Election Day ’22: Sheriff’s candidates in their own words: DiSalvo, Day 2
Today’s question: When it comes to law enforcement in Pitkin County, what’s the one thing (or two or three) that keeps you up at night?
1. The loss of a deputy in the line of duty; 2. A deputy taking a life in the line of duty; 3. Losing an inmate while in my custody; 4. Wildfire
I’m grateful that in the history of this office, we’ve never lost a deputy in the line of duty. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about taking a life. In September 2001, three deputies were confronted by a man with a high-powered rifle. I was serving as Bob Braudis’ undersheriff at the time. The three deputies took fire at a home on McLain Flats Road. The deputies returned fire, killing the man. The shooting was investigated and was deemed justified. The toll on the deputies involved was great, and it affected the whole staff, including Sheriff Braudis and me. Taking a life, even when it’s deemed justified, is a heavy burden that affects everyone involved.
Regrettably, in the last 30 years we’ve lost two inmates, while in Pitkin County custody. One was under Sheriff Braudis and one was under my administration. Both people had mental illnesses, were in jail for minor offenses and were in no danger of going to prison. Staff shortages and a facility that is no longer adequate added to a tragic result. Per statute, the sheriff is responsible for the care and safety of inmates. When somebody takes their own life while in custody, the sheriff bears the sole responsibility. We need to make our jail safe, and take measures to prevent future in-custody deaths.
In 2018 the Lake Christine Fire destroyed over 12,000 acres and several homes. Luckily not one life was lost. Wildfire continues to be a concern for me and for Pitkin County; we’ve seen these fires destroy entire towns and cost many lives. Fall is our high-risk fire period. The Pitkin County Incident Management Team has been working relentlessly with local and state fire professionals to ensure that we are properly prepared in the event of a wildfire. We as a community also need to be proactive and prepare for a wildfire event by mitigating our properties and heeding evacuation orders from local, state and federal officials — when issued. Fire danger is real. I am fully confident that the Pitkin County Management Team can initially manage the response to a wildfire. Our working relationship with state and federal agencies assures Pitkin County will get the help it needs in the event of a wildfire or other natural disasters.