Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Oct. 13, 2022
(Douglas County, Colo.) Two controversial topics — red flag laws and school safety — dominate the three-way race for Douglas County sheriff.
Voters will decide whether Republican Darren Weekly, Libertarian Darren Hill, or Independent Michael Phibbs will take the county’s top law enforcement job.
The three candidates share many core values, including constitutional rights and preserving Douglas County residents’ quality of life by protecting their rights, property and lives.
Darren Weekly — Republican
Weekly, a 29-year veteran of the DougCo Sheriff’s Office, has held positions in nearly every agency unit. He currently serves as Captain of Administration and has held numerous positions in the Douglas County Republican Party.
He started as an undercover officer in Ponderosa High School before winding his way through patrol, detentions, investigations, and professional standards — taking several positions in each unit. For a period, Weekly was also commissioned with a K-9 and headed the regional SWAT team. He also was the driving force in the office, earning three of the nation’s top accreditations and awards.
As for red flag laws, or extreme risk protection orders, Weekly said he would enforce them. He said only four such orders had been passed in the county.
A judge issues the order but will deny petitions if there’s another legal way to separate the individual from their guns.
“Most people’s issues with red flag is the due process,” Weekly said. “The concern is that someone who doesn’t like you (...) they’re going to make some frivolous allegation and take your guns away. That’s not how these cases work: you need overwhelming evidence to show why the person is in danger.”
He argued there are larger issues facing the sheriff’s office, as thousands of calls and cases are handled by deputies each year. He also asserted he is the only candidate running who has “dealt” with red flag cases.
Weekly is in favor of hardening schools within the county, but noted the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is not the same as other agencies, such as Uvalde, Texas, and patrol in the schools through the School Resource Officer program. There could be better communication between stakeholders, Weekly said.
“Whenever we have a major incident (...) the first responders typically have a tough time communicating, so those training exercises are very critical,” Weekly said. “We need to be able to communicate with school administrators, the other agencies that are responding, including the fire department, and we need to communicate and train together.”
Weekly added that he has responded to school emergencies during his career, and is seeking to harden Douglas County schools through small, common-sense measures like ensuring secure doors. If elected, Weekly said he would support the school board if it decided to allow properly trained teachers to carry firearms within the buildings.
“Carrying a firearm is serious,” he said, noting he has support from the STEM shooting victim’s parents. “I don’t want more deaths.”
In terms of homelessness and drug crime in the county, Weekly said the answer likely lies with many communities — faith, government, nonprofit, residents — coming together to address the issues holistically instead of relying on arrests or punitory measures. He also noted the need for better public transportation options out of Castle Rock, particularly for those released from jail.
“We do business the right way, our deputies are very courteous and professional — if they’re not, they don’t last long,” Weekly said. “Are we going to make mistakes? I guarantee that we will. Hopefully they are minor, minimal, but when we have mistakes we are going to be transparent. If we mess up, we’re going to own it and we’re going to fix it.”
Darren Hill — Libertarian
Weekly’s primary election win over DougCo Commissioner Lora Thomas and John Anderson spurred the entry of Darren Hill for the general election. The candidate said he has not held aspirations of any elected office, but was asked by Douglas County libertarians to run if Anderson lost the primary.
“Even with Mr. Weekly, our only real disagreement point is that he feels an unconstitutional law can be used constitutionally,” Hill said in reference to the contentious red flag law.
Hill is the only candidate not currently in law enforcement. He retired from the field after over eight years of experience in the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Florida. At that agency, he began as a night shift patrol deputy and advanced to detective in the economic crimes unit, earning him a chance to work with the Department of Homeland Security for a dark web investigation.
He ended his law enforcement career due to injuries sustained in the line of duty and moved with his wife to Douglas County to pursue his game design business. He said his experience in Florida will translate into Colorado well.
Hill was drawn into the sheriff’s race because of extreme risk protection orders, which he believes are unconstitutional and lack due process. He called for sheriff’s deputies to not accept laws that could be unconstitutional.
“For me, law enforcement should never step outside the constitution, no matter how we justify it,” Hill said. “If people petitioned for and were granted the injunction, essentially, my method would be to try to find other ways to get that person help or prevent them from acting on any specific threats they’ve made. If they’ve made threats to the point that they’ve committed a crime, well then we need to treat it like a crime and arrest this person.”
In an interview with On The Blue Line podcast, Hill said he would not enforce the order if it was handed down. The host asked Hill if his intent would be to enforce the laws “on the books.”
“For the most part, yes,” Hill answered. “Because for example, the red flag law is a law that is flagrantly unconstitutional, so I would not be enforcing that — that is the only law that I can think of that would just be unenforceable because of the constitution.
“Drug laws would be enforced as written — I’m not a fan of how we treat drug users, but we’ve got to utilize the laws as they’re written,” Hill said.
Hill also advocates for strong school security, seeking to harden the districts to the same extent as courthouses.
“People commit school shootings because it’s a soft target,” Hill said. “I’m not against teachers being armed if they’re appropriately trained and they want to be armed. I would never advocate for those who do not want to be armed, or does not want to be properly trained.”
He argued in favor of adding support services, like mental health resources and addiction resources, for homeless populations already living in Douglas County. He stated his belief that arrests will not solve homelessness nor drug addiction, but said law enforcement likely has a role to play in addressing these issues.
“I don’t think law enforcement should be in control of such programs, because people see law enforcement as justified government force, and if you bring government force into play for addiction and mental health issues, usually it doesn’t end well,” Hill said.
Hill also noted his strong opposition to no-knock raids and civil asset forfeiture.
Michael Phibbs — Independent
Mike Phibbs, chief of police for the Auraria Higher Education Center since 2014, is a Colorado native with eight years of experience in the Elizabeth Police Department and 10 years of experience in the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
He also serves as a lobbyist for the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. In that position, Phibbs was able to work with legislators regarding many bills including Colorado’s red flag laws. He said the law includes similar concepts as an arrest warrant, and also includes penalties for false reports.
“It got to the point where the Chiefs Association thought it was fair,” he said. “I’m OK with it — I think it’s a fair law, it’s been used sparingly, and I think it’s all about mental health (...) it’s not about second amendment or gun rights.”
Phibbs said he threw his hat in the ring due to concerns he had about politics drawn into the race before the primary, as well as now. He said beyond credibility issues, seeming lack of executive experience and extreme right positions caused him to run, as well as adding “a choice in the race that’s not just a Republican.”
Phibbs said he is a registered Independent due to partisan party politics on national, state and local levels, including in the school board.
“Really, in public safety, there shouldn’t be party politics involved,” he said. “It is not that political an office — most the stuff the sheriff’s office does is required by statute or governed by best practice, or overseen by case law.”
In his position at Auraria, Phibbs has seen plenty of individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as working with other agencies to respond appropriately around campus. He noted the vast difference in severity between Douglas County and Denver and said this creates a unique opportunity for the county to address the issue proactively.
The Auraria Campus Chief said any response to drugs and homelessness would require a comprehensive, many-angled approach. He advocated for faith communities, government, nonprofits, and residents to work together on forming more programs and growing the co-responder program for the sheriff’s office.
Phibbs has also been outspoken in his ideas for school safety, highlighting the topic in a series of talks throughout the county.
He specifically discussed electronic door locks and keys, which can be remotely and instantaneously locked to prevent access. He also advocated installing bleeding control kits next to other life-saving devices, such as fire extinguishers in public buildings and emergency alarms that would connect to the fire alarm systems, warning occupants of an emergency.
However, Phibbs is against arming teachers. He argued the measure places an undue burden on teachers even with training.
“This is not a game for people who do it part time who should be teaching kids,” he said. “If you’re asking teachers to be agents of the government and authorized to use force to defend schools, they better have the same training as police officers, they better have the same decisional skills and shooting decisions that police officers have.”