Police criticism causes stir | VailDaily.com

Police criticism causes stir

Christine Ina Casillas

An attack on the Avon Police Department by a resident at a recent council meeting caused so much alarm that other residents present for another matter voiced their own experiences – good and bad – with the local cops.

“My first introduction to Avon was from the Avon Police,” said Jonathan Levine, who placed a complaint before the Avon Town Council about the local police.

Levine moved to Avon nearly a year ago from Vail. He said he was pulled over for speeding on Metcalf Road and was given a ticket for driving 36 mph in a 30-mph zone.

“But you were speeding,” Avon Town Councilman Ron Wolfe told Levine. “Don’t speed.”

Levine alleged that Avon cops pull over people going only one mile over the speed limit and some residents of Wildridge call them the “Gestapo.” Levine said he was so angry that he started a Web site called Avonpolicewatchdogs.com.

“I moved from Vail to Wildridge,” Levine said. “It seemed more like I moved to a new country, not eight miles to the west.”

But other residents said the majority of their experiences with the police have been positive.

Eagle River Fire Protection chief Charlie Moore told the Town Council that the Avon police help both residents and his fire crews. Vail’s Larry Pardee also voiced support for the Avon police.

“Every time I’ve dealt with the Avon police, it’s always been a positive experience,” Moore said. “I think they are doing a fantastic job.”

Avon resident Jim Dorsey, however, said he tells his family and friends to never use U.S. Highway 6 through Avon to get to his house, especially at night.

“At night, after dark, you will get pulled over,” he said. “I tell them to take the interstate every time they come to visit me.”

Levine also complained about where the police “hide out,” saying they intentionally “trap” residents and the message they’re leaving for vacationers and residents is to avoid Avon all together. Levine said the police park and wait for unsuspecting drivers to cross their path.

“They’re saying, “Don’t come to our town,'” Levine told the Council.

But Avon Police Chief Jeff Layman said his officers park where it’s convenient. The median in the second roundabout on Avon Road is one of the most convenient places for the police and they usually are not there to ticket travelers.

“When Levine said the cops parking the roundabouts gives people the idea that it’s a police state is ludicrous,” Avon Town Councilman Brian Sipes said. “The cops are not there to give out tickets, but to make people abide by the law.

“Speeding is a problem everywhere,” Layman said. “It’s all about your driving habits, and we encourage our officers to be in visible places so they’ll be seen by the public and abide by the law.”

Sipes told Levine: “I’ve lived in Avon for 10 years and I’ve never been pulled over by the police.”

Sipes later said the accusations and inflammatory remarks by Levine motivated him to go on a ride along with an Avon police officer on a recent Friday night.

“Levine’s accusations were unfounded,” Sipes said. “Levine admitted he was speeding.”

The night of the ride along, Sipes said the policeman pulled over about seven people and didn’t issue one ticket.

“I, for one, think people drive in this town like they do in the big city,” Sipes said.

Layman agreed, but said rudeness is as big a problem as speed. He said residents complain about speeders in the town’s roundabouts.

“There’s people blasting through the roundabouts with no regard to anyone else,” Layman said. “From a complaint standpoint from residents, it’s speeding, and speeding through the roundabouts is no exception. People still speed through them, going 45 to 50 mph.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.

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