Doug Scherar takes on first week as Routt County Sheriff
New Routt County Sheriff Doug Scherar clocked in his first week in office, saying that former Sheriff Garrett Wiggins left behind a well oiled machine and the transition has been smooth thus far.
“I’m fortunate to have been here the last 12 years and work closely with Sheriff Wiggins, so the transition has been productive, which is lucky because many times, when a new sheriff takes office, there is some contention with the former sheriff and it really slows down the process,” Scherar said.
A longtime Routt County local, Scherar graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 1993 before joining the sheriff’s office as a deputy reserve.
He took a job with the Steamboat Springs Police Department in 2004. He returned to the sheriff’s office in 2011, where he has also served as a sergeant and a lieutenant. Additionally, he has worked as dispatcher, detention deputy in the jail, patrol deputy and patrol sergeant in the sheriff’s office.
Out of his 25-year career in law enforcement, Scherar has worked alongside Wiggins for 20 of them, and Wiggins appointed Scherar to undersheriff in 2017.
Scherar said this second-in-command role gave him the advantage of already working on some of the issues he hopes to tackle in this position.
While still acclimating to his new gig as sheriff, Scherar said he looks forward to carrying out some of the promises he campaigned on. Establishing a collaborative co-responder program that would provide different approaches to responding to mental health related situations is first on his list.
“In this program, we would team up with mental health professionals to respond to calls that include somebody that is in some kind of mental health crisis. We would want to provide services pertaining to mental health versus approaching it as something that is criminal,” Scherar said. “Many times law enforcement isn’t prepared to deal with people struggling with this and there’s no service for them. The people end up in jail for one reason or another, and that’s not what I want.”
Scherar indicated that executing this plan could take a while. It is not a matter of bringing in outside mental health professionals and running a program, but building community partnerships, Scherar explained.
For the program to function properly, there needs to be resources in Steamboat where people in these situations can go to receive treatment. Law enforcement would play a role by communicating with co-responders working together to de-escalate situations if need be.
In addition to seeking to improve how law enforcement interacts with mental health related incidents, Scherar emphasized the importance of continuing education and training for deputies throughout their careers.
“Law enforcement, especially in the last five to 10 years has been rapidly evolving with the way we do things, and you cannot just rely on the training you got in the academy or field training and have that be the fullest extent you go to,” Scherar said. “Continuing education is important so we are not operating on standards from five or 10 years ago. Our employees need to be able to advance and receive training that will further their careers. We always encourage people to become an instructor in something or take a supervisory course.”
Last year, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced plans to ask the General Assembly for more funding for better police training.
“To protect public safety and serve the public, we need to find new ways to elevate and invest in policing. That’s why my recent budget request to the General Assembly highlighted this need and asked for millions of dollars in new funds to recruit and retain peace officers,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser stated in a Thursday, Jan. 12, column in the Colorado Sun.
Weiser said the key to improving policing and retaining officers is investing in better training.
Providing up-to-date, high quality training ties hand in hand with officer retention rates. In order to execute his agenda, Scherar said he knows Routt County needs a robust department that has a better retention rate and less turnover.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
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