Updated: May 18
Brian will answer questions he receives on social media with ongoing FAQ. Please message him on social media or email him with questions you may have. It the topic is of interest to others it will be added here.
Question: “Accountability” and “Transparency” seem to be the latest buzzwords in politics. What does that mean to you and how will you apply these words, if at all, to your department?
Video Answer by Brian Kozak:
Question from FB page, 2022 race for sheriff on 12-27-21
I would like to know the candidates interpretation of the HATCH act law and how it applies to current employees of the Laramie County Sheriff Department?
Answered by Brian Kozak
The Hatch Act, simply, governs the political activity of certain local government employees to protect the public workforce from partisan political influence and ensure the nonpartisan administration of laws. This is the reason, as police chief, I never endorsed a sheriff candidate. My slogan is “public safety before politics”. I believe the Sheriff should be a non-partisan position since law enforcement serves everyone. Polarizing people with politics causes the public not to trust us. With that said, an incumbent sheriff is allowed to attend political functions in uniform because he or she is in a political office. However, he can never coerce an employee to take a political position. Employees of the sheriff’s office may not engage in political activity on duty, but the Hatch Act does not prevent it off duty. However, employees need to be aware of possible policies covering 1st Amendment rights when speech impacts the efficiency of the agency. Additionally, you don’t know who could get elected; thus, it generally is a good idea to remain neutral while still bringing out the issues that need to be addressed. Finally, employees may run for political office, keeping political business separate from county business, if their current salary is not 100% funded by the feds. Thanks, and have a Happy New Year!
Question that many civilian law enforcement personnel would be interested in knowing the answer to:
Brian Kozak mentioned in a recent reply to a question that “civilians are usually the people behind the scenes that make the agency look good”. This is a very true statement. They are the unsung heros of any agency and most don’t have a true understanding of what they really do. Without civilians and the work they do, most agencies would come to a grinding halt. They’re also the people that are severely underpaid, overworked and under appreciated and often the last to benefit from a training budget along with often feeling as if they’re treated as second class citizens next to their sworn counterparts. There has been turnover in civilian staff in two local agencies recently, with one losing staffing in an entire division largely due to low pay and lack of lack of administrative support. This is detrimental to an agency and the community it serves. If elected Sheriff, how do you plan on using civilian employees and if so, what are your plans to recruit, retain and support them?
Answer provided by Lew Simpson:
I have worked for the Cheyenne Police Department (CPD) as a civilian for almost 14 years and through three Chief's. When he was Chief, Brian Kozak certainly made sure he worked with and listened to his sworn officers, but knowing that the civilian employees were in intrical part of the CPD and the organization could not perform as it should without civilian employees who make up important areas of the CPD. Brian had an 'Open Door' policy that civilians could come and talk to him about their concerns and suggestions. When it was suggested he have a regular meeting with just the civilians (as he did with all sworn officers) he did not hesitate and continued to meet with the civilian staff and listen to their concerns, suggestions made. Brian also gave honest straight forward feedback to the civilians on how he was progressing in his efforts to bring their salaries up to industry standards. He did, in fact fulfil his promise to get pay raises and he also followed through on suggestions to increase staffing levels, re-dedicate workloads and restructure some civilian Divisions. I can truly say that Brian Kozak is a man of his word and treats all employees, sworn or civilian, with respect, honor and the trust they have earned as well as fighting for their rights and privileges.
Question from FB page 2022 Race for Sheriff on 12-9-21: How would you, if elected, handle an internal investigation that has the potential to become a criminal investigation? Would you use an outside agency to conduct the criminal investigation or maintain the investigation in house? What is your experience in this area and what have you done to maintain rights of the employee while ensuring policy and the law upheld?
What is your experience with $million dollar budgets?
My first 15 years as a cop and sergeant I had nothing to do with budgets. I was promoted to lieutenant in 2001 at Mesa PD. The city had a $2 billion budget, and the PD had a $200 million budget. Lieutenants (section commanders) were usually in command of 60-100 employees and responsible for the budgets in their section. On average, each section had a budget of $3-10 million; however, the finance section did most of the work in tracking revenue and expenses. Since Mesa was such a large agency, lieutenants were involved in budgeting. This is not the case in most smaller agencies, such as Cheyenne PD where lieutenants are not involved. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in business administration, which a great portion of the education is in budgeting and accounting. I became the police chief in Avon, CO in 2006, which had a budget of $3 million. I had to prepare and present the budget to the city manager and town council. Let’s be realistic, the credit for budget management went to Krista, who was my administrative assistant. Civilians are usually the people behind the scenes that make the agency look good. I became chief in Cheyenne in 2010 and became responsible for a budget of $13 million (including 5th penny capital). In Cheyenne, it was our CPA, Laurie, who tracked the budget; she did an amazing job! Mark Munari assisted me in plaining, designing and building the $27 million Cheyenne Public Safety Center, which was completed under budget and in schedule. I have never exceeded my budget and I always try to divert excess funds into programs that are usually not budgeted; for example, the $7,500 signing bonus for recruiting, tuition/training accounts and safety equipment, such as ballistic helmets for patrol. Many agencies complete their budgeting weeks before it is due. I learned long ago; this is a mistake; it should be done during the entire year. Thanks for the question and have a good week!
How will you prevent school shootings?
Answer provide by Brian Kozak:
LCSO currently has one SRO, partially funded by School District #1, which is a great resource to improve law enforcement/student relationships and to assess the security of the schools. Let’s face it, he cannot be counted on to be in the right place if there were a school shooting in the County. As you know, I would like to expand the resident deputy program and have the rural deputies make it a point to visit the schools to improve those relationships. We know this will take time to improve staffing and find a funding source to bring on more positions. Immediately, those in admin positions to include me, will wear a uniform and work from the field to help with coverage. I support having key school employees, approved by the district, armed, and trained to protect the children; I would offer to allow those people train with us at the range. Some areas across the US have implemented retired LE volunteers who patrol the schools or be called to respond; we should look at some of these innovative ideas. I believe CPD’s SRO program is very good, and I would not try to replace that with deputies. I also know the LCSO SRO works well with the CPD team, and that relationship should continue. I would not expand our one SRO, unless the school districts wanted to fund the positions. Instead, I believe the priority for funding should go to patrol staffing, so we can have a faster response to a school. Finally, multi-agency training in active shooter response is vital; this training should include our fire districts, as well.
Question from FB page 2022 Race to Sheriff on 12-6-21: How do you plan to improve teamwork between the law enforcement agencies in Laramie County?
Answer provided by Brian Kozak:
I believe law enforcement agencies (local and federal) need to work together as a team for us to be successful in protecting each other’s safety and to lower crime. Bad guys do not have borders, nor should our crime fighters. Those of you in CPD know this has been a passion of mine ever since I walked through the doors. Let me explain why:
A Mesa, AZ sergeant I respected, Dan Saban, was having coffee with a sergeant at the sheriff’s office one night. They talked abut starting The East Valley DUI Task Force, which became the largest DUI task force in the United States, involving 15 agencies; the task force made an average of 150 arrests a night. The collaboration between two sergeants from different agencies has no doubly saved thousands of lives. I had the opportunity to command this task force three years (picture attached). In fact, I was able to get Phoenix PD involved after they refused for over a decade; that is long story for another time. We could do this in Arizona because the state law gave any peace officer full authority statewide. Dan Saban went on to become a chief of police, like so many other Mesa officers.
I was a cop in a culture that knew no borders. Once I stopped a meth crazed addict who attacked me. I fought him for at least 5 minutes; during the fight I lost my baton, flashlight, pepper spray and my radio became broken. I could not call for help. I was lucky that a Chandler officer was scanning our radio and heard the stop. He decided to roll by, leaving his jurisdiction. I think he saved my life. This is the culture I believe we need to have!
When I became the chief in Avon, Colorado, the Colorado statute only allowed officers authority outside their jurisdiction for felony crimes or hot pursuit. I developed a Memo of Understanding (MOU) between the Sheriff and Avon PD, Minturn PD, Vail PD and Eagle PD to give cops authority countywide for all crimes and traffic offenses. Lucky, I worked with law enforcement leaders who had the same goals I had. You would hear officers of various jurisdictions volunteer for calls and take the paper out of their areas. The teamwork was impressive. We then formed the first DUI task force in Colorado, the Gore Range DUI Task force. We even formed the Multi Agency Training (MAT) team. All agencies shared training and instructors to save money. These are concepts still in use, even though, I have been gone 11 years.
When I became the chief in Cheyenne in 2010, I learned state statute limits an officer’s authority to his jurisdiction unless he needs to take actin to prevent death, it is a hot pursuit, he is requested or by MOU. When riding with officers, I discovered they were not aware of city limits because of the many county pockets. They would not drive by a deputy in the county because they were worried, they would be in violation of state law. I realized this needed to change; I did not want a cop hesitating to act if he or she needed to. Even though state law allowed an MOU, no one in Wyoming had done one before. I drafted an MOU and presented it to the Sheriff explaining that this would help to improve officer safety through teamwork. He was against the idea giving examples of the past; I ensured him with new leadership we would enforce the terms of the MOU. Additionally, we had joint SWAT and EOD teams that were operating without a contract, and the MOU would correct this. I met the Sheriff several times over lunch until he just stopped coming. I was persistent and kept asking him the status of the MOU for years. That is right, years! Well, you need two to make an agreement, and nothing could progress until the County responded. In the meantime, I obtained mutual aid agreements from other agencies such as Casper, Laramie, Pine Bluffs, Cody, and Torrington. In fact, I sent officers to all those jurisdictions to help them with their special events, and they helped us with CFD. We were the first in the state to form the DUI task force and obtained the DUI van with the goal to deploy it anywhere it was needed in the state. But still, we still had no MOU with our local sheriff. We still operated our SWAT and EOD teams with expired contracts. I did not want to use this as leverage because the county residents depend on CPD officers and the SWAT team to assist them when needed. However, when we finally gave a deadline or the deputies would be removed from those teams, the county signed the MOU, in 2014. The MOU came with a boundary around the city; thus, still very limited.
It was about this same timeframe I learned others questioned the commitment of teamwork from Laramie County. The Pine Bluffs Mayor and Chief of Police reached out to CPD to provide service to their city when they were short officers. I asked why they did not use the Sheriff, and the answer was that the Sheriff was not responsive and did not seem to want to help. Thus, I sent CPD officers to Pine to patrol.
I want to make this clear, I do not know the pressures the Sheriff may have had to influence his lack of decisiveness. I have never said anything bad about the Sheriff and I never will. However, if you ask me a question, I will tell the truth. Whenever we called each other on immediate issues, we were always there for each other. We tried to have regular coffee meetings with the law enforcement leaders in the County. It was always just the HP Colonel and me. I think everyone knows the Sheriff became very busy with the National Sheriff’s Association. We would ask his captains to become involved, and they were not allowed to make decisions.
I would never say the relationship was bad between the Sheriff and I; we were always cordial with each other. He was just never around, and his commanders were not given the authority they should have had. On the road, the deputies and officers seemed to get things done, as it should be.
I know there is much tension between booking deputies and officers or troopers. I have heard many complaints about the hurdles in booking that do not exist in other jails. If sheriff, we will work together to make the booking process easier. I will make sure that detention deputies get an opportunity to assist those in the field, such as establishing a mobile booking process at CFD.
If elected sheriff, I will immediately present an MOU to the Cheyenne PD Chief, Pine Chief and Albany CO Sheriff, giving their officers full authority in Laramie County. I have already met with these leaders. I will then meet with the sheriffs in Platte and Goshen to do the same. I will work with the County Attorney to create an MOU for the agencies in Colorado and Nebraska that border our county. I want all cops to know that if there is an emergency, they go.
When campaigning in Pine Bluffs, I had a businessman, who is a mile out of the city, tell me that he called the SO for a crime in progress. He was upset that Pine Bluffs PD could not respond and it took the SO an hour. Fire volunteers told me they had to stage over an hour to wait for a deputy when Pine officer was available to help. This should not happen!
Those who know me, know that I am passionate about teamwork. We allowed federal agencies use our detective offices. We assigned officers to work with the DEA, US Marshals, and FBI. We formed DUI task forces and allowed many agencies to assist us for CFD. I allow the park rangers to work in the city with full authority. We include other agencies in our training and detective meetings.
If elected, I will make sure that teamwork become our culture, like it is in Eagle County, Colorado, and Arizona. I will push to have multi agency training; we are wasting money repeating the same trainings in our own agencies. I will make sure our detectives are working with each other; in fact, I believe they should be in the same offices. Aren’t we after the same perps? As I posed to the Sheriff, when I was chief, I would like to ride with the other chiefs to handle calls in their jurisdiction. There is nothing that says teamwork more than the leaders working together. We will have monthly meetings, and I will show up.
To answer the question on how to improve teamwork between agencies, the answer is simple; elect a sheriff who has a passion and experience of leading from the front. The next sheriff must be an individual who knows what it is like to be a cop on the street trying to help people or book someone into the jail without bureaucratic limitations.
Question posted on the Facebook page 2022 Race for Sheriff:
Question: (Paraphrased from the original question) Please comment on your solution to recruit and retain employees at the Sheriff’s Office (include a discussion about fair compensation and the current 43-hour work week plan) and provide input on the Sheriff’s Office history of returning unused budget back to the County.
Answer from Brian Kozak:
The three most important areas a law enforcement leader (sheriff) must be proficient at are:
1. Inspiring employees to focus on the mission and goals of the agency
2. Investing in the employees to improve retention and recruitment
3. Establishing a culture focused on leadership and succession
All three of these priorities must be related to each other; if one fails, all fail!
To answer this, I must talk a little about myself, which I hate to do. I became a police leader 28 years ago at the Mesa Police Department. The agency was very progressive; we were the first to deploy mobile dispatch terminals in patrol cars, we were the first to launch a community resource center to assist sexual assault and child crime victims and we were the first to launch community policing strategies such as the multi-crime free housing program. Mesa PD was successful because it placed the highest priority on leadership training and welcoming new ideas. More police chiefs have come from Mesa PD than any other police agency in America. I received the benefit of great training and mentoring. For example, I had the opportunity to lead the hiring and recruiting section, which had the responsibility of hiring over 100 police officers a year.
Today’s peace officer is not like the ones we hired 25 years ago. Gen X and Z’s want their work to be an expression of their skills, which compliments their family life. They desire input into the direction of the agency and want stability with the ability to further their education. If the applicant does not find this in the agency they are testing with, they will seek an agency who can provide it. I learned this when recruiting for the 32nd largest city in America. I ensured the recruiting plan at the Cheyenne Police Department remembered this. We often hired applicants who left the hiring process for the Sheriff’s Office for this reason. Our recruiters need to be very friendly and have constant contact with the applicants to relay that we care about their future. Applicants need to be shown that they have a future in leading the department and will receive a mission or play book to be successful. This is where leadership and mission become important. At CPD we asked the employees to develop our agency goals each year; what did we want to get better at? We then worked as a team to accomplish this. We asked our employees to find ways to improve the agency through the leadership committee and welcomed fresh ideas. Employees must be engaged in the process of leading the agency to have high morale. Thus, a recruiting plan will only be successful when the employees are happy; employees are the best recruiting tool we have. The Cheyenne Police Department had the lowest turnover rate in policing. I received calls from other states asking why we were successful in retention and recruiting. The short answer was good leadership, a solid mission, and a good training program.
On a side note, having a good website is important for recruitment. The SO website needs to change to attract more applicants.
Most Sheriff’s Office employees (current and former) told me that pay is not a high priority, they felt more concerned about leadership failures. However, if we can improve the leadership culture, pay will then become a priority. It costs $150,000 to hire and train a new deputy. We are wasting taxpayer money by not being competitive with salary. The county commissioners establish the budget for the Sheriff, but the Sheriff needs to educate the commissioners and provide them with articulable data to justify the request for increased salary. In the PD, we would conduct a salary survey on sworn and civilian positions every two years. I would use this data to request adjustments. We did a good job on remaining competitive with the 8-step salary alignment with police officers because this was the PD’s responsibility; however, civilians fell way behind because it was expected that their raises would only come with the rest of city employees received raises. We could not wait on the city to make these changes and I proposed a plan to bring civilian employees to market value over a three-year process. This was approved, even when other city employees did not receive a raise. I did the same for command staff and sergeants, which were all approved. As Sheriff, I can easily explain the need to give priority to the Sheriff’s Office because of the high cost of turnover and need to provide public safety. I do not believe that I should wait for raises for all county employees. At the end of the day, the commissioners have the final word, but I will be back year after year to make my argument in a very respectful way. I have attached the staff reports and data to justify the civilian and staff officer pay increases for you to see how I provided data in a systematic manner.
The county commissioners need a lasting funding source to approve salary adjustments, whether it be from tax revenue increases or from savings we have found in the operations or other revenue sources. I always conduct audits to make sure our resources are being used wisely. I would use any savings for a salary plan for the employees. I would also look for other ways to increase revenue. For example, I would like to form a committee to research the possibility of negotiating a contract with the US Marshals Service. I would only look at this option if it created enough funding to assist our employees. I know the employees in the Sheriff’s Office have been given misinformation about this, but this is another topic for another time. Know this, we will only move forward with this if it is good for the employees and agency.
I fully support a step pay plan for all positions. This eliminates the compression issues many agencies struggle with. In other words, the agency may raise entry level pay for recruiting reasons and then you have new employees making more than 5 years employees. I do not support pay for performance and believe an evaluation process should be a two-step rating. Either you’re doing your job or not. If not, the supervisor will place the employee on an action plan to help them meet standards. Pay for performance is bad because it causes supervisors to have a halo effect, rating employees higher so they get a raise. I also believe evaluations need to be tied to the department and agency goals. I was able to convince the city to allow the PD to have their own rating process separate from other city employees because of the unique nature of policing compared to other city or county jobs.
Scheduling is very important for the healthy morale of employees. I have great experience with this since I was on a committee to look at options for a very large agency. At CPD, we formed a committee to evaluate and select the schedule they are currently using; I would do the same at the SO. I do not know about the current 43 hours work week schedule. However, I can tell you that if it is the same schedule weekly, and you not paying overtime for working over 40 hours, it is illegal per FLSA. An agency may employ an 86-hour work period in a 14-day period, which sounds like the SO may have. However, it must be a different schedule week to week and can repeat every 14 days. You can also have 212-hour work period every 28 days, but this is usually for fire departments. Employees want stability, so this would be priority to evaluate and make changes.
I believe we must compensate employees for specialties they are required to maintain and for being on call if we require their time off to be restricted. For example, is the employee required to stay in the county and not allowed to drink alcohol. We had very robust plans at the PD. I would ask the employees to look at those plans and others to make recommendations if I am elected to Sheriff. At the PD, we gave extra pay for SWAT and bomb team members, DRE’s and K9 officers and other functions who were on call. Again, we would need to find the funds to make these additions. However, being on call and not being compensated could be an FLSA violation, which would require an immediate remedy. I believe in recognizing employees who meet physical fitness standards on a volunteer basis and allow on-duty time to work out, but only if mission standards are fulfilled.
Employees always ask why the end of year budget savings can’t be applied to their salary. As the CEO of an agency, I have freedom to spend unused money on one-time purchases, but I need to be careful to spend it on very necessary items. For example, it is wrong to spend money just to spend it at the end of the year. Commissioners will pick up on this and give us less money the following year. We can never use this money on reoccurring expenses, such as salary; the commissioners must approve all salary adjustments. With this being said, I would try to recapture a portion of the unused budget to be applied to my future budget. For example, the city council approved for a portion of my unused budget be returned for training and college tuition expenses. We wanted to reward the employees for not wasting money by returning it for their use. I would propose the same with the commissioners.
So, lets apply all of this in real environment setting: One of my favorite assignments was to command the Mesa City Jail, which had 19,000 bookings a year. The 43 detention officers had low morale and failed jail accreditation standards. My mission was to fix this. I learned that the officers did not have any opportunity for advancement since the supervisors were sworn police sergeants. The transport officers were sworn police officers. We developed a plan to transfer supervision and transport to the detention staff. The budget savings for replacing cops with detention officers were applied to their salary step plan. We gave the detention staff responsibility for their operations and morale improved to the point were had no turnover except for retirements. Additionally, we passed our jail accreditation, becoming the only jail in AZ to do so. The new team of leaders developed a plan to transfer long-term detention of inmates to a private jail, saving the city almost $2 million a year. I was impressed with the ideas these employees came up with, and it is a perfect example why we should always look for other ways to do something.
I could go on forever on this topic since I am so passionate about it. My degree is in business/leadership, and these are topics all companies struggle with. These were the same issues I faced when becoming the Chief of Police in the ski resort town, Avon, CO. When I left the agency, it was considered one of the best in Colorado with high morale. These are very same issues we faced at the Cheyenne Police Department when I became the chief. A survey of employees said the PD was rife with the good old boy system, low morale due to an “us versus them” mentality with leadership, low pay, unfair discipline, and unfair promotions. As a team, we fixed each issue by rediscovering our mission, investing in employees, and making leadership a priority. I have attached a survey the employees completed on their own initiative when I left CPD. I was very humbled when I saw the results. I was proud that, together, we made a difference. We must remember it was not me that caused this, but the actions of everyone working together. You should ask PD employees what they think about how the PD evolved over the last 11 years. Leadership is a very involved process, and I will address it in future blogs.
As you can see, I am a very optimistic person. I believe that morale is my responsibility. When I look at something, I do not see what it is, but what it could be. The best predictor of the future is to look at past performance. My record is proven and gives you a very good idea of where the Sheriff’s Office will be in four years.