A letter from Eagle County law enforcement: We stand for the rights of all
To our Eagle County community,
Eight minutes and 46 seconds. That’s how long a knee was senselessly, cruelly, and yes … criminally, held to the neck of George Floyd in Minneapolis, resulting in his death. Eight minutes and 46 seconds is also how long it took for four officers … one with criminal intent, and the other three without the courage to stand up to a peer officer, to erase any gains in trust and goodwill, that policing has worked so hard to earn in recent years, since the Ferguson, Missouri, incident.
Recent events stemming from the murder of Mr. Floyd have brought to light societal issues within many of the communities we live in, sadly including the law enforcement community. It is time to jointly work on creating sustainable resolutions.
The law enforcement leaders and our officers and deputies in Eagle County deplore the criminal acts of these officers. We also condemn the violent attacks and looters in areas across our nation. We are very appreciative that none of these acts have occurred in our valley.
Just this past Sunday a peaceful march was held in Vail Village to address the disparate treatment of people of color. One marcher, Ali, carried a sign saying she felt safe with the police in Eagle County and wanted others to have that same right around the United States. Thank you, Ali, for your confidence in us. We hold one another to a very high standard of conduct and take the oath to protect and serve very seriously.
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In our quest for establishing equality, about a decade ago, the Eagle County Law Enforcement Immigrant Alliance was founded to work with our immigrant community and develop bonds of trust, regardless of citizenship, color, culture, or any other distinguishing characteristics. We share our common goals of life in a peaceful, supportive, and inclusive community. We are grateful for these conversations.
Exceptional standards come from extensive training. All officers are required by state law to report unnecessary use of force by their peers. The procedures in place assure mutual respect between officers, agencies, and the community-at-large. Additional skills acquired include anti-biased policing, fair and impartial policing, de-escalation tactics, and community relations, just to name a few. Many of these courses are certified with national recognition.
The events of the past week have caused us to reflect upon our own efforts to build trust and address any inequities in our valley. We strive to achieve a level of impartial fairness and mutual respect for all that we serve. Trust comes from the integrity of our actions.
We’ve not heard or spoken to one officer who isn’t shocked and angered by what they saw on that video from Minneapolis, but sadly, in many jurisdictions that won’t matter. The broad brush of corruption and brutality, which exists in some agencies, paints much more thickly than the precise but fragile little brush of honor, goodness, and trust.
We are a nation working through crisis. The coronavirus pandemic caused a huge disruption to our physical and mental health, our sense of security, and our economic stability, which will be felt for years to come. However, it also gave us opportunities to become closer, even with “social distancing.”
In Eagle County, we saw people and organizations unite as never before. We became more creative in how we do business. We repurposed resources to accommodate changing needs. We volunteered to help the most vulnerable in our community. We made sacrifices in our daily lives for the overall good of our neighbors and the nation. We came together in crisis and now we need to rebuild trust in our criminal justice system.
As we have begun emerging from the COVID-19 disruption, we are now faced with riots across America. Law enforcement agencies in Eagle County grieve for the loss of George Floyd and all others who die needlessly. We honor our pledge to protect and serve all people, without regard to their color, immigration status, sexual identity, cultural differences, or socioeconomic position. We realize that respect goes both ways.
It’s a privilege to be part of a community that cares so deeply for one another that many will often place the needs of others above their own self-interest. We are honored to serve. Together, we stand for the rights of all.
Please work with us to continue the building of trust and equality for all in Eagle County — we must be ever vigilant. Do not hesitate to call any of us to discuss these or other issues of concern.
We are here for you.
James van Beek, Eagle County Sheriff
Dwight Henninger, Vail Police Chief
Greg Daly, Avon Police Chief
Joey Staufer, Eagle Police Chief
Greg Knott, Basalt Police Chief
Jared Rapp, Colorado State Patrol Captain