A Brief History of El Paso County Sheriff's Office:
The Sheriff’s Office evolved with the creation of El Paso County, which was one of the original 17 counties created in 1861, the birth of the Colorado Territory. The original boundaries of El Paso County were vast. They included land that later became Teller County and the crucial Ute Pass Trail. Now the ribbon of highway known as U.S. 24, the trail was named “El Paso” by Spanish Conquistadors. Early territorial officials kept the name when carving out the county.
Colorado City was the original county seat, and Rankin Scott Kelly was appointed as the first Sheriff. Kelly was a highly respected lawman who counted among his greatest accomplishments the capture of the infamous “Big Tooth Jim”. Jim was credited with committing at least 35 murders, including the killing of many women and children. He was known as the “Terror of the Rockies”. Sheriff Kelly and Deputy Dan Gasenger trailed Jim and his gang as they fled the area towards Mexico. One evening, Kelly and Gasenger caught up with the outlaws. The gunfight that followed left Jim and his gang dead. Sheriff Kelly and Deputy Gasenger took the $2000 they found on the outlaws and returned it to the ranchers Jim had been terrorizing.
In 1873, the people of El Paso County voted to move the county seat to Colorado Springs, where it remains today. In that same year, Sheriff Cornelius Eubank was responsible for the construction of the first jail in El Paso County. Prior to the building of the jail, prisoners were kept by “overseers” in private houses. The fee was $1 a day plus meals. Once prisoners were convicted, they were sent to the Pueblo County Jail for a fee of $105 each. The County Commissioners agreed with Sheriff Eubank that if maintaining prisoners was going to take that much money, they might as well build their own jail. The board approved $2,223,000 for a new jail, which was a very large sum of money at the time. The jail was constructed at the corner of Vermijo and Cascade in Colorado Springs, and was completed in 1875.
Sheriff M.F. Bowers was faced with a challenge in 1894, when union unrest in Cripple Creek aimed its focus on the wealthy mine owners who lived in Colorado Springs. The union leaders planned an attack on Colorado Springs coming from Cripple Creek via the Gold Camp Road. Sheriff Bowers caught wind of the plan and swore in a Posse of 1,200 men. With the help of the Colorado Midland Railroad, Sheriff Bowers stationed his men below Bull Hill near Cripple Creek. A handful of rebels made it to town where they tarred and feathered a governor’s representative, but major disaster was avoided.
The days of the wild west had faded away by the time Sheriff Sam Deal took office in 1935. Deal ushered in a modern era to the Sheriff’s Office, applying a business philosophy, giving the office its first standardized uniforms, and providing the county with 24-hour coverage.
Sheriff Norman Short was elected in 1949. He was a very popular Sheriff who emphasized Office involvement in the community. He appointed Special Deputy “Chan the Magician” to entertain at orphanages and children’s hospitals to promote the idea that deputies were friends. He also oversaw the development of the “Mounted Citizen’s Posse” which was used for searching in rugged country. They became the predecessor to the modern Search and Rescue.
Sheriff Earl Sullivan, who served from 1955 to 1975, met the demands of a growing community by opening substations in Calhan, Black Forest, and Security. Under the direction of Sheriff Sullivan the aging and overcrowded original El Paso County Jail was replaced in 1973 by the Metro Jail. This allowed all office functions to be housed under one roof for the first time.
Sheriff Marion Shipley took office in 1975. He brought about the use of computers to track warrants. Sheriff Shipley also made advances in the areas of training, inmate classification, and made the fleet of patrol vehicles county owned. Prior to this time, deputies supplied their own car.
Sheriff Bernard Barry oversaw the building of an additional jail. The Criminal Justice Center was completed in 1988. This addition eased the burden on the overcrowded Metro Jail by adding 384 beds expandable to 735 beds.
In 2000, under the leadership of Sheriff John Wesley Anderson, the Sheriff’s Office became one of only 19 agencies in the nation to receive the coveted “Triple Crown” award from the National Sheriff’s Association. This award was a result of accreditation from the American Correctional Association (ACA), the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC), and the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
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