RIO GRANDE COUNTY — Rio Grande County Sheriff Don McDonald officially announced on Saturday, Dec. 11, that he would be running for re-election in 2022 with Undersheriff Chris Crown. The once-opposing sheriffs have spent the last year working closely together for the betterment of Rio Grande County and with their aligned passions have formed a team effort to get McDonald re-elected.
“We were once two different sheriffs from two different counties but, after a while, we realized that our common goals could be used to the betterment of the Valley and Rio Grande County," McDonald said. "So once Chris was hired as my undersheriff, we became a united front and would like to continue our service to the community for another term.”
McDonald has spent the past three years working to bring the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Department into the 21st century with improvements that have included both equipment upgrades and training with non-lethal personal protection devices.
“When we sat down and looked back over what we have accomplished, we knew that we had to continue the forward momentum we have gained in the last three years because we know that we can accomplish so much more,” said McDonald. “Our goal has always been to improve whether it is training, equipment or even community communication.”
For instance, McDonald has spent considerable time and effort to find funding to purchase new equipment for the department. In March of 2020, law enforcement officials from around the San Luis Valley were invited by the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Department to hear a presentation on the BOLA Wrap, a new device that is making headlines across the world within the law enforcement community. The BOLA Wrap is a device that is hands-on and is used in a similar way to a taser while decreasing the potential for injury.
Another useful device that has been used by the department is the new drone.
“We have used the drone for many purposes including one where we were able to secure a person who was having a mental break and needed our help. It kept my deputies out of harm's way and kept the person of interest from further injury,” McDonald said.
McDonald and Crown have also focused on the health and mental wellbeing of inmates at the county jail by implementing a new nursing system and hiring a jail nurse.
“Even though inmates are there for wrongdoing their health and mental wellbeing is always a priority of ours," McDonald said. "We have new equipment and a nurse that can help with those things. It’s important to us.”
McDonald has also continued efforts to keep the current jail facility up to code, even though the task has proved to be difficult.
“The facility is just old," he said. "The building needs so much repair but we are doing what we can with what we have. I promise to continue efforts to get a new facility in the future if I am elected.”
McDonald was also one of the first in the Valley to implement the new camera requirements from the unfunded mandate that was contained in Senate Bill 217 that passed last year. McDonald secured funding for the purchase of cameras for his deputies and other required personnel.
“We are set as far as that goes and we have also improved our storage capabilities and our evidence room," McDonald said. "It was a lot of work, but the results have been great."