Commander Gene Lillard, of the Montrose Police Dept., is asking voters’ permission to change jobs. The long-time lawman wants to trade his P.D shield in for the star-shaped badge of the sheriff of Montrose County.
Lillard and current undersheriff Adam Murdie are both running for the Republican nomination in the upcoming GOP primary election. As of this writing, Montrose County Democrats had not fielded a candidate for the position.
Lillard has wanted to be a sheriff for some time; this is his second attempt to get the nomination.
He began his law enforcement career as an intern with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office while he was a student at Ft. Lewis College, in Durango. His internship included everything from an undercover sting operation to standing guard over a homicide crime scene.
In 1976, Lillard joined the Montrose Police department as a patrolman. He worked his way up to become the second in command, under Chief Tom Chinn.
Along the way, Lillard also graduated from the FBI’s elite National Academy, in Quantico, Va.
The Monitor asked him what his top priorities would be as Montrose County sheriff. “I think it’s paramount that we protect our schools, and that we work with the school district to come up with a game plan to keep our children safe,” he said emphatically.
Lillard said that he’d like to increase the number of school resource officers as part of that plan; the county currently has just one deputy assigned to that duty, and the Montrose P.D. has two. “We train extensively, as far as active shooters go,” he explained. “We know what to do. As police officers, we will lay our lives on the line, and if we ever do have a shooter in our schools, we will go in and eliminate that threat, at all costs.”
The Monitor asked Lillard about additional school safety efforts. “Right now, we’re working with the school district for that very reason. It’s a collaborative effort of the whole community; we need to have the whole community involved.
“There are a lot of things that can be done, as far as making the high school more defensible,” he continued. “You could have one entrance and one exit, you could have cameras set up. Plus, you could have school resource officers—I think that is very important.”
What about high tech elements, such as bullet-proof doors, windows, and locks, plus facial identification or retinal scans to keep known bad guys out. “I think that’s something that the school district is absolutely looking in to. They’ve talked about having key cards, and having everybody swipe a card to get in. And, a camera system where they can view everybody who comes in.”
What about arming teachers? “I have mixed emotions about that. I’m not opposed to it, but the decision will have to come from the school district,” Lillard said. “I’m very pro-Second Amendment.” However, he believes the decision to be armed should be up to the school district and the individual teachers themselves. “They would need to be trained on a regular basis,” he emphasized. That training should include emotional preparation, “to realize that someday they might have to pull out their firearm to take a life.”
While school security is rightly getting a lot of attention, Lillard also remains deeply concerned about the county’s drug problems. He said that nearly all of the county’s serious crimes tie in to substance abuse, directly or indirectly. “It goes back to burglaries, vehicle break-ins, stolen cars, etc. People are just ripping people off beyond belief.
“I’d like to see more progressive, proactive drug enforcement.”
Lillard said that some of his other priorities as sheriff would include:
- Community policing, e.g. having deputies get to know more community members
- Improving the relationship and cooperation between the Sheriff’s Office and the Montrose P.D.
- Getting dispatch services back under one roof
- Having mental health clinicians accompany deputies on calls
- More training for deputies
Lillard will square off against Undersheriff Adam Murdie in the Republican primary on June 26.