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UPDATED: Is the 'public safety officer' model behind the handcuffing of a fire captain inside a Colorado jail? Union & Leadville officials think it's part of a power grab by the Lake County sheriff.

CO Leadville deputy Captain Dailey

Left to right: Deputy Arin Hart, Battalion Captain Dan Dailey, Deputy Steve James, Cell phone image provided to the Herald Democrat.

More position papers and meeting notes

NEW INFORMATION – Neighboring chief is worried about dispute’s impact on mutual aid

NOTE: At the bottom of this entry we have added The Denver Post’s concise summary of the relationship between the two departments in dealing with the future of fire/EMS coverage in the county.

Deputy Steve James outlines experience in fire & EMS

Read Sheriff Ed Holte’s position on the future of public safety in Lake County

LLCFR Chief Bob Harvey’s views

When we first told you that an on-duty Leadville, Colorado fire captain was cited last Saturday for obstruction by a Lake County Sheriff’s Department deputy in connection with a domestic violence case we pointed out there were few details. Still, we were pretty certain there was a lot more to this story. And there sure is.

Two articles on the web today give more insight into the detention of Battalion Captain Daniel Dailey, the second in command of the Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue. While one article says that Capt. Dailey wasn’t arrested, the other indicates he was handcuffed and spent 75-minutes inside a holding cell at the Lake County Jail, the same facility where the call occurred.

Let’s start with the Herald Democrat which found itself in receipt of the cell phone image above.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Ann E. Wibbenmeyer:

According to Sheriff Ed Holte, the ambulance only was requested for a 25-year-old woman who had come to the sheriff’s office to report a domestic violence incident.

It was a requested resource, said Holte, as the deputy wanted medical clearance for the woman.

CO Lake County Sheriff Holte

According to the Lake County website, Sheriff Edward J. Holte has been serving the citizens since 1978.

When the fire crew arrived on scene first, “to provide patient care,” said Dailey, Deputy Steve James and Deputy Arin Hart prevented the firefighters access to the patient.

The deputies repeatedly told the firefighters to leave, but the firefighters continued forward toward the patient.

Again the deputies asked them to leave, saying this time that they would arrest them if they did not leave.

Dailey responded that he would rather be arrested than leave a medical scene.

He was handcuffed and put in the holding cell of the jail under the charge of obstructing a peace officer.

The other two members of the fire crew left the scene after threats of being arrested as well.

By showing up on a scene without being dispatched, said Holte, “they disregard our authority and abilities. It’s like a slap in the face.”

The ambulance crew, which showed up in the process of Dailey’s being arrested, did eventually transport the woman to the hospital.

In the process, the crew called the fire department back for a medical assist. The now two-man crew responded again to the jail, with an escort from Leadville Police Officer Dave Wineman.

The Herald Democrat says Dailey was eventually picked up from the jail by Leadville Police Chief Mike Leake. Because of this dispute, the Leadville Police Department is now going to accompany the fire department to provide security on all of its calls.

Also, the Lake County Commissioners were in emergency executive session earlier in the week to handle a personnel matter “following this incident”.

Now, let’s switch to KMGH-TV’s story where the firefighter’s union and Leadville city officials claim the motive behind the actions of Sheriff Holte and his people is a power grab. They indicate that Holte and Emergency Manager Jeff Foley want  “public safety officers” to do law enforcement, fire and EMS, taking over the Leadville Fire Department in the process.

This article by Alan Gathright has Sheriff Holte not being available for comment, but has a statement from his office. It indicates that the ambulance crew from Saint Vincent Hospital was already examining the patient and that deputies had  told the firefighters they weren’t needed.

Here’s more:

“The sheriff’s department is free to disagree with us, but he is not free to arrest those who disagree with him,” International Association of Fire Fighters 9th District Vice President Randy Atkinson said in a Thursday statement demanding the resignation of the deputy involved in the incident.

Deputy Steve James tried to stop Dailey and two other firefighters from entering the building, because he “was of the opinion that there were enough personnel on the scene and that the addition of the three firemen would serve no purpose other than to further upset the victim and her children,” the sheriff’s office statement said.

Complicating matters: “The victim of the crime was refusing medical treatment, but the investigating deputy felt (she) needed to be looked at,” the sheriff’s statement said.

When Dailey “insisted on administering medical care,” as fire union officials put it, he was cited for “obstruction of a governmental operation,” a misdemeanor. Dailey was briefly “detained,” but was not arrested.

“Preventing a first responder from administering care to a victim is unforgivable,” Atkinson said. “The Lake County Sheriff’s Department should issue an immediate apology to the victim and to the Leadville Fire Department, and the deputy whose terrible judgment led him to arrest Captain Dailey should step down because he is unfit to serve the public.”

The fire union leaders noted that the deputy who cited Dailey is involved in cross-training sheriff’s staff to become firefighters.

“Without question, the arrest of Captain Dailey by Deputy James — a fired volunteer firefighter who is training members of the sheriff’s department to become firefighters — stems from the sheriff’s anger over our resistance to his attempted takeover of the Leadville Fire Department,” Leadville Local 869 President Zac Pigati said.

“It is all a giant power grab,” Leadville Mayor Bud Norris said of the long-running conflict over whether to merge the fire agency into a new county public safety department.

The mayor called detaining Dailey, who spent an hour in jail, “a real abuse of police powers and an abuse of dispatch protocols that are being used as a political tool.”

Norris stressed that the protocol is to have fire medical crews respond to emergencies at the county jail, adding that the sheriff cannot unilaterally change the protocol.

The mayor said sheriff’s dispatcher’s reluctance to call fire EMT’s may have contributed to one death.

“We had an incident where a lady’s dad was visiting (Leadville) and had a heart attack,” Norris said. “She called 911 and she was doing CPR.” Sheriff’s dispatchers did not dispatch fire department “until much later.”

“A sheriff deputy only responded. By the time an ambulance got there, the guy had died,” the mayor said.

Firefighter are saying there will be a protest rally on Monday. It sounds like there will be a lot more to this story.

Fire and explosions in Leadville earlier this year where the two departments worked together. Deputy Steve James spoke to reporters about fire department opertations during the January 22 incident.

Added on Friday morning (4/2)- The Denver Post’s Mike McPhee has a story on the detention of Captain Dailey. In it is a nice summary of how Leadville and Lake County are dealing with the issue of fire/EMS coverage:

Currently, Leadville provides fire protection throughout the county with nine paid firefighters and six volunteers.

Holte, a retired Colorado State Patrol trooper who was elected to his first term as Lake County sheriff almost four years ago, wants his deputies to be trained as firefighters, allowing them to essentially replace the Leadville Fire Department and take over county fire services, according to Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott.

The mayor, however, wants to continue the city’s agreement with the county to provide fire protection, said Fire Chief Robert Harvey.

“We’re very well trained in basic life support and certified to administer IVs,” Harvey said.

The intergovernmental agreement between Leadville and Lake County expires at the end of December. But for two years now, Holte has had emergency dispatchers, who work for him, sending deputies first to all emergency calls, including medical calls, Elliott said.

“Dispatch is being used as a political tool by the sheriff,” Elliott said. “When he tells dispatch not to send anyone but a deputy, say, to a fire to assess the situation first, the community isn’t being served well. So far, they’ve had only campfires to deal with, but this is a catastrophe waiting to happen.”


Comments - Add Yours

  • Myles Standish

    Sounds like the sheriff is endangering the public in his zest to gather more ‘turf’. This is not an uncommon issue from the smallest of communities to the largest. Many law enforcement ‘leaders’ want to be in charge of anything that may generate good press or additional funds for their agency. Recently, Ray Kelly (the police commissioner in New York City)coerced Mayor Bloomberg to place the N.Y.P.D. in charge at hazardous materials incidents until it’s determined that the incident is not terrorist related. He got a group of cops certified as haz mat techs in order to some how justify this insane move. F.D.N.Y. has been providing top shelf haz mat response since 1984. Apparantly Kelly recently realized that he could get his hands on more Federal dollars if he could get the mayor to agree to the protocol change.

    Not everyone in law enforcement is particularly interested in doing the ‘right thing’. Lives are risk are the cost of doing business unless it involves the lives of themselves or their families.

    The sheriff should be ousted. And maybe the Leadville Police Department should take over the sheriffs department.

  • Engine8Boss

    WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!The sheriffs dept. needs to concentrate on doing one thing. Being the police!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Leave the firefighting and ems to the the fire and ems people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • NCFF / MD PO retired

    People that make decisions like this should NOT be a Sheriff. This is a ridiculous shame that someone in power could make such a foolish decision that could endanger citizen lives. I’m a former police officer and fire fighter and I think this Captain has a legal case for false imprisonment. He should sue.

  • Jeff

    See, all cops really do wish they were Firefighters!

  • VAPhireMedic

    I’m lucky to have a good working relationship with police officers every where I have worked. This is indeed an unfortunate situation, this seems to go deeper than the several previous stories about CHP officers ticketing/arresting fire officers on the freeways because they wouldn’t clear the scene quick enough. Departments should just forget their differences…we have to work with each other every day, and we are all public servants. Let’s not forget that.

  • fireman23

    this poice officer should be fired not not allowed to resign. i a firefighter in mo and the cops here stay out of the way when there aare ems calls and fire calls as a matter a fact they would rather leave than stay at a ems call also we had a issue with a st ann mo police offcer asseting a caption for tell hiss driver to block a lane on hwy 270 its on youtube he lost his job

  • Andrew

    Hmmm…I bet if the sheriff’s home was on fire, the sheriff wuld say the hell with sending a officer get me the f’ing fire department!

  • Bill

    A firefighter goes into a bar and orders a beer, after being served he asks the bartender if he wants to hear a “cop” joke. Bartender says, “before you tell me that joke, you should know I’m a retired cop, the man at the pool table is a retired cop and the two guys sitting next to are still on the Sheriffs Dept., you sure you want to tell em that joke”?

    Firefighter looks at the bartender and says forget it, I only want to have to explain it once…

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  • Jim Duffy

    I am glad I do not live in Leadville

  • Tom Warner

    If the sheriff is sending a deputy to size-up a fire scene before calling the fire dept, which results in the loss of life in the structure, the sheriff will need a good lawyer. How could he be so STUPID. ( I have 33 years in the fire service. We don’t have these kinds of problems, or elected officials in S.E. Ohio thank goodness )

  • OhioFirecop

    Police and Fire should work together, hand in hand. I am in central Ohio and ALL of the Law Enforcement, and Fire agencies work very well together here. We don’t seem to have any of these problems. They do their job, and we do ours, and we assist each other when needed. It’s a great thing. The people of Leadville are the ones paying the bills for that Sheriff’s Department, maybe they should get together and approach the County Commissioners and voice the fact that THEY ARE THE ONES WHO WILL SUFFER out of this petty power grab. I don’t know how Colorado law is written, but there should be some provision for the removal of a Sheriff causing these actions to happen. That’s right I said “SHERIFF” because he is the one responsible for the actions of his Deputies.

  • Joe Lyons

    It appears that someone has forgotten that we are here to protect the public, whether it is fire or police, that should be priority one. I would think that sending a patrol unit before dispatching fire and delaying service would be a slam dunk law suit against that sheriff’s dept.

  • Lt.

    The Fire Department in Leadville is the only one. There is a Police Department and a Sheriff’s Department. There is a City Street Department and a County Road and Bridge Department. One staffed Engine for 400 square miles, maybe the S.O. should look at combining other agencies in order to bump up the staffing of the Engine??? If the Deputy has all these years of medical training, why did he withhold patient care? If this is the S.O.’s idea of better service, I am frightened for the citizens of Lake County!

  • calvie5551

    the sheriff is an ass

  • Paul

    He sounds like Bufus T Justice to me.

  • Ian

    The first time these stupid deputies get a taste of real fire, they’re going to run like little bitches!!! Let the pros do the firefighting and the deputies get crowd and traffic control. Sheriff “do it all” needs to step off! Period!

  • Anonymous

    FF Paramedic here in TX never had a problem with PD they back us we back them, we back each other in politics to the job, brotherhood, something Leadville should learn, I feel sorry for their citizens.

  • ROC

    It gets better if read a little bit more people. Jeff Foley wants to run a fire department running Type 6 brush trucks to first due structure fires. A Type 6 Brush truck isn’t even made to fight structure fires and would be of no help to anyone in Lake County who’s house catches on fire. To make matters worse the arresting officer Steve James has been fired as a Volunteer Firefighter and he is who Jeff Foley has training his Sheriff officers to be be Firefighters.
    So don’t get sick or hurt in Lake County, and if your house catches on fire pull out some hot dogs and have a BBQ because Sheriff won’t be able to put out the fire anyway.

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  • Mountain Man

    Now a deputy with the same Lake County Sheriff Department tased 30 students at a High School Career Fair. Wonder who they would have called had one of them had an underlying heart condition?
    Another reason why the Lake County Sheriff Dept doesn’t have the medical/EMS knowledge to take over the Fire Dept.

  • GA

    For a really good explanation of why the hermaphrodite position of public safety officer is such a bad idea, check out the IAFF/IAFC document, found on the bottom right corner of the IAFF website, “Police and Fire Consolidation: An Ineffective Use of Resources”. Besides wearing the same color uniform, the two jobs are quite dissimilar and no one can train for and perform both jobs well. The typical result of PSOs is a degradation of the delivery of fire services and greater risk to the firefighters and the people we respond to.