Marie Munday steps down as Pitkin County’s Latino-Anglo liaison
ASPEN – For more than a decade, Latino residents of Pitkin County could always turn to Marie Munday for help. Whether they were the victim of a crime or needed an immigration attorney, Munday had the information they needed, or could point them in the right direction.
On Friday, Munday, 56, worked her last day as the Latino-Anglo liaison for Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Soon she’ll be moving to Pagosa Springs, where her husband Chip recently landed a job.
Munday boasts a decorated career in local law enforcement. Once the general manager of Aspen radio station KSPN, she began in 1995 at the Aspen Police Department under the leadership of then-Police Chief Tom Stephenson. At the time, the Latino population in the Roaring Fork Valley was exploding, and she was recruited to create an outreach program for the newcomers.
Munday joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2001, also working as its victims services director and public information officer. But her work with the Latino community made the most profound impact.
“She was always prepared to help,” said Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. “She would take calls at home and after hours, in the middle of the night.”
Munday – who has a master’s degree in Spanish bilingual/bicultural studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and has completed two years of post-graduate studies at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico – said she “never dreamed” of becoming a cop. But her Latino-Anglo liaison position, tailored by Stephenson and later by then-Sheriff Bob Braudis, seemed the ideal fit.
“The people that I helped most were victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and that was Anglo or Latino,” she said. “If there were victims in need they were referred to me, and sometimes I was the first to find out because [the Latino victims] couldn’t articulate the crimes and didn’t report them to police.
“But they reported them to me because they trusted me, and I usually could coach them and get them counseling with Response [a local assistance agency for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault] or whoever they needed. I could get them to report the crime so we could do something about it.”
Munday said she dealt with many immigrants who had no where else to turn.
“It’s better now than it used to be,” she said. “But when I first started people were coming in cold. Now they have family members so they already have a clue of what’s going on.
“But they’re still terrified driving without a license because we don’t allow them to get a license, so they’re always looking over their shoulder when they get into an accident. Sometimes people will even run from an accident because they’re so afraid something’s going to happen.”
But it wasn’t Munday’s role, or local law enforcement’s, for that matter, to crack down on illegal immigrants. That duty, she noted, belongs to authorities such as Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE).
“It’s not my job to ask them [about their status],” she said. “We are not federal agents and really the only time it comes to light is if somebody gets arrested. Then we have to do something about it. And we have to contact ICE immediately. That’s the law.
“If they’re bad guys I’ll be the first one to call ICE because we do want them to be deported and we want the rest of the community – Latino and Anglo – to feel safe. And the Latinos don’t have a problem with me doing that. They’re just as happy to see the bad seeds go because it affects their name and reputation.”
Like most veterans of law enforcement, Munday has a few offbeat stories to tell. One of the more embarrassing ones, for her at least, came during Munday’s first year on the beat.
“When I was a rookie, I got called to City Market to interpret for one of the officers who was confronting a Latino about shoplifting. The cop told me to ask the guy if he had sausages down his pants,” she said, explaining that the word “sausage” has the same innuendo in Spanish as in English. “I really thought he was kidding, but he was dead serious, so I asked the question and the man pulled a package of sausages out of his pants.”
Stories aside, Munday also has dealt with health issues that contributed in part to her resignation. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, but in February was given a clean bill of health by her oncologist.
More recently she learned she had a condition known as pericarditis, which is when the fibrous sac surrounding the heart becomes inflamed. When her husband landed the job in Pagosa Springs, Munday said it was a good time to take a break.
“I was just tired,” she said. “I’m still on a lot of medication and that’s why I haven’t carried a gun. I haven’t been acting like a cop for a long time. Even though my functional position takes up a lot of my time, it’s time for me to move on, and with Chip getting this job it will enable me to relax a bit and maybe do some freelance work like interpreting, teaching or tutoring.”
In the meantime, Munday plans to attend numerous going-away parties, put on by the likes of the local Spanish-speaking Rotary Club, which she helped found, and her colleagues in law enforcement.
DiSalvo said he’s not sure if he’ll replace Munday or modify the Latino-Anglo liaison job. Pitkin County’s Latino population has leveled off, and the demand for such a position isn’t what it used to be.
“She’s done a terrific job and has been an incredible conduit between us and the Latino community,” the sheriff said. “We’re all going to miss her.”
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