Also getting new uniforms with more blue and less black
By Katherine Nettles
The Gunnison County sheriff’s department is moving to more approachable uniforms, around the clock patrol coverage and updated policies and procedures as sheriff Adam Murdie moves through his first year as the new head of the department. Murdie took office last fall after running unchallenged, and in an update to Gunnison County commissioners recently he highlighted some main changes for the organization. He said he is also trying to work through a few kinks in open positions, new medication legislation and securing consistent medical care for the Gunnison County jail.
Organizationally, Josh Ashe transferred from the Gunnison Police Department to become undersheriff and is finishing up some related leadership training. Matt Taramarcaz has been promoted to patrol captain, and there are still two open patrol positions and one open jail position after a few candidates didn’t pass final background checks, said Muridi.
“When you surround yourself with good people, you make things work. And I think our whole agency right now is surrounding me very well,” said Murdie.
He said the first order of business for him as the county’s new sheriff was to push forward with a whole new set of general orders and policies. The existing policies had last been updated in 1994, so he said a few things were outdated.
“Gunnison County has never had an in-depth procedure for the patrol or the jail,” said Murdie. He said those guidelines are now almost complete and provide a more clear and consistent set of expectations. “Everything is situational,” he noted, but the procedures give more guidance even for unexpected events.
He reported that he is working to get 24-hour, seven days per week deputy coverage for the department for perhaps the first time in department history.
There is currently on-call patrol coverage each night between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m., “But we want to be able to cover those hours with somebody on,” he said, as callouts after 2 a.m. count as overtime and can be hard on those who still have to work the next day.
He said that will require filling those open positions, however. “It’s tough right now, but at the right time we’re going to go to that schedule.” Incidents have increased this year, he said, from 127 incident reports at the time last year to 251 this year, which also warrants more deputies.
Murdie said he is also changing the department’s uniforms to get away from the current dark grey pants and black shirt “with that heavy military look. I don’t really care for that,” he said. Instead, they are going to a French blue “carrier” vest that matches the shirt and looks more like a uniform, he said.
And the department is working to comply with new state-wide regulations regarding medication administration for those in custody, particularly to prevent fentanyl exposure and overdoses.
“The new fentanyl bill will be challenging; it requires that they give aid and dispense meds in particular ways,” said Murdie of jail staff. “We’ve been dispensing meds in this jail for a lot of years. You just do what you have to do, but of course there is a liability.”
A renewed contract with Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) to provide medical services to the jail could help address the new medication requirements, but first they need to work out a service and certification gap. GVH is contracted to provide medical services to the jail for two hours per day, seven days per week and the sheriff’s department pays on an hourly basis for the service.
“GVH has not been able to provide those services since we contracted with them last year to do the actual scope of work,” said Murdie. He planned to meet with hospital leadership in the next few weeks to improve that situation.
“That will help us, but then GVH has to allow them to provide meds that are required,” as the current staff visiting the jail for medical services has not been certified to do that scope of care.
“It’s quite a process” he said.