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Wyoming sheriff recruits Colorado officers with controversial billboard

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Posted at 8:22 AM, May 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 10:22:00-04

A Wyoming sheriff is using a controversial message to try to recruit new deputies from nearby Denver, and the tactic has ruffled feathers in the Mile High City.

A billboard paid for by the Laramie County Sheriff's Office was unveiled in Denver on May 12 during the annual Police Week, a time that honors fallen police officers. Sheriff Brian Kozak's message is spelled out in bold on the billboard: "Work in Wyoming where breaking the law is still illegal and cops are funded!"

Kozak was referring to budget cuts that city council members proposed in April, which would cut Denver's public safety budget by $8.4 million — about 1.9% of the police force's funds.

He said in a post on social media the cuts restricted the ability of cops to enforce traffic laws such as expired plates and safety equipment violations. Kozak thanked his community for supporting law enforcement and said he "welcomes those who have a desire to do their job" to join Laramie County Sheriff's office.

But the office of Denver Mayor Mike Johnson denied that the city planned to curb police recruitment, and said the budget was "carefully crafted" to "ensure there would be no impact to the department's public services."

"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 office said. "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."

Denver announced in January that the city would trim the budgets of various agencies to provide shelter and services for more than 4,700 migrants, CBS Colorado reported at the time. Expenses to support migrants could reach as high as $15 million per month, or $180 million annually, the city said earlier this year. The mayor's office said it would seek to save money within agencies, including keeping some non-essential job openings vacant and reviewing contracts and programs.

Denver Police also took issue with the Laramie County sheriff's message.

"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," Denver Police said in a statement. "And being a much larger department, Denver Police officers have significantly greater opportunities to promote."