Recent news article doesn’t give the full story about me

Jay Harrison
Sunday, September 18, 2022
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The Sept. 11 article about me isn’t complete. I would like to provide the entire story. I worked for the Larimer County Sheriff from April 1996 to March 2011. During my time with the Sheriff’s Office, I was a decorated deputy receiving multiple awards, including lifesaving and distinguished service and many letters of commendation from the sheriffs I worked for. I worked for three sheriffs during my tenure.

Since 2002, I was a resident in the town of Wellington, Colo. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office was contracted to the town for law enforcement services. Prior to the 2010 election, Wellington had a town council member who was interested in starting their own police department and I had spoken to him regarding this.

Following this, an employee of the department who served as command staff went to the current sheriff (my boss) and wanted him to fire me for attending the meeting and talking to the council members in Wellington. My boss, the sheriff, advised this employee he could not fire me for this reason. This employee is the same person who went on to run for and was elected sheriff.

In 2010 the sheriff reached his term limit and there were two candidates which I had worked with for many years and knew them both very well. I felt that both candidates had low ethics and integrity, so I decided to also run for sheriff. During my campaign I stated that if not elected, I would resign because based on my previous experience with them, the working environment may be hostile.

After I lost the election, the newly elected sheriff stated to the press he would not fire me if I looked to the future and not stay in the past. I met with the newly elected sheriff, and it was made clear that I wasn’t welcome, so I asked to be allowed time to find a new job. What I didn’t realize at that same time is that he had opened an investigation on the same matter he tried to get the prior sheriff to fire me for.

While looking for work, one option was to speak with the town of Wellington regarding their continued curiosity in having a police department. In December 2010, several deputies including myself, who all lived in Wellington (residents) attended a town meeting that had the law enforcement contract on the agenda. I never spoke at this meeting. The pros and cons of starting their own department were discussed and in later meetings they voted down having their own department.

In January, I was called in to meet the undersheriff and was advised of the investigation. He suspended me pending the outcome. A hearing was held following the investigation where the sheriff asked me to resign. It is important to note that I was the only deputy that attended the Wellington meeting who was terminated or asked to resign. I knew I had done nothing wrong, and this was just one of the options I was looking into for new employment, so I refused. He then terminated me.

Due to the termination, I applied for unemployment and the sheriff refused to pay unemployment. This went to a state hearing. I was awarded unemployment pay. The hearing officer stated I could not be terminated for exercising my rights as a citizen of the town of Wellington to participate in my local government. This led to the lawsuit for wrongful termination.

As the court case went forward, having invested thousands of dollars of my money, the judge advised both sides of her view of the case and asked me to provide more evidence for her review. By this time, I had run out of money and was unable to continue to respond to the suit. The county was awarded payment for attorney’s fees. I appealed and the county failed to file in time and was not awarded compensation for attorney’s fees. It is true, I was not loyal to the elected sheriff, however I was loyal to the Sheriff’s Office, deputies, citizens of the county and the citizens of Wellington. I was also loyal to the sheriff that hired me in 1996 and the sheriff after him that I served for 12 years until 2011 when he left office. I was the best man at his daughter’s wedding and I’m the godfather of his only granddaughter. This sheriff also gave a deposition on my behalf to my attorney during the hearings.

These three campaign comments I stated in 2010 still hold true to me today and show the type of police chief I would be: 1 – I believe top administrators should also be on the streets in uniform and marked cars. It is difficult for administrative staff to be in touch with what’s going on if they are not; 2 – Departments shouldn’t rely so much on writing citizens tickets to make budget. There are other ways to save the department money; 3 – It is best to be pro-active when it comes to crime prevention rather than being reactive.

This occurred over 11 years ago. I have left it in my past and have been hired by other law enforcement agencies since, with them having no issues.

Jay Harrison is a law enforcement veteran who has worked in Colorado and Wyoming.