FBI probe is unwarranted | AspenTimes.com

FBI probe is unwarranted

The years may pass in Aspen, but the “Summer of Hate” that Hunter S. Thompson wrote about in 1969 and 1970 seemingly has continued through more than four decades, albeit with the tables turned.

We’re referring to what looks like an FBI witch-hunt of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The current sheriff, Joe DiSalvo, and the department’s two leaders before him, Bob Braudis and Dick Kienast, generally have maintained a hands-off policy with regard to the war on drugs, preferring more positive solutions to the issues surrounding drug abuse. This never has sat well with the feds, who have been investigating the office off and on for many years without turning up anything significant.

It’s hardly news that the FBI has been looking into alleged wrongdoing within the department. But a recent wave of interviews, possibly with former employees, has stirred up matters once again. Federal agencies have been known to complain that the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t go out of its way to work with them on drug investigations. It’s a simple philosophical difference, but the feds don’t treat it as such, preferring to harass and cajole people along the course of their fishing expedition.

We can’t say the FBI is all bad. Certainly it has carried out some crucial investigations and made a lot of arrests for the greater public good during its 77-year history. But the bureau also has a dark side. Self-serving probes and misconduct on behalf of its former leadership (see J. Edgar Hoover) still taint the propagandistic image of the department as being staffed by earnest, squeaky-clean college boys.

DiSalvo and Braudis have been criticized in court testimony because of their alleged friendship with a local resident who was the target of a federal Drug Enforcement Administration probe into a Los Angeles-to-Aspen cocaine network. Both have denied a strong connection with the man, Wayne Alan Reid, whom they describe as an acquaintance. Does going to someone’s birthday party constitute a conspiracy?

We also wish to point out that Paul Pedersen, the former Glenwood Springs policeman who connected the dots between Reid and Braudis-DiSalvo and served on the DEA task force that investigated Reid and others, has a credibility issue. Earlier this year he was arrested on DUI and other charges in Silt.

We invite the comparison to Thompson’s “Summer of Hate” because it was then that a battle for Aspen’s soul was being waged, not unlike today. The Sheriff’s Department and the Aspen Police Department were in cahoots, if you believe Thompson and his supporters, in a crackdown on hippies and others who had what they deemed subversive qualities. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and the Sheriff’s Office is the unfair target of a higher authority.

We wonder how much money the FBI has spent in pursuing so-called improprieties in the Sheriff’s Office. We’d like to know what it hopes to gain from its quest. Of course, like many law-enforcement agencies in the throes of an active investigation, the Sheriff’s Office won’t talk about it. But with the matter having dragged on for nearly 40 years without an arrest or indictment, we as taxpayers have to ask what return we’re getting from this investment of public dollars.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is mostly made up of a lot of hardworking individuals who serve the public good and seem to be in harmony with the majority of the community. It’s high time that the FBI dropped its case and left Aspen and Pitkin County alone.

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