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The message behind a Wyoming sheriff’s new Denver billboard on Alameda Avenue

DENVER — A Wyoming sheriff has a message for Denver law enforcement: “Work in Wyoming where breaking the law is still illegal and cops are funded.”

Laramie County Sheriff Brian Kozak’s “clear message to Denver Law Enforcement” can be read on the department’s Facebook page, which is now getting more eyeballs thanks to a new billboard that popped up on W. Alameda Avenue this past week.

Sheriff Kozak chatted with Denver7 about the statement his billboard is making and the strategy behind recruiting in Denver.

“We’re just really promoting our culture that we have here in Wyoming, and especially with Laramie County Sheriff’s Office, where our community really values law enforcement,” Kozak said. “They want their law enforcement officers enforcing the laws that we have.”

Kozak, who has been the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office since November 2022, said the county has 17 vacancies in the jail and another eight patrol positions open.

When he stepped into the position, the county law enforcement community was facing a “severely depleted” situation, he said.

“We hired 72 people last year and a lot of that is from Colorado people. We’re just continuing the campaign that’s been successful for us,” Kozak said.

The message behind a Wyoming sheriff’s new Denver billboard on Alameda Avenue

While he did have specific numbers related to Colorado applicants, he said his department has seen success over the last year in targeting the Denver market with digital, TV and social media advertising.

“Our hiring unit is just overwhelmed with all the contacts. I know just last night alone, I think we received about 100 requests for recruiters to contact people,” Kozak said. “Our community really values law enforcement and they want their law enforcement officers enforcing the law that we have.”

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A Wyoming sheriff has a message for Denver law enforcement: ‘Work in Wyoming where breaking the law is still illegal and cops are funded.’

Kozak added that his department is “advertising what we’re looking for here” by placing the billboard in Denver, but is not “targeting any particular police department or city.”

“We’re not necessarily targeting any particular police department or city. We’re just really promoting our culture that we have here in Wyoming,” he said. “Those in the law enforcement community… have a conservative approach as well, so maybe someone who is looking for a job in that kind of environment — maybe the Denver area is not for them when they do their research. And hopefully they’ll look at our agency.”

A tribute to National Police Week on the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page went further: “National media reported the City of Denver, on the other hand, decided to defund the police $8 million to fund immigrant shelters and restrict the ability for cops to enforce traffic laws, such as expired plates or safety equipment violations… During Police Week, the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) unveiled a billboard in downtown Denver to let those frustrated officers know they can ‘Work in Wyoming where breaking the law is still illegal and cops are funded!’”

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The billboard is on W. Alameda Avenue in Denver.

Jordan Fuja, press secretary for Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, took issue with the “defund the police” narrative.

“The City of Denver’s adjustment to the Denver Police Department’s budget was carefully crafted with safety leaders and Johnston to ensure there would be no impact to the department’s public services,” said Fuja in a statement to Denver7.

“To say that Denver is ‘defunding the police’ is a willful mischaracterization of the budget reductions, which actually just delays the purchase of new furniture and shifts the funding source for one cadet class,” the statement reads.

Denver city leaders in April announced budget cuts in response to the costs of responding to the influx of immigrants, including $5.3 million in cuts to the Denver Police Department.

In a press conference announcing cuts, Johnston said there would be “no change in public-facing services.”

“We’re not taking officers off the streets,” he said. “It is critically important that all of our recruit classes will still be going through for the police department. We protected those.”

Johnston said the city looked to cut the safety personnel budget by 15%, but that was trimmed back to around 2%, which he described as “drastically lower than what we originally thought.”

“We may be working on lateral hires for officers who could come in to be able to fill positions through a lateral recruit class. No change in officers that are deployed to the street,” he added.

Addressing the cuts to DPD, Chief Ron Thomas reiterated that leadership worked to avoid cuts to core services.

“We looked at some of our technology services and identified ways that we could actually get the same thing done by maybe a service that we already have a contract with,” Thomas said. “Certainly happy that we found a pathway to help these migrants that are coming into our city.”

The Mayor’s Office touted advantages for law enforcement working in Denver versus Laramie County, including promotion opportunities working in a larger department and pay gap.

“A primary advantage for working for Denver police versus the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office is that the top pay for the officer rank is $24,575 more annually than the top pay for a LCSO deputy sheriff, and the pay gap increases at higher ranks,” the mayor’s office said. “In fact, Mayor Johnston has invested millions to add 167 new police recruits to our force in 2024, and will continue to invest in public safety to ensure every Denverite is safe in their city.”

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Law enforcement in Denver also have opportunities to earn more pay by working Nuggets, Broncos and other sports and entertainment activities in the Mile High City.

The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office, when fully staffed, is around 250 employees, Kozak said.

DPD staffing includes 284 detective positions, 233 sergeants and 54 lieutenants.

As law enforcement agencies across the country struggle to recruit and fill open positions, Kozak said his department’s strategy is not to siphon off officers from other departments but to try and showcase what the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office has to officer.

“We’re advertising what we’re looking for here,” Kozak said. “Law enforcement is a very competitive field for sure. Candidates are looking for the best agency that fits their needs, and so we really encourage that.”

Kozak’s law enforcement career dates back to 1986 when he became a police officer in Mesa, Arizona.

According to his biography, Kozak eventually went on to become the Chief of Police in Avon, Colorado before he was appointed Cheyenne’s police chief in 2010.

The billboard costs around $2,500 a month and will up for at least 30 days. Kozak said it could loom above W. Alameda Avenue longer.

“We’ve had a lot of donors that say they want they’re going to fund the billboard and they actually would like us to put more up,” added Kozak, who said he wasn’t sure if the current billboard would stay up past 30 days.

The Denver Mayor’s Office points out that on the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office page touting pay and incentives, the department highlights Cheyenne’s proximity to Colorado.

“Work in a conservative community, which has a strong partnership with law enforcement and the military,” the county website reads. “Adventure awaits you in the Rocky Mountains or the bustling City of Denver, each within an hour’s drive.”

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