Former Adams County Sheriff and deputies charged with falsifying training records

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Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Adams County Sheriff Rick Reigenborn outside his office on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Reigenborn has served at the helm of the $100 million agency with 600 staffers and a 1,600 capacity jail since 2019. His tenure was marked with controversy, from walking a handful of senior leaders out of the office on his first day to a decision to embark on a contract with the Fox show “COPS” to a criminal investigation into the top levels at the office about training records. Gene Claps, a former commander in the jail and one of the people Reigenborn locked out of the building in 2019, beat him during the election by more than 4,000 votes

Former Adams County Sheriff Rick Reigenborn and two of his top deputies were each charged with four felonies on Wednesday for years of falsifying training records and attempting to influence public servants by creating phony records of online and live training they never completed.

The state attorney general’s office filed the cases in Denver District Court after the Colorado Bureau of Investigation spent more than a year investigating training records and correspondence of the former sheriff, his former undersheriff Tommy McLallen and the former head of training in Adams County, Mickey Bethel.

They are all three charged with felony counts of forgery, attempt to influence a public servant, conspiracy to commit forgery, and conspiracy to attempt to influence a public servant. 

The three “are accused of signing various training rosters for classes they did not attend and/or submitting training certificates to Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) in an attempt to count these fictitious trainings towards their 2021 mandatory annual training hours,” according to a press release from the Colorado Attorney General’s office. 

Officers are required to complete 24 hours of annual training, including 12 hours of perishable skills for arrest control, driving and firearms.

“A foundation of effective policing is reliable and sound training. Well-trained officers build community trust and confidence in law enforcement. We’ll continue to take seriously any allegation of efforts to disregard state-mandated training or submit fraudulent training records to POST,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, in a statement.

Reigenborn led the Adams County Sheriff’s Office from 2018 to 2022. He lost his re-election last year after CPR News reported that his office was under a state criminal investigation.

An affidavit filed in the cases said that the case began in December of 2021 when Bethel signed into a police training account in order to complete mandated training hours McLallen had not yet fulfilled. Adams Sheriff’s Office Commander James Hinrichs notified POST of the breach, and an investigation was opened soon after. 

“Commander Hinrichs told investigators that on 12/14/2021, Bethel had McLallen's PoliceOne password and asked Commander Hinrichs for help logging into PoliceOne in McLallen's name. Bethel later told Commander Hinrichs that Bethel accessed the account because McLallen was 4.5 hours short on his required perishable skills training,” according to Bethel’s arrest affidavit.

Later, according to the affidavit, an administrative assistant told Hinrichs, “that she knew she was entering the certificates for McLallen but that Bethel completed the training to print the certificates.”

The assistant “was scared about entering this information but Bethel told her to do it.”

The arrest affidavits paint a pretty loose picture of who keeps track of the actual records within the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. One supervisor told investigators that the rosters for who attends required training “float around” before being submitted to the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training board.

Investigators say that Reigenborn got credit for arrest control and driving training on June 9, 2021 but that his keycard showed him swiping into the main sheriff’s headquarters instead, even though he had the training on his public calendar. 

That same day, McLallen’s public calendar showed a doctor appointment at the same time he logged in his arrest control and driving hours. Several people who took the training that day told officials they do not recall seeing the undersheriff, the sheriff or the director of training at the facility that day.

McLallen, whose relationship with Bethel and Reigenborn went back years, told the sheriff at the time that it was a “misunderstanding.”

Sgt. JD Cordova, who worked at the agency’s training facility told state investigators that over the course of four years Reigenborn, McLallen and Bethel had repeatedly falsified documents and claimed they were in training that they did not attend. 

Cordova told investigators this had been going on for four years, but he let it go for the purposes of getting his own promotion, but he did flag people in an inside system for whistleblowing, he told investigators.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Medallions in a display case outside the office of Adams County Sheriff Rick Reigenborn, Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

From there, investigators set out to meticulously document whether Reigenborn and McLallen were actually present and working at times when their records showed them completing mandatory training. Reigenborn’s own deputies provided the information needed to file charges in the case.

Investigators said that Cordova admitted he couldn’t remember some details exactly, “but he recalled multiple occasions when he was told, usually by Bethel, to get training rosters or Firearms Training Records (forms used by the A.C.S.O. Firearms Unit to track Firearms training) for them (Reigenborn, McLallen, and Bethel) to sign that they did not attend,” according to the affidavit.

Later, in Jan. 2022, Bethel and other Adams County Sheriff’s personnel attended a trade show in Las Vegas. One of the deputies recalled riding an escalator with Bethel, and Bethel said “I think I f----d up."

“Bethel went on to say that McLallen was in the Northwestern course and did not complete his Rule 28-required training hours, so Bethel got McLallen's user name and password, logged into Bethel's computer at Flatrock, did the online PoliceOne training for McLallen, and then gave McLallen the certificates,” according to the affidavit.

In an interview last year, Reigenborn said he wasn’t implicated in the scheme. He said that he fulfilled all his required training hours “because they’re so easy to get.”

Reigenborn said he felt “completely betrayed” by his two top deputies falsifying information.

The state’s officer certification database says that McLallen and Bethel both “retired while under investigation” last year.

McLallen never responded to CPR News for comment. Bethel said his certification to be a licensed peace officer was of “no need” to him anymore because he had permanently retired from law enforcement.

Reigenborn said that McLallen told him it was a “misunderstanding,” but Reigenborn said it was more than that.

“Completely betrayed,” Reigenborn told CPR News last year. “Especially because those training hours are so easy to get.”

Reigenborn told CPR he knew who the whistleblower was, and asked the whistleblower if he, Reigenborn, was part of the investigation into falsifying training records.

“I asked him, are you implicating that I did something wrong?” Reigenborn recalled to CPR. “And he said, ‘No not at all, those two did.’ He told me that I’m not implicated in it.”

Reigenborn spent his career as a deputy in the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, starting in 1991. He mostly worked patrol, and struggled to rise into leadership positions. He left Adams County after losing the 2014 election for sheriff to Mike McIntosh, a Republican. But Reigenborn staged a comeback, and four years later beat McIntosh in the 2018 election.

CPR News’s investigation last year found the Adams County Sheriff’s Office beset by turmoil, starting soon after Reigenborn was elected sheriff in 2018. Reigenborn viewed the previous leadership in the office as loyal to his opponent. He locked them out of the office and eventually replaced some of them with officers with checkered pasts, including previous arrests and firings at past agencies.

A group of the senior officers that Reigenborn pushed out filed a federal lawsuit against Reigenborn and the county for constitutional violations. The case has not yet been resolved, and is on appeal. 

In June, state officials threatened to shut down the Adams County sheriff’s training facility over an “unprofessional and dangerous” culture that’s led to significant injuries, including shooting a cadet three dozen times in the legs with non-lethal projectiles in one exercise. Complaints dated back to Reigenborn’s tenure.

The Adams County Sheriff's Office is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in Colorado, made up of more than 400 sworn deputies, a 1,600-person capacity jail, and a budget of about $100 million.

It's rare for top law enforcement officials to face criminal charges in Colorado. One of the few cases occurred back in 2011, when former Arapahoe County Sheriff Patrick Sullivan was arrested for trafficking methamphetamine, almost 12 years after leaving office. Sullivan had been named  "Sheriff of the Year." by the National Sheriffs’ Association in 2001.