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Posted on: January 21, 2021

STATEMENT: Upper Valley Law Enforcement Agencies Regarding COVID-19 Public Health Order Enforcement

JOINT PRESS STATEMENT 

from the upper valley law enforcement agencies

January 21, 2021

 

We understand the frustration of many in the valley community with those who are perceived as flouting the COVID-19 public health orders. 

 

Throughout the pandemic the role of Public Health Order enforcement has been and continues to clearly be the responsibility of the Pitkin County Public Health Department and County Attorney. Police and Sheriff’s agencies around the country have been hesitant to take an enforcement role in a public health related issue due to the legal and policy challenges involved. 

 

The above being said, upper valley police and the sheriff are continuing to support the Public Health team due to a number of changed factors: 

 

  • There has clearly been a significant increase in the local rate of transmission, which has led to Red Level restrictions being put in place. 
  • The need to reinforce messages around COVID-19 safety are more important than ever to enable businesses and restaurants, as well as community members to get back to a normal life. 
  • Many of our staff have received the vaccination, which likely makes contacts we have safer. 

 

The perception of heavy-handedness and police overreach intruding into the lives of community members is also of significant concern at a time when police agencies are looking to build trust. 

 

Many in the community talk of writing tickets. What this means is that a person, if convicted, could have a misdemeanor arrest record for a Class 1 Misdemeanor, the highest class of misdemeanor. We are not convinced that this is the sort of outcome our community seeks for every violation. 

 

Here’s what the public can expect from their police officers and sheriff’s deputies: 

 

  • We will continue to respond to public health complaints that are called in to us, document them and forward information to the Public Health team, as we have been doing for months
  • We will write a misdemeanor summons in the case of egregious public health violations, such as large and obvious group gatherings, when appropriate. 
  • We will not be patrolling actively looking for large gatherings. We are not spying on you. 
  • We will not be ticketing for quarantine violations. This is a responsibility of the Public Health department. However, we will forward any evidence of a quarantine violation to Public Health for their action. 
  • We do not anticipate writing large numbers of tickets. We will most likely take an approach similar to that of a noise complaint, where officers will try to find a reasonable approach to address the problem, with a ticket as one possibility. Officers will have discretion in how they manage any particular situation. 
  • The District Attorney is also aligned with this plan, and will be prosecuting these violations, as appropriate. 
  • For in-progress complaints, please call any of our agencies at 970-920-5310. To file a general health violation complaint, visit https://tinyurl.com/covidcomplaint. For more information, visit https://covid19.pitkincounty.com/

 

Aspen Police | Basalt Police | Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office | Snowmass Village Police

 

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