Van Beek: Anatomy of an arrest — detention |

Van Beek: Anatomy of an arrest — detention

Unless they work in law enforcement, have been a victim, or have an arrest record, most people are unfamiliar with what happens from arrest to courtroom. This is the second of a three-part series. Part I was an overview of the amazing work done by the victim services unit. This part is on the innovative programs we have established within our detention center. Our final section will be on the brave work of our patrol division. 

The Sheriff’s Office, police departments and law enforcement agencies within Eagle County all work on creating highly efficient, innovative, yet compassionate programs between arrest and verdict. We realize that while certain legal procedures must be followed, we also recognize that we are handling sensitive and generally uncommon situations for the people involved. 

Once in custody, we balance the necessities of legal requirements with the addition of compassionate programs to support the person they want to be. We help them navigate the complexities of their current actions to also reduce the possibility of recidivism, and perhaps introduce them to new skills and opportunities that will guide them toward the successful life they envision. 

Detention center

Just as in patrol, there are procedures and there is implementation. Procedures are strict because we are dealing with someone’s freedom, and it must be adhered to with very strict guidelines to assure the accused’s rights. Implementation in Eagle County is not only compassionate but proactive in providing contacts and opportunities to counter recidivism. 

In procedures, there is a formal intake process. Intake includes details from the arresting deputy/officer on the charges and/or warrant. A formal search is done to assure everyone’s safety. Then there is a detailed questionnaire, which includes a medical history, emergency contacts, employment, where they live, any aliases, and any additional information that is pertinent. 

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We take a mugshot and fingerprints. We make note of any unique identifying markings like tattoos, birthmarks or scars. We take photos and upload them into the system. An inventory of personal property is made, and money is securely deposited. The system provides outstanding warrants elsewhere, prison records, felony convictions, history of violence, and other recorded information. 

At that point, and within 12 hours, a comprehensive medical assessment is made by the medical department. Health issues like diabetes, prescription drugs, or mental health concerns are addressed, in addition to a list of substances or amount of alcohol that they may have recently consumed in case there are potential overdose or withdrawal issues. 

Our contracted medical provider provides daily medical care. Anyone staying longer than 14 days gets a complete medical physical assessment by the physician assistant. If at any time the medical condition of an inmate requires a more comprehensive evaluation or treatment, we will transport them to the hospital. We take their care seriously. If the person is being detained for domestic violence, we place a block on the victim’s number from all jail phones, to avoid harassment. Since controlled substances are prohibited in the detention center, we work with doctors to provide alternatives.

We then prepare them for their first court appearance and then follow the judge’s orders as to further detention or release. Additional court appearances can run 15-30 days out. If there are issues (health, security, etc.) preventing the safe transport of an inmate to the courtroom, hearings can be handled via video. 

On the implementation end of detention, we offer unique opportunities. As long as they are here, we can utilize that time constructively. We continually look for ways to counter recidivism by identifying situations that may trigger criminal behavior. Some of the projects we’ve implemented include:

  • Creating partnerships that help to distinguish mental health issues from criminal behavior so that proper professional assistance can be provided
  • Addressing issues of homelessness
  • Helping to alleviate financial stress by connecting detainees with county and private resources
  • Arranging an academic partnership with Colorado Mountain College in the areas of GED prep, financial literacy, and trade certifications 

We are even working on improving lifestyle and fitness instruction for those recovering from addiction.  We also offer jail worker programs that help to reduce sentences and, in some cases, allow inmates an opportunity to keep their jobs.  We have discovered that weaknesses in these various areas will cause some to feel that they have no option other than crime. We believe that everyone deserves a chance at a better life. 

The professionals at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, local police departments, and affiliated agencies, are here to protect and serve, and that includes everyone. Our job is to ensure a safe community, and the dedication of our staff goes above and beyond that which is necessary, to that which is compassionate, innovative, and effective. We aim to set the pace for others to follow. 

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at

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