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Police prepare for busy night

Jeremy Heima

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Police Department will be working long hours to ensure domestic tranquility on the eve of the new millennium.

Deputies and police officers will be out in the community in full force, and a system to expedite paperwork is expected to help keep them on duty on the streets and roads. If things get too hectic, the departments intend to prioritize calls so that life-safety issues always take precedence over thefts or accidents.

“If there’s a life-threatening situation, a property crime might have to wait,” said Loren Ryerson, assistant chief of police.

The public safety agencies are prepared both for an unknown number of revelers ringing in the new millennium and for the possibility of power outages resulting from computer failures related to the year 2000. Pitkin Count Sheriff’s deputies and the Aspen Police Department will be working according to the same master plan, Ryerson said.

“We’re working hand in hand with the Sheriff’s Office,” Ryerson said. “We’re pooling our resources.” He said the two departments have an incident command system that can coordinate with other agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service and federal law-enforcement agencies, to deal with any emergency from a forest fire to a plane crash.

Officers for both departments will be working 12-hour shifts during the New Year’s period, and no leaves of absence or vacations will be granted by either agency.

“We’ll do the best we can with the staff we have,” said Ellen Anderson, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office. “All officers are on deck.”

Ryerson added, “We’re considering it a major event. We’re planning to have all our resources ready.”

Law-enforcement efforts will be managed through a command center at the courthouse, Ryerson said. A public information officer will be on hand to pass information on to the press, he said.

Arrest processing will be a little different from the usual system, Anderson noted. Instead of the officer coming into the jail and staying to complete all the paperwork, jail personnel will handle the paperwork associated with summonses and arrests, freeing officers to return to the their patrols.

“We want every officer to be out on the street,” Anderson said. She said normally, processing an arrest takes an officer off the street for an hour or more.

Extra detention staff will also be on duty, so that more people are on hand to handle arrest paperwork, Ryerson said.

Ryerson noted that summons-and-release situations – like petty offenses and traffic tickets – will be handled in the usual manner.

“We’re ready,” Anderson said.

“We’ve been working on these plans for over a year, and we’re confident we’ll be able to handle whatever comes up, from a law-enforcement standpoint,” Ryerson agreed.

“I hope people will be able to celebrate the millennium without intruding on other people’s safety and well-being,” he said.


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