Leonard clarifies positions
August 2, 2010
I wanted to clarify a few of my positions that have been misrepresented by the local newspapers. At the candidates’ forum, I responded to a question about the decision to close Aspen High School and bring in a bomb squad from Grand Junction based on the information that was available at the time of the incident.
My response to that question included information about a threat-evaluation matrix that many agencies use to determine the appropriate response to threats of this nature. Based on the information available in the public’s domain, the threat did not rise to a level that was commensurate with the response. The undersheriff has said that it was entirely the school’s decision. At other times, he has said that the school acted on law enforcement’s advice. It seems unlikely that school officials called in the bomb squad.
In any event, I did want to point out, it seems as though the sheriff’s office does not have an official procedure in place for evaluating bomb threats in schools. I wanted to make it crystal clear that I would never jeopardize school safety or security; with the proper planning and procedures, the confusion surrounding this case and other cases could have been avoided.
With regard to DUI enforcement, my main point was not that I would increase it but that the problem of DUI cannot be effectively dealt with by deploying one uniformed deputy to respond to calls for service and patrol our roads and highways from 2 a.m. until 7 a.m. – seven days a week (as is the practice under the current administration). The proper investigation of the offense of DUI, in order to ensure the safety of the investigating officer and the suspected offender, requires at least two uniformed officers. The problem is further exacerbated when there is an arrest affected and the lone officer is taken out of service to complete his or her investigation, transport the offender and complete all necessary paperwork.
I never said that I would, “Bring in big-city cops to train local fuzz.” My message was that in order to properly conduct an investigation into the most serious types of crime, our investigators will need more training and experience. The crime-scene investigation process, collection and preservation of evidence, the conduct of interviews and interrogations, and the preparation of a case for trial requires knowledge and sophistication that a crack investigator can only acquire through experience. Fortunately, we are not overwhelmed with these sorts of crime but when they do occur, we owe it to the victims, their families and the rest of our community to give them the benefit of the best law enforcement has to offer.
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I suggested that we could partner with a metro-type law enforcement department with a busy CSI and violent crimes investigative unit to facilitate our investigators receiving more hands-on training and experience. That does not mean that “big-city cops” would come here but that our investigators would go there! To be perfectly clear, I believe we have dedicated and talented personnel and the only thing they lack is experience, exposure and training.
Finally, with regard to the question of drug law enforcement and undercover investigations, I said that undercover operations are a last resort. I pointed out that our current sheriff and undersheriff have had no experience with undercover investigations and they have said many things about undercover investigations that are patently untrue. I think most law enforcement agency heads would prefer not to have to conduct undercover investigations – and I stand with those professionals who regard it as a last resort. I clearly stated that it often involves the decision to launch an undercover investigation or do nothing! If I am elected sheriff and it is brought to my attention that someone is peddling date rape drug (GHB) or crystal meth to our kids, I will not stand with those who would do nothing.
I’ll leave it up to the citizens who attended Thursday night’s forum and those who will have an opportunity to view recorded coverage of the forum on local cable to decide if the print media’s reporting on the forum was fair and objective.
Patrick “Rick” Leonard