Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

It happens every time. About as soon as the sheriff’s department has the hyperventilating under control and the tears are reduced to chalky streaks on the cheeks, along comes the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to stage another sting operation in Aspen without Pitkin County’s finest invited to co-host the event held on their own turf.

It happened again two weeks ago when five gray-haired county residents were nabbed for allegedly smuggling more than 500 pounds of cocaine into the Aspen area for locals to enjoy in the live-and-let live atmosphere that we are self-righteously determined to maintain. After all, nobody gets hurt in consuming that piddling amount of blow. It amounts to less than 28 grams for every man, woman, and child residing in Aspen.

Besides, if the stupid world would just follow our lead, then the ruthless drug cartels in Mexico and Los Angeles – slitting each others’ throats before shipping the stuff up here – would be federally regulated, taxed, and their stock options performing well enough to keep things amicable. Because it could be so copacetic we needn’t feel culpable in nor accept any responsibility for the killing, thieving, maiming and such going-on as it is now because we are against that sort of thing in principle, we abhor city life, and we are unlikely to lunch with an actual gang member anyway.

And so we are miffed when the DEA storms our town under the cover of dark, apprehends the drug dealers, and has them locked up before our sheriff hears so much as a rumor about it. Harumpff! See if we invite them to our next bike rodeo!

It’s not like the DEA didn’t want to invite the sheriff, though. When this sort of sting happens in surrounding counties there’s enough radio chatter, chalkboard diagramming, and doughnut-fragment-spitting pep talking for everyone to be satisfactorily involved. I am sure the DEA would love to have our sheriff on board, too, but a long time ago our man with the star said we wanted nothing to do with the DEA’s ways and told them to lose our hotline number. We have chosen to stay out of the war on drugs and the DEA’s primary purpose is to fight it. There is no possibility for simpatico.

In the incident two weeks ago the DEA claimed that they were worried the operation might have been compromised because several of the suspected pushers had “close ties” to Sheriff Joe DiSalvo’s election campaign. The sheriff defended himself by saying Aspen is a small town and those connections, such as at least two of the defendants contributing to DiSalvo’s campaign last year, mean nothing.

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I don’t think the drug dealers would agree. Think about it: You have a sheriff’s department that is “open-minded” about drug use and you have suspected drug dealers supporting (with drug money, maybe?) the sheriff’s election campaign. That’s not exactly the pushers giving the sheriff a no-confidence vote. When it comes down to it, we all vote with our pocketbooks.

But, you say, the buzz-cut DEA wonks don’t know what’s going on in this little town like the local sheriff does. Shouldn’t they defer to his intimate knowledge of his constituents? Well, let me point out one thing on that note: The DEA knew that a group of long-time locals smuggled more than $15 million worth of coke into our town. Apparently the sheriff didn’t.

Then again, the sheriff’s department says, for the safety of their own officers the DEA should let us know when they have an operation going on here so that we don’t accidentally shoot one of them if we spot them toting weapons through the scrub oak and us not being aware that they are the good guys, albeit in the lower echelon of the group.

And you guessed it: I have a problem with that claim, too. If the sheriff’s department wants to live idealistically removed from the real world of law enforcement, then they must accept the higher level of responsibility not to pull the trigger so quickly in such an instance. It is one of the appurtenant costs of doing things differently from everyone else. And yes, being slower to pull the trigger could potentially put the citizens of this town in greater danger at some point like when the next crazed nut shows up threatening to blow downtown Aspen to smithereens on New Year’s Eve and the Pitkin County sheriff isn’t sure whether the person is an undercover DEA agent and holds fire as the fuses are lit.

Notice that this is not an indictment on the sheriff’s drug policy. It has nothing to do with whether the policy is good or utterly horrific, thoughtful or completely idiotic, effective or incurably impotent. Whatever, it is a snub to everyone else who does it the other way. So, it is important for the sheriff’s department to remember that before you can be in the huddle you have to get on the team, and if your unique world-view ends up causing myopia you’ll just have to stumble around with hands out in front.

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