DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — 9NEWS has obtained a copy of an internal email sent by a member of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office that says dozens of deputies are not currently certified to conduct field sobriety tests.
The email, sent by Douglas County Patrol Division Captain Jim Jensen, said that "almost everyone in the division is not certified to conduct SFSTs [Standardized Field Sobriety Tests]" and that they should have "sounded alarm bells before we had an entire agency of personnel out of compliance."
Sheriff Tony Spurlock said the email initially concerned him when he read it on Monday morning, but he downplayed the seriousness of the matter in an interview with 9NEWS.
"When I saw that email, obviously it was alarming when you read it," he said. "And what I found out was probably much better than what the original email is that went out."
Spurlock said there are 60 deputies whose certification for sobriety tests either lapsed for one to three months, or they're new hires who had never been certified in the first place. He added that while they are patrol deputies, their primary job does not include traffic enforcement or DUI stops.
He said there are 87 deputies who are up-to-date with their certification, and whose primary job is to handle traffic stops.
"I think really what this captain was trying to do was to say, 'Hey, if you are about to come out of certification, or if you are out of certification, you need to be aware of that, and obviously take steps to rectify it,' which our training unit was doing," Spurlock said. "I'm saying that some of the language in [the email] is more alarming than it truly is."
In order for those 60 deputies to be re-certified now, they are required to go through 24 hours of training, rather than the two-hour course they would have taken if their certifications had not lapsed.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office also has to find out if any of those deputies gave a sobriety test during DUI stops when they weren't certified.
Spurlock has notified the district attorney's office to tell them it could impact their cases.
"Even if they used it [the sobriety test], if there was other evidence, it wouldn't matter," Spurlock said.
However, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, whose work includes Douglas County, acknowledges defense attorneys could play up this situation in court.
"I was a defense attorney. I would want to make the absence of a certification feel like this person was some country bumpkin that just got a badge and a gun handed to them, and they're running around saying, 'I think you're drunk.' That's how I would play as a defense attorney, I just don't think that's reality," he said.
In the email, Jensen wrote that officers should have been aware of their own certification and when it was going to lapse.
Spurlock said they are changing department policy and will now require the training division to make sure the certification on sobriety tests is kept up to date, rather than leaving it to the individual deputy.
“It’s just more efficient so once this was brought to my attention, I’m going, 'Yeah, we should be doing that with this as well' only because, just work smarter not harder," he said.
Spurlock said the 60 deputies will be re-certified within two months.