By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Camp bristles at the suggestion that he peppered the department with old flames with limited experience in police operations, calling the claim "baloney." Of the three women, he says, he'd dated only Sunday. The other two are merely friends. "I hire people for their skills and ability to manage," says Camp. "That's what they're hired for. The trouble with cops is they think that if you ain't in patrol, you ain't a cop. If you ain't in vice, you ain't a cop. If you ain't in traffic, you ain't a cop."
Camp didn't have to listen to those same grumblings about his pick for division chief in the investigative division. Bill Shearer was a cop, a former captain with the Los Angeles Police Department and the former chief of police in the town of Montrose.
Camp and Shearer met more than 35 years ago at Camp Pendleton, California, where, as young Marines, they each served stints as military policemen. Their paths crossed again in the early Eighties at a police chief's convention in Steamboat Springs. "And we stayed in contact after that," remembers Shearer.
The two men say they were never exactly friends, and a love for policing is about the only thing they seem to have in common. Camp, a tall, burly man with a curly head of hair, is a record-holding power lifter. His hobbies, according to his resume, also include wrestling, arm wrestling, coin collecting and classical music. A father of six and stepfather of four, Camp was divorced for 22 years before tying the knot a few years back with his wife Ruth, who serves as a volunteer with his department's victims' advocate bureau.
The soft-spoken Shearer maintains a fondness for cowboy ways. He's partial to shirts with button-down, cowpoke pockets, and he lives with his wife, LuzMaria, on a small spread east of Brighton with room for their horse and mules to graze.
After leaving the Marines, Camp and Shearer both decided to stick with law enforcement. Camp found his calling in Colorado, and Shearer made a career with the LAPD, serving in numerous capacities before making captain and opting for an early retirement after twenty years of service. "Anyone who's lived in L.A. and who's not a native would understand," he says. "The year I left, 1980, the city had over 1,000 homicides. Proposition 13 had just been passed, and the department lost 600 officers in two years. I was spending three hours a day commuting, and then I learned there were plans to build 120 condo units next to my half-acre." It was clearly time to move on.
Shearer also felt he was ready to command his own troops, and applied for numerous police chief positions. He took the first post he was offered, becoming chief in Montrose in February 1981. It was a short and rocky tenure.
In early 1984 Shearer left for a three-month training stint at the FBI Academy. But when classes were over, he learned that he wasn't welcome back in his own office. While Shearer was away at the Academy, he says, "the city manager asked me to resign. He and I had major differences regarding the performance of different officers in the police department. His ideas were more politically expedient."
Bill Robinson, who was Montrose's city manager at the time, played things close to the vest with the local press at the time of Shearer's resignation, saying little more than that the chief's departure concerned "matters related to personnel practices within the department."
There was more to the story than that--as Camp would reveal with apparent relish years later. But at the time, Camp and Shearer were still friendly, if not quite friends. According to Shearer, after he resigned in Montrose, Camp suggested he hire on with the Longmont police department, which Camp then oversaw as the city's director of public safety. Shearer says he decided instead to accept a position as safety director for Denver's Tabor Center, which was then being built. And, he says, two years later, in the summer of 1986, when Camp was in the midst of his first sheriff's race, Camp "invited me to be division chief if he was successful."
Camp and Shearer agree on little nowadays and, not surprisingly, Camp has a different version of those job overtures. "I never offered him a job in Longmont," Camp says of Shearer. "I never remember offering to let him test." And it was Shearer who called him--not the other way around--looking for a job with the Camp administration in 1986, the sheriff says.
Camp has taken steps to improve morale in the department over the past eight years. "We got real uniforms for the deputies at the jail," says one deputy. Camp also improved training and brought the DARE program and other community-oriented programs to the department. On the downside, say several present and former employees, the sheriff continues to be known as a man with a hot temper--quick to believe rumors and still not averse to using the "sheriff's pleasure" statute to fire at will.
Camp describes those claims as campaign rhetoric. He fired only four people "at will," he says--and the others were fired for valid cause. "Let me tell you something," he says, warming to the issue. "You can't lie to me and work for me. You lie to me, I don't need you. You can't steal or cheat. That's unacceptable behavior."