Vail Daily column: Helping preserve our quality of life
As we begin the new year, the community is filled with excitement! Our neighbors return from other homes. The winter mantra “think snow” has come true, transforming our communities into a winter wonderland, attracting visitors from across the globe, encouraging restaurants to attempt new savory dishes. Shops come alive with unique gifts, with layers of wool and Polartec become the local uniform. The Vail Valley is certainly a special place, where adventure comes to life. Protecting this lifestyle is the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
The members of the Sheriff’s Office are your neighbors, friends, ski buddies, church volunteers, soccer coaches, car pool drivers … basically, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is an extension of you, and we take pride in being selected to help preserve the quality of life that we all so dearly treasure.
To some, the uniform may appear intimidating, yet it is merely a symbol; one of unity and commitment to you. Like others in uniform, we want to be easily recognized, so that in times of need, you know exactly where to look for help. We pledge every day to be worthy of the respect and honor you entrust upon us and vow to exceed expectations.
That uniform can be found on school campuses, working alongside educational professionals, laughing with the students, and even providing a shoulder to cry on when the day overwhelms a fragile young heart. We thrive on the look on a person’s face, when we have located their missing pet. The mom driving home late at night can count on us if she should become stranded in her car. The family that gets lost on their way to visit a dear friend can rely on us to guide them in the right direction. The child for whom Christmas is simply a reminder of all they’ve lost, we are there to help Santa put a smile back on their face. When frightening events happen across the globe, and worries begin to consume your day, we are just a phone call away. We are the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the things we value most is the connection we have with our community, from Vail to Basalt — we are here for you. Our involvement is sometimes overt, but most often, it is subtle, behind the scenes, keeping things running smoothly. We work on substance abuse programs with our young people; we advise gun owners on safety issues; our Assault Prevention and Self-Defense Instruction for Women is considered one of the best; the Internet safety programs help to secure our children from predators; we even work with little ones on bicycle safety for their first independent venture out into the world. We are also very proud of our county’s diversity, and actively participate in the annual La Academia Policia, a Spanish language Citizens Police Academy. From Neighborhood Watch to Crime Stoppers, our team includes some of the best people in the valley. Having our neighbors become active members of our team is truly an honor that is uncommon in most counties.
On the law enforcement side, we pride ourselves on connecting our community interests with the latest in training and technology. Our professional focus includes developing the best training programs; maintaining the highest quality facilities; creating an environment for inmates that will truly help them to integrate and succeed upon release; developing close connections with local and national law enforcement agencies, as well as with other global security teams; working on expanding our protection into the digital space, where cybercrimes are posing threats on multiple levels from the national grid to elementary school bullying; we even get involved in the protection of our wildlife and natural resources, as much of our surrounding land is protected terrain. The tranquility of our community is secured by some of the most well-trained, experienced personnel in the country.
Leadership stems from the top, and as sheriff, I am committed to bringing my years in the field, as well as my international law enforcement experience to the office. As a Colorado native and Eagle County resident for over 25 years, I have a strong vested interest in the success of our entire region, with our office covering the entire Vail-Eagle Valley as well as parts of the Aspen Valley. As a graduate of the renowned FBI National Academy, I am honored to be in a category of fewer than 1 percent of all law enforcement officers. My international expertise comes from spending several years as a civilian police officer, serving the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, as its operations and station commander. There I was tasked, along with other professional police from around the world, to build and develop a full-time working law enforcement system, consisting of local nationals. I believe that this unique experience brings a depth of knowledge and cultural sensitivity to the job that few police organizations can offer.
We seek to create a Sheriff’s Office that brings pride to the community we serve. We are open to new ideas and ask for your involvement in whatever area you desire. We are your neighbors and friends and we are fortunate enough to have your trust to protect our amazing lifestyle. We will be writing regularly about some of the issues most important to you. Some will be serious developments and others will be light-hearted commentary or fun projects we sponsor in your neighborhood. We seek to engage greater numbers of you in our various programs and are especially open to youth-oriented projects … after all, they are the future of Eagle County.
James van Beek is Eagle County sheriff.