Basalt’s new top cop talks philosophy | AspenTimes.com

Basalt’s new top cop talks philosophy

Roderick O'Connor

BASALT – The Basalt town government plans to make a smooth transition when Police Chief Keith Ikeda steps down Sept. 11 and Sgt. Roderick O’Connor takes the helm.

Ikeda and other colleagues essentially selected O’Connor, who has been with the department for three years, to be the next top cop. Ikeda, who became police chief in June 2001, announced a year ago that he planned to step down within the next year, leaving plenty of time to groom a replacement.

Before he joined the Basalt Police Department, O’Connor was an Aspen police officer for eight years. O’Connor, 61, has been in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1979. He has done everything from working property management in Snowmass Village to retail in Aspen and traveling with Tom Crum, a master in conflict resolution, peak performance and stress management.

Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane selected O’Connor to be police chief. The Town Council endorsed the selection Tuesday night.

The Aspen Times posed questions to O’Connor in an e-mail interview Thursday on three big issues of the day in Basalt.

Aspen Times: Town Manager Bill Kane said you have a fundamental understanding of the town’s philosophy on policing. Provide a brief outline of your philosophy.

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O’Connor: My philosophy is based on community policing. We have a responsibility to the members of our community to treat them with dignity and respect. That is our prime directive. And I say “our community” because we are members of the community too.

It is important we interact daily in a positive way with everyone we meet. We are the town’s ambassadors. We connect with the public every day; local and tourist alike. I believe in conflict resolution and reconciliation. We strive to be peace officers. We are peaceful warriors. We keep the peace especially when people are having difficulty with others; perhaps they are having a challenging time with life, they are in conflict, or someone has committed a crime against them or others. We are here to protect and serve those in our community, and I take that very seriously.

I want people to feel safe and protected. I want people to get to know each member of the Basalt Police Department, and put a human face to the uniform.

AT: While Basalt hasn’t exactly experienced a crime wave, it’s had some high-profile incidents during the recession. 7-Eleven and Clark’s Market were victims of armed robberies late last year and earlier this year, respectively. Is Basalt safe?

O’Connor: My vision for the people of Basalt is for them to live in peace and prosperity. I believe we are safe.

The two robberies this past year were unfortunate. Many lives were affected. Two men were identified, arrested, convicted and placed in prison for these crimes. The victims have their path to recovery. In our investigation we found these crimes to be isolated incidents. These incidents were handled swiftly and decisively. Basalt is safe because of our presence in the community.

AT: There has been some scrutiny of the Basalt Police Department’s walk-through of bars and concentration on DUI patrol. What will your policy be on those issues?

O’Connor: In June 2009 we met with restaurant and bar owners to address our response to drinking and driving. Everyone present agreed that DUIs were a problem for Basalt’s image and the safety of our community. Together we chose to reduce the incidents of people drinking and driving, through a blend of education, enforcement and alternatives.

Here, I want to address the person who is wondering if we wait in ambush outside a bar or restaurant for drunken drivers. We don’t. If we were to see a person staggering toward their vehicle anywhere in town we would make contact with them before they entered their vehicle. We would find another way home for them.

We enter bars for many reasons. The town of Basalt manages the liquor license of each bar. We are the town’s eyes and ears going into the bar. We look for over-serving, intoxicated individuals, disorderly individuals and underage drinking. Those people draw our attention to them through their actions. We establish positive relations with bar owners, managers and bartenders, [that of] a mutually desired relationship. They come to know us and depend on us to keep their business a place where people want to return because it is safe.

scondon@aspentimes.com