Vail-area law enforcement helps protect VP Mike Pence |

Vail-area law enforcement helps protect VP Mike Pence

Vail and Beaver Creek remain a frequent spot for visiting dignitaries

Scott N. Miller
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, in 2018 spent Memorial Day weekend in Vail. They dropped in for services at The Vail Church before attending a family friend's wedding in Camp Hale.
Special to the Daily

Hosting Very Important People is nothing new for the Vail Valley. That means local law enforcement is ready when needed.

Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Eagle County last week for a holiday stay. That’s required a bit of extra work for officers from the Vail Police Department and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said Pence’s current visit hasn’t put much strain on his department. Some officers and detectives have drawn extra duty during a busy time, Henninger said. But, he added, his department is prepared.

Henninger said most dignitaries who bring their own security are “pretty self sufficient. Visits from a president or vice president are a little more involved, and require cooperation between federal, state and local agencies.

Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said Pence’s current visit didn’t require much help from his people, except for some help with the motorcade that drove Pence from the Eagle County Regional Airport to Vail.

The Sheriff’s office this time has been available to coordinate with the U.S. Secret Service detail and provide support where needed, van Beek said.

In terms of manpower, van Beek said “not a lot” of help has been required from his office for this visit.

This visit isn’t like the World Economic Forum sessions in the early 2000s, or the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

Those events require a lot of planning, months in advance.

Henninger said there isn’t a lot of crossover between big events and relatively quiet VIP visits. But relationships forged during those events make cooperation a bit easier when working with federal and state agencies.

Henninger said “we have great relationships” with the U.S. Secret Service, FBI and other agencies. That extends to partnerships with local law enforcement and Vail Resorts.

“We all respect that we need each other,” Henninger said, adding that there are relatively few federal law enforcement agents in Colorado.

“The relationships are much better here than when I worked in Southern California 20 years ago,” he added.

Still, helping protect visiting dignitaries takes staff time, and that takes money.

Henninger and van Beek said they try to build in overtime costs into their annual budgets for incidents that might require staff overtime.

“We try to be as fiscally responsible as we can,” van Beek said. “First responders in general don’t know what’s going to come (in a year).”

That can range from floods to wildfires to VIP visits.

Henninger agreed, saying that “law enforcement overtime is difficult to make an exact science.”

And, Henninger added, Pence’s visit has been low-key.

“He’s just enjoying family time,” Henninger said.

Big shots, little valley

The Vail Valley has a long history of hosting important visitors and big events. Here’s a short, incomplete look:

• FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, 1989, 1999, 2015.

• President Gerald Ford visited Vail before, during and after his time in office.

• Vice President Dan Quayle visited in 1990.

• President Bill Clinton visited in 1993.

• Vice President Dick Cheney attended World Economic Forum sessions in Beaver Creek in the early 2000s.

• Vice President Mike Pence has visited this year, and attended a family friend’s wedding in 2018.

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