Boulder County Sheriff candidate Rex Laceby wants to reshape the sheriff’s office into one that emphasizes training, transparency and takes on the growing demands brought on by climate change.
The Marshall fire is a prime example of how the sheriff must act as a collaborator with other firefighting and emergency agencies to handle the growing threat of wildfires, fueled by a changing climate, the 47-year-old Laceby said.
“Right now we are starting to face why fires in California are so wicked,” said Laceby, a former Marine and currently a technical rescue volunteer with the Boulder Emergency Squad. “We are seeing the same challenges of high winds, and dry forests. We have to be ready to handle that now, to build the type of resilient community that can withstand just about any challenge.”
Incumbent Joe Pelle is retiring in 2023. Boulder County Division Chief Curtis Johnson and Louisville Police Chief Dave Hayes are also running for the sheriff’s job. Both Johnson and Hayes lost their homes in the Marshall fire.
Laceby is currently not in law enforcement but is a retired, decorated, prior-enlisted Marine Corps officer who served for over two decades in active duty, he said in his news release announcing his candidacy.
Laceby operated in Iraq, Afghanistan and South America, and deployed on several Marine Expeditionary Units, conducting operations in Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. As a U.S. Marine officer, Laceby helped lead several humanitarian and disaster relief operations in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Japan, according to his news release.
Laceby responded to the Marshall fire as a wildland firefighter, and he and his team risked their lives evacuating residents in the path of the fire, wrangling horses to provide them them safe relocation and conducting critical structure protection for the first two days of the most destructive fire in Colorado history, the news release states.
“That fire was a monster, I have never seen anything like it,” said Laceby. The magnitude of the fire bolstered his belief that currently the sheriff’s office is unprepared to handle a future where Marshall-type fires will be more commonplace.
Laceby wants the sheriff’s office to work with fire districts and municipalities to coordinate training and response times, adding the days of seasonal firefighters are over. He also wants the office to use the latest in fire detection equipment that can quickly spot hot spots and get to them more quickly.
The same technology can also pinpoint weapons and the descriptions of shooting suspects.
“The next fire is coming and the crime rate is getting out of hand so we need to be better prepared and ready to respond,” Laceby said.
Besides being a wildland firefighter, Lacey is a public safety diver, swift-water rescue technician, and ice rescue trainer, the news release states. He has conducted numerous emergency calls supporting the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and other mutual aid partners that make up Boulder County’s first-response umbrella, the news release states.
Laceby, a Democrat, said as sheriff, he would conduct intensive training of prospective deputies in real-time simulations of the type of situations they would face on the street. “If you get shot at, over and over again (while in training) you know what to do out in the field,” he said.
“There are more innovative ways to train your deputies,” Laceby said. “We want them to be the most respected, highly-trained deputies in the state. I think I can do that as sheriff, I can lead that effort.”