Sheriff miffs Secret Service |

Sheriff miffs Secret Service

With President Clinton’s return visit to Aspen just two days away, local police agencies and the Secret Service are finalizing security arrangements for the president’s expected arrival Friday night.

But the chief executive’s second trip to Aspen in two years to raise funds for the Democratic Party has apparently sparked something of a spat among the president’s protectors.

“We’ve been in existence since 1865, and we haven’t had that many problems over the years, but now this in Aspen, and this Sheriff Braudis .” said Lon Garner, assistant special agent in charge of the Denver Secret Service field office.

Catching Garner’s attention is debate in Aspen over whether local taxpayers ought to pay for beefed-up security provided by local law enforcement and a July 18 article in The New York Times, which quoted Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis as saying, “When Clinton went to sleep, so did the Secret Service.”

“Where does this guy get off?” said Garner yesterday. The Times also quoted Braudis as saying: “The Secret Service cleared the bridges, looking for bombs. But then we had to guard the bridges 24 hours to make sure no one planted any.”

“His comments are out of line, he is misinformed, this man,” Garner fumed. “I don’t know where he gets these statements – `When Clinton goes to sleep, so does the Secret Service’ – that’s absurd.

“We’re not happy with his statements,” Garner continued. “His comments are inappropriate and unprofessional, and foremost, they’re incorrect.” He said the Secret Service has never asked a local police agency to guard bridges day and night during a presidential visit.

Garner added that Braudis had not returned several phone calls from the Secret Service. Braudis could not be reached for comment Tuesday. According to the sheriff’s office, he has been in Denver all week and is expected to return today.

“We wanted to talk to him about why he would make statements of this nature and he hasn’t shown us the courtesy of returning our calls,” Garner said. “But it’s not going to create a rift, we’d just like to discuss it with him. We’re professionals, we’ll go do our job. It’s just that we’re set back by these two statements because we’ve always had a good relationship with the sheriff and his department.”

Relations between Secret Service agents and officers with the two local police agencies are fine, he added.

As for the local complaint about taxpayers footing the bill for authorities to aid in presidential security – well, that beef is unique to Aspen, said Garner.

“Security for [presidential visits] has always been handled mutually between the Secret Service and the law enforcement agencies – we’ve never encountered a problem like this before,” Garner said.

Communities visited by the president are not required to assist in providing security for the chief executive, Garner said, but nearly all do.

“We’ve never encountered any problems enlisting the help of local police agencies,” he said. “It’s never been a question, but obviously it is [in Aspen], according to some news reports I’ve read.

“Your community has a concern about expenses like any community, but we haven’t requested anything of your community that we haven’t of others. We always seem to work it out together,” he said.

The federal government has never reimbursed communities for the expenses incurred by local police agencies in protecting the president, Garner said.

Aspen Police Chief Tom Stephenson said the Aspen law enforcement community chooses to assist with the security detail for a variety of reasons.

“First and foremost is the safety of the president,” Stephenson said. “But secondly, we hope that our participation will help minimize the impact of the presidential visit on this community. Thirdly, we’ve found through the last presidential visit and this one as well, that it provides a wonderful training experience for local public safety officers in planning for major incidents or the possibility of disasters.”

Stephenson said Secret Service agents arrived in Aspen on Monday, and have begun setting up an “Incident Command Post” in the basement of the courthouse, among other activities.

Neither Stephenson nor Garner would comment specifically about security efforts.

President Clinton’s visit last year cost the local police and sheriff’s offices about $85,000, but the two agencies hope to pare down costs significantly this time around.

“Between the police department and the sheriff’s office, we plan to spend approximately $20,000 in supplies and services, but that doesn’t include overtime for our officers,” the police chief said. Stephenson wouldn’t speculate on what that cost might total.

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