mentions the "anonymous website" in the memo, saying anyone who complains through the website, points fingers or places blame is "part of the problem."
Noting he doesn't need "passive bystanders," Elder then admonishes his commanders and lieutenants, "If you can't or won't recognize character issues, morality issues, ethical issues, then check out now because you will not survive. I will take the stripes, bars and/or stars back
." (Elder's emphasis.)
While the document might strike many as heavy-handed, Mark Silverstein, legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, says sheriffs get to extract a certain amount of esprit de corps from their staffs. "I couldn’t say that this document is going beyond what the sheriff can ask of his senior staff or violating the First Amendment rights of the senior staff," he says, "not until there was a specific instance of enforcement where we could know what the employee said and to whom that the sheriff determined merited some form of discipline."
Silverstein also notes he's familiar with the dirtyelder.com website and adds, "There’s plenty of stuff on there that if he caught one of his senior staff saying that [posting on the site], he could discipline them."
Here's the memo: