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Justin Smith (Colorado sheriff)

Justin Eugene Smith
28th Sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado
Assumed office
January 2011
Preceded by James Alan "Jim" Alderden
Personal details
Born 1968
City missing, Kansas, USA
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Anne Caroline Smith
Children Two sons
Parents Larry Lynn and Priscilla Sue Smith
Residence Fort Collins, Colorado
Alma mater

McPherson High School
Wichita State University
University of Colorado

FBI National Academy
Occupation Law-enforcement officer

Justin Eugene Smith (born 1968) is the Republican sheriff of Larimer County in Fort Collins, Colorado. Elected in 2010 and 2014, he is particularly known for his support for the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and his opposition to the amnesty policies for illegal immigrants pursued by the administration of U.S. President Barack H. Obama.


A native of rural Kansas,[1] Smith graduated in 1985 from McPherson High School in McPherson in McPherson County in central Kansas.[2]

Smith holds bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice from Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. He came to Colorado in 1986 to work that summer in a YMCA camp tending to the livery stables and developed a fondness for his adopted state.[3] Right out of college, joined the Larimer County Sheriff's Department in 1991. He was initially assigned to Estes Park, the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park. He was promoted to major in 2003. He also graduated from the FBI National Academy, the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar, and the National Sheriffs Institute. He has been an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and has participated in many law enforcement leadership training programs over the years. His wife, Anne Caroline Smith (born c. 1966), is a former 911 dispatcher.[1] The couple has two young adult sons and reside in Fort Collins, after long-term previous residence in Estes Park. The county encompasses 2,610 square miles, with 300,000 residents, including besides Fort Collins another major population center in Loveland.[4]

Law-enforcement career

In the 2010 Republican primary to nominate a successor to Larimer County Sheriff James Alan "Jim" Alderden (born 1951), also of Fort Collins, Smith, with support from his party hierarchy, defeated Carl Bruning, backed by the Tea Party movement. Smith said that he felt fortunate to prevail because of opposition to established candidates that surfaced nationwide during 2010.[5]

In his tenure as sheriff, Smith has faced both forest fires and flooding. In 2012, he came under criticism from restricting media coverage of the High Park fire west of Fort Collins out of respect for the homeowners whose residences were burned to the ground. Colorado law places the sheriff in charge of fires on state and private land in unincorporated areas if the fire is greater than the ability of a single fire department to bring it under control.[6]

In February 2014, Sheriff Smith questioned Mark Eversole, the principal of Fort Collins High School, who forbade students from holding a celebration of American patriotism. Smith appeared in 12-degree weather outside the school and held up an American flag in support of the students. "Whoever would have thought that American teenagers would be treated as second-class citizens in their own country?" Smith asked. Eversole quickly apologized and announced the next week that his school would hold "America Day."[7]

In June 2014, Smith traveled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to assist with a police training mission. Smith said that his trip to the Middle East cause him to look "at the world from such a different set of eyes [which] certainly provided me valuable insights into my duties as a sheriff; ones that I hadn’t seen as clearly as before the trip. I appreciate the rights that have been secured for us even more now and recognize, even more clearly, my responsibility to protect those rights for my community."[8]

Smith was unopposed for a second term as sheriff in the general election held on November 4, 2014. Larimer County voters, moreover, in the same election made Smith's job easier. They approved a 0.15 percent sales tax to fund a portion of the costs of the county jail. After three earlier defeats of the measure, the vote was not even close, 70-30 percent, a margin Smith attributed to citizen support for law enforcement in the county.[9]

In December 2014, Smith sent a letter to his deputies regarding the murder of two New York Police Department officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, of the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn, New York City:

A small group of committed societal agitators works endlessly behind the scenes to sow seeds of distrust and hatred between communities and their police officers. Their ultimate goal is to break down the bonds that hold us together as Americans and to destroy the rule of law as we know it. Oftentimes, they do this under the mantra of promoting social justice....
Yesterday's murder of these two officers represents a symbol of their [agitators]' success. However, it's critical to this group that these events result in police officers, in turn, adopting an adversarial attitude towards the communities they serve. ...
[We must] commit to keeping our communities, our brother and sister officers, and ourselves safe, while continuing to be the public servants that we committed to be when we raised our right hands and took the oath of office.[10]

In February 2015, Smith challenged Secretary Jeh Johnson of the United States Department of Homeland Security, who in a letter to law enforcement leaders nationwide threatened cuts in federal funding if the U.S. Congress fails to fund President Obama's amnesty program beyond the deadline of February 27. Smith remarked, "Let me get this straight - the president believes he has the authority to nullify federal laws that don't serve his personal agenda, but if Congress dares to exercise it's responsibility of controlling the purse strings, he will willingly hold public safety grants hostage just to get his way?"[11]

Smith accused Secretary Johnson of trying to “pull the [police] chiefs and sheriffs” in the middle of a conflict between Congress and the White House. Items that could be eliminated if the amnesty program is blocked are salaries for emergency personnel, oxygen masks and tanks for firefighters in Denver, and jobs of firefighters in Detroit. Sheriff Smith said that he has avoided accepting federal grants to avoid dependence on the national government. He termed Johnson’s message an “act of desperation” from the Obama administration. In the summer of 2014, Smith visited the Mexican border and observed unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States. Smith claims that the amnesty policy could make “every county a border county.”[12]

Smith opposes federal universal background checks on gun sales and has vowed to challenge in court those restrictions which he considers a violation of Second Amendment rights. Smith is at odds with both President Obama and Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, both Democrats who have both expressed support for background checks when guns are sold from one individual to another, which is not yet required under state and federal law. "There is no law; there’s a proposal. I’m pointing out the holes in it. Let’s see what happens," Smith said when asked if he would enforce such a law in Larimer County.[13]

More than any of the other sixty-three sheriffs in Colorado, Smith uses Facebook to disseminate his ideas on matters relating to local, state, and national concerns. He also publicizes crimes, particularly those that his department solves. He has seven thousand followers on the social medium, considered a large number. Smith said that he rarely goes out in public "when I don’t get feedback from folks. ... [Facebook] is an interesting tool because I think it holds candidates and elected officials more accountable. [Voters] know where someone stands."[14]


  1. ^ a b "Justin Smith for Sheriff". Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Justin Smith in the U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012". Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  3. ^ Juley Harvey (April 6, 2011). "Meet the sheriff-- Justin Smith addresses the Kiwanis". Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Justin Smith Sheriff". Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  5. ^ Nate Taylor (August 11, 2010). "Smith takes GOP nomination for sheriff".  
  6. ^ Bill Gabbert (June 20, 2012). "Colorado Sheriff Justin Smith continues to restrict media coverage of High Park fire". Wildfire Today. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  7. ^ Todd Starnes (February 4, 2014). "Administrators reverse ban on American celebration at high school".  
  8. ^ Todd Harding (June 10, 2014). "Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith Shares His Thoughts About His Visit to Abu Dhabi". K99. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  9. ^ Erin Udell (November 5, 2014). "Larimer County jail tax passes". The Fort Collins Coloradoan. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Larimer County Sheriff Pens Letter Following Murder of NYC officers".  
  11. ^ "Larimer Sheriff Justin Smith calls Homeland Security letter a veiled threat over immigration, budget". Denver Channel 7 (ABC). February 5, 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  12. ^ Melissa Quinn. "'"County Sheriffs Push Back Against Homeland Security’s ‘Not-So Veiled Threat. The Daily Signal. Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  13. ^ Patrick Malone (January 17, 2013). "Sheriff decries Obama gun proposals: Smith says he won't enforce 'unconstitutional' laws in a social media message criticizing universal background checks". The Fort Collins Coloradoan. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  14. ^ Jason Pohl (July 6, 2014). "Is Justin Smith Colorado's most social sheriff?". The Fort Collins Coloradoan. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
Preceded by
James Alan "Jim" Alderden
Sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado

Justin Eugene Smith.

Succeeded by
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