City to discuss handling of drug raid
Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick has called a special work session to discuss the way police handled a recent downtown drug bust.While members of the Aspen City Council have expressed no serious problems with the raid, Barwick on Tuesday said he called for the Jan. 17 work session because “I think there’s some legitimate public policy issues that need to be discussed.”One issue, he said, is whether the “drug enforcement stance of the city of Aspen” is the proper one – “Is what we’re doing appropriate?”The other main topic, he said, will be arrest procedures.”As was brought up by the sheriff, do you have to arrest people in this fashion?” Barwick said, referring to statements by Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, who publicly criticized Police Chief Loren Ryerson for not informing the sheriff’s office about the raids in advance and wondered about the wisdom of some of the tactics the operation itself employed.A force of more than 50 law enforcement officials, including Aspen and Snowmass Village police officers working in concert with several state and federal law enforcement agencies, raided Cooper Street Pier and Little Annie’s Eating House in downtown Aspen at 4:15 on Dec. 2.Authorities arrested nine individuals on drug and other charges, plus an additional 11 accused of violating national immigration laws. There are still two arrest warrants outstanding from the seven-month investigation that led to the raids. The sweep also included searches of four residences in the upper valley.Asked if any particular concerns lie behind the decision to hold the work session, Barwick paused a moment and said, “This incident, this case, brings up some interesting public policy issues. Nothing more than that.”Council members have essentially supported the police department but have said there are some issues that need to be addressed.”I am concerned with the process of how it went down,” said Councilman Torre. He said he has no problem with police enforcing drug laws, but “there are some interesting questions about how the Aspen Police Department handled this.”Another council member, former district judge J.E. DeVilbiss, said he had “no particular problem” with the handling of the operation.But he said he might have greater concerns if the officers “stormed” into the restaurants with guns drawn, as some witnesses have alleged.John Colson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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