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Cops and Community

Aspen Times Staff

For years, the Roaring Fork Valley has been divided about law enforcement. From the 1970s, when Pitkin County Sheriff Dick Kienast ushered in a new style of policing in the upper valley, Aspen has rejected the crew-cut police model for a more liberal, “peacekeeping” style. Kienast’s department became known as “Dick Dove and the Deputies of Love,” and subsequent upper-valley cops have adhered to his policing philosophy.

Downvalley, it has been a different picture, more akin to small-town Western Colorado. Police have generally presented a more traditional and stern face to the public. At times, this approach has included speed traps, undercover stings and other tactics that, while normal elsewhere, are considered heavy-handed in Aspen.

In recent years, upvalley departments have opted out of the regional Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, or TRIDENT, saying they don’t support the undercover tactics often used by the agency. Garfield County, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, however, continue to participate in TRIDENT.TRIDENT and other issues came to a head in the recent Republican primary campaign for the district attorney of the 9th Judicial District, in which Deputy District Attorney Lawson Wills lost to Colleen Truden, an attorney and municipal judge. Garfield County resident Truden supported TRIDENT, while Pitkin County resident Wills was seen as more of a TRIDENT critic.

The midvalley communities of Basalt and Carbondale are caught in the middle of this philosophical tug-of-war. To better understand the division, and the challenges of police work, we asked reporters to look at the police departments in each town.

Under Chief Keith Ikeda, a former Aspen cop, Basalt recently switched its policing methods to look more like Aspen’s. Carbondale, under longtime Chief Gene Schilling, has held to a more traditional model, but is just now entering a soul-searching phase in which both citizens and town officials are asking “What kind of police force do we want?”At this point, the answer to that question is far from clear.


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