Cop claims crime victims lost in shuffle
Two e-mail messages circulated by local government employees have sparked debate – perhaps unintentionally – over community sympathies after the arrest of five young Aspen men for an armed robbery and burglary.
The debate started Tuesday after city-county environmental health officer Lee Cassin sent a message urging employees to come by the city manager’s office to write a note of encouragement to Mayor Rachel Richards. The mayor’s 18-year-old son, Jacob, is being held in connection with the crimes.
A second e-mail immediately followed from Aspen Police Officer Brian Heeney, who said he was posting a clipboard for people to sign in support for victims of this summer’s three armed robberies in Aspen and Snowmass Village.
The connection of Heeney’s message to Cassin’s, and some blunt wording in Heeney’s e-mail “ruffled some feathers,” said Aspen Police Chief Tom Stephenson.
“I think some employees, from what I was told, were upset by that e-mail message,” said Stephenson. “There were others who said the point was well taken.”
Some readers assumed Heeney meant the victims deserved sympathy, but not the families of the suspects. Heeney said that wasn’t the case.
“What I am suggesting is we shouldn’t forget these other folks [the victims],” Heeney said. “I saw them. I saw how they were shaking.”
Heeney’s e-mail started off, “I’m sure everyone by now is aware of what the victims went through during these incidents. Some of them are having a difficult time of it, as they were told at gunpoint that their lives were worth less than the cash in their registers.”
Heeney said that blunt wording offended some people.
“What I’ve been hearing is the wording was harsh,” he said. “These were harsh actions.”
Stephenson confirmed he had a private conversation with Heeney about his wording in the e-mail. Neither man would discuss the results of that conversation.
When asked if it included a reprimand, Stephenson replied, “I’m not allowed to speak on personnel issues.”
The police chief made it clear that he supported Heeney’s efforts to show support for the victims of the robberies. Stephenson also said the parents of the suspects, their families and even the community at large were also victimized.
Heeney didn’t deny that his e-mail was meant to stir debate.
“I’ve noticed a conspicuous absence of sympathy for the victims,” he said.
He hopes to change that. People are urged to sign their names or write a note of encouragement to the robbery victims on clipboard at the office of the Aspen Police Department. It will be available for about a week, then Heeney will give copies to the victims.
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