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Boulder sheriff's commander passes torch to wife

Published August 26, 2008 at 12:05 a.m.

The chief of Boulder County's drug task force is retiring - and stepping up to take over his commander's rank is his wife.

Steve Prentup, 55, began his career as a police dispatcher in 1976, and, as he cleaned out his office Monday, he recalled the highlights of his 31-year career with Boulder County law enforcement.

Those include rescuing a woman from a house fire when he was a rookie patrol officer, the closure of homicide investigations he worked on in the late 1980s, and meeting his wife, Heidi Prentup, who started working for the sheriff's office in 1989.

Heidi Prentup, now a sergeant, will become the first woman in the history of the sheriff's office to be promoted to the rank of commander. Her promotion fills the vacancy created by her husband's retirement. Her first assignment will be as a patrol commander.

The sheriff's office held a joint retirement and promotion party for the Prentups Monday.

There are nine commanders in the sheriff's office, with five at the jail, said sheriff's Cmdr. Phil West. Cmdr. Tommy Sloan will move from a night-shift patrol role to head the drug task force, West said.

Steve Prentup has led the Boulder County Drug Task Force for the past 51/2 years. During his tenure, the division shut down several methamphetamine labs and rings, and a massive drug dragnet in Boulder County in 2004 netted 49 arrests and $1.6 million in cash.

The seven-month "Operation Flytrap" investigated the large drug-dealing organization, and undercover agents seized cocaine, crack, crystal meth, heroin, marijuana and other drugs.

Steve Prentup said he expects that mitigating meth in the county, and securing funding for the task force, will be among priorities inherited by his successor.

As he embarks into retirement, Prentup said he is impressed with the emerging leaders in the sheriff's office, including his wife.

"I think that she's way more talented than I am," he said. "She's nine years younger than I am. She's up-and-coming. I've always considered her to be a pioneer in law enforcement."

Heidi Prentup's law enforcement career began when she was a Fairview High School student working in the sheriff's office cadet program. She graduated from Creighton University in Omaha and worked for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office for two years before returning to Boulder.

During her career, she has served as a patrol deputy, hostage negotiator for the SWAT team, a family crimes and sexual assault detective, and patrol sergeant. She also earned a master's degree in management from Regis University.

Heidi Prentup said she appreciates sheriff's office administrators for valuing the differences that women can bring to top posts, and she hopes that becoming the first woman in a Boulder County sheriff's commander post will encourage other women in the department.

"I think everybody has the idea that women have to work harder than men to get promoted," Prentup said. "I think that's typical, especially in a male-dominated profession. I could never do my job like a man does it. I'm not a man.

"But I think the administration values the differences in people, and what a female can bring."

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