Garco sheriff: ACLU allegations ‘pathetic’
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario on Thursday denied all allegations the American Civil Liberties Union leveled against him and county jail Commander Scott Dawson in a class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on Wednesday.
Vallario said he was offended by the ACLU suit’s claim that Garfield County Jail staff uses “mental torture” against inmates by taunting them about the use of an electric shock belt, which reportedly delivers an eight-second, 50,000-volt shock to an inmate with the press of a button.
In a press release, the ACLU claims that Amnesty International has condemned the use of electric shock belts as torture.
“It’s pathetic that these guys can make those type of allegations and use those sort of words in a legal court document and be able to get away with it,” Vallario said of the ACLU.
The complete 72-page complaint can be viewed at http://www.aclu.org.
Because of the claim that Vallario’s staff is torturing inmates, Vallario said he hopes a federal judge will immediately throw out the case.
The lawsuit, which seeks a court order stopping jailers’ allegedly abusive practices, claims that the jail lacks adequate written policies governing restraint devices, pepper spray, pepper guns and electric shock belts.
“The allegations are totally baseless, unjustified (and) frivolous,” he said. “We do not abuse people. We do not torture people. We do have policies.”
The Sheriff’s Office policy governing the use of force ” adopted Jan. 1, 2004 ” demands that deputies follow state law in using force against a person, and authorizes use of “intermediate weapons,” such as chemical irritants, electronic restraining devices and “other non-lethal weapons as defined by the Sheriff’s office and consistent with individual/team training.”
All uses of force must be documented, and deputies’ use of excessive force must be reported.
Though Vallario had not yet seen the case on Thursday, he said if the case proceeds, it could drag on for a long time and could potentially cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of four inmates, including Samuel Lincoln, who pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of attempted murder (see related story). Lincoln stands trial in three separate criminal cases within the next year, two of which are in Grand Junction.
If Lincoln must be transported to Denver to testify in the ACLU suit, Vallario said the cost could be very high because Lincoln will need to be transported with extra security.
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