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To protect and to serve

Joe Hoy

One of the issues I face on a frequent basis is the public perception of the law enforcement community in general, and specifically the Sheriff’s Office and the men and women who serve under its banner.The public view of law enforcement is generally one-dimensional and for the most part, narrow minded. Either through misinformation or lack of knowledge, we are seen as only a crime-control organization. They know we do not have the ability to solve all problems, but they expect us to solve theirs.For the most part, the public usually does not enjoy contact with us. We are generally associated with trouble. Yet no matter who we deal with, no matter what type of obnoxious, offensive and sometimes aggressive behavior we face, we are expected to be courteous, professional and honest in our dealings with them. There are those individuals who feel that if we are seen too often, we are creating a “big brother police state” or that we are overly intruding on their rights as a citizen. Then there are those individuals who feel that the lack of our visual presence is indicative that we are not doing enough to get the bad guy or address their individual concerns.Policing today is very complex. As peace officers, we are sometimes expected to be all things to all people. In one shift, a deputy can be called upon to be an enforcer of the law, a conflict manager, a social counselor, a coach, a teacher, a role model, a protector of life and liberty, and even the bearer of sad news. We deal with situations and individuals that most people would run away from, and we experience more agony, frustration, fear (stress) and disappointment in one year than most people experience in a lifetime.People sometimes see us as protectors of their individual rights and freedoms. We are defenders of the Constitution and the rights and freedoms we all occasionally take for granted. But we also have the authority and responsibility to, when called upon, inhibit or take away some of those rights.As a sheriff, I have two main responsibilities. One is to help create a sense of safety and security among the communities and citizens of our county through the effort of all those individuals who work for this organization. The second is to develop and promote an atmosphere that encourages those characteristics that exemplify a true peace officer: integrity, loyalty, honesty, courage, compassion and yes, even humor.Our intention is to expand your knowledge of the many functions of the Sheriff’s Office and the responsibilities that go along with it. We will publish an annual report describing our organization and the activities associated with our job. We will publish articles in the newspaper covering current topics related to law enforcement and public safety to include addressing such issues as identity theft, cyber predators and use-of-force. We are also considering a feature titled “You Call It,” in which citizens will have an opportunity to decide what a deputy should do when responding to a certain type of call and then find out what actually happened and why. The first steps have been taken in the creation of a Sheriff’s Advisory Board comprised of citizens, including a high school student, with an interest in bettering our community and the relationship with law enforcement.It is my hope that through these efforts, the citizens of this county will have a better knowledge and understanding of their Sheriff’s Office and the role we play in their community.Joe Hoy is the Eagle County sheriff.Vail, Colorado


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