Means of maintaining certification remain unclear
Jackson
Jackson

Gunnison County’s newly appointed undersheriff comes with a long history of training and commendation. However, over the course of his service with the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office, supervisors reported that Scott Jackson struggled with deadlines and evaluating subordinates, according to portions of Jackson’s personnel file obtained by the Times.

Additionally, it remains unclear exactly how Jackson maintained required training over the four years since he was last employed by the Sheriff’s Office.

Less than a week after taking office, Sheriff John Gallowich made the controversial appointment of the former patrol lieutenant as undersheriff. The undersheriff is a position appointed by the sheriff to act as his second-in-command. Among the duties listed in the job description are planning, coordination, supervision and evaluation of the Sheriff’s Office operations.

Jackson — a 36-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office — ran for sheriff in 2014 in a contentious race against former Sheriff Rick Besecker. Four months after Besecker’s re-election, Jackson’s employment was terminated. Jackson went on to sue Gunnison County. The case was settled last year with Jackson receiving more than $400,000.

 

POST certification

Colorado’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification expires three years after an officer leaves an agency. However, since his termination with the Sheriff’s Office in March 2015, Jackson has maintained his active POST status — confirmed by state officials — by becoming a reserve deputy in Saguache County.

To maintain active status, a peace officer must complete 24 hours of training, which includes 12 hours of “perishable skills” — shooting, driving and arrest control. Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick said Jackson did not train with his department, but could complete such requirements in any county, including Gunnison.

Spokesman Lawrence Pacheco said that while POST encourages all peace officers to undergo physical perishable skills training, small agencies may allow candidates to meet some training requirements through online courses.

“The local agency is responsible for determining what training meets their training requirements,” Pacheco wrote in an e-mail. “To learn who signed off on an officer’s training, you would need to contact the local agency. POST can only verify if a peace officer is certified.”

The Times contacted both Gallowich and Jackson to obtain this information. Gallowich responded via e-mail, saying he had no control as to how Jackson completed his POST certification prior to the undersheriff’s appointment. As of press time, Jackson did not offer comment on how he met the POST requirements.

Gallowich said in the coming year, Jackson and all deputies will be required to complete POST certified training once again.

“Regarding the perishable skills, all of our Deputies, including the undersheriff, will be required to participate and pass the physical and written testing for firearms training and arrest control,” Gallowich said. “The driving portion will be completed by either physical driving or on line testing.”

 

Performance and reviews

In response to a Colorado Open Records Act request for information from Jackson’s personnel file, the county attorney’s office provided 310 pages of documents dating back to the 1980s. The file contains numerous certificates of completed courses ranging from defense tactics to investigation and DNA collection. The file also contains letters of commendation Jackson received from fellow lawmen and members of the community — as well as performance ratings spanning decades.

In 2000, Besecker — who was undersheriff at the time — noted that Jackson “detests” evaluating the performance of subordinates, which Besecker said delayed Jackson’s submission of such documents by eight months. In once case, an officer was ignored completely in the review process.

From 2009 to 2012, Jackson consistently received marks indicating he “meets” or “exceeds” standards, with two exceptions. In 2010 and 2011, Jackson was marked as “did not meet standard” in regard to evaluation of employees. Jackson also was docked for missing deadlines.

Still, Besecker was complimentary of Jackson’s work, noting he was “ethically conscious and strong,” and in 2010 Besecker said he witnessed “a new energy well up in Scott,” calling it “infectious.”

In 2010, Besecker was elected sheriff, taking office in early 2011. He appointed then-Sergeant Randy Barnes as his undersheriff over Jackson, a lieutenant. As undersheriff, Barnes reviewed Jackson’s performance in 2012.

Again, Jackson received top marks from Barnes with the exception of meeting deadlines. Barnes complimented Jackson on being knowledgeable about cases and investigations.

But several notes were made about areas where Jackson needed improvement. Barnes noted Jackson needed to follow through on the sheriff’s expectations — citing three occasions when Jackson was reminded “to stop going to coffee multiple times a day.”

“The LT needs to take a look at himself and make sure that he is leading by example and setting clear and concise objectives for the patrol,” Barnes wrote in the evaluation. Barnes also removed Jackson from sniper duty and required him to qualify with his rifle within four months.

No performance ratings were provided to the Times after 2012. Only a few documents were provided from 2013 through when Jackson was terminated in March 2015. They included two training certificates from 2014 and a letter of termination from Besecker to Jackson.

Besecker fired Jackson — four months after winning the election against the deputy by a margin of 2 percent — claiming in the termination letter, “Your continued employment as a Deputy Sheriff undermines the effective discharge of my duties as Gunnison County Sheriff, negatively impacts morale of the employees of the Sheriff’s Office, and overall impedes the efficient performance of this Office’s obligations.”

Following his termination, Jackson sued Besecker and Gunnison County, claiming his termination was in retaliation for having campaigned against Besecker in the election — a violation of his right to free speech.

The Times made a supplemental request for documents from 2013 to March 2015.

County Attorney David Baumgarten contacted both the county’s Human Resources Department and the Sheriff’s Office. Representatives from those departments responded by e-mail confirming they possessed no other documents that could be released through the open records request.

 

(Chris Rourke can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at chris.rourke@gunnisontimes.com .)