More than a year after taking office, Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell is sticking to his guns by vowing to keep a close watch not only on crime, but also on the possible overreach of other government agencies.
Instead of state and federal agencies and local law enforcement having an adversarial relationship, they should work together, Spruell said.
“I still get tears in my eyes when I say the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said. “When our forefathers wrote the Constitution, they warned us of the encroachment of the federal government. If somebody doesn’t stand up and say ‘hey wait a minute, this is not correct,’ then it won’t be long before we’re a socialist country.”
Spruell reaffirmed this philosophy by attending The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association’s first conference last month in Las Vegas, Nev. The convention was aimed at teaching local law enforcers about their constitutional responsibilities.
“People think we’re trying to overthrow the government, and that’s not the case at all,” he said. “We work very closely with the other agencies, and we just want to be educated in our authority as sheriff and what our duty to the Constitution is.”
Spruell made national headlines for taking a stance against the federal public lands agencies attempting to close forest roads on public land in Montezuma County.
“What struck me is that all across the country the issues that sheriffs have with some of the federal agencies are common,” he said. “It’s not just here in Montezuma County.”
Spruell said his goal going into office was to bring the U.S. Forest Service to the table with the county government.
“It wasn’t to control the forest service,” he said. “My goal was to get them to come to the table. And since then, I am very happy to say they are now coming to the table and they are talking to us.”
Some rallied behind Spruell on the road-closure issue, while others saw his viewpoints as radical.
The latest dispute involved the closure of a U.S. Forest Service road to the privately owned Red Arrow Mine northwest of Mancos, preventing the owner from accessing the property.
Recently appointed District Ranger Derek Padilla said the closure of the road to the Red Arrow Mine was only during the winter to prevent the public from getting stuck or causing maintenance issues.
The local public lands office has a long backlog of issues and only one person to work through them, Padilla said. Additionally, some issues may have slipped through the cracks during the recent change in administration.