Distrust Mounts Between DEA and Colo. Sheriff in Aspen

Sheriff DiSalvo/sheriff photo
By Allan Lengel

In Aspen, Colo., the scenic skiing area and playground for the rich, all is not well between the DEA  and the local sheriff.

The Aspen Times reports that the strain and distrust between the DEA and the Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo of Aspen was addressed in a private meeting Wednesday “with little headway being made.”

“A special agent with the DEA, along with DiSalvo and Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor, said they failed to find any common ground, other than re-affirming that their long-standing drug-enforcement philosophies are starkly opposed,” the paper reported. “In other words, the next time the DEA penetrates Pitkin County to make an arrest, the Sheriff’s Office likely won’t be called on to help because the federal agency doesn’t trust it.”

“What it comes down to at this moment is that if the DEA comes to Aspen, they would not notify the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, but they might notify the Aspen Police Department,” DiSalvo told the paper.  “That’s a bridge we’re trying to build so in the future they will notify us so we can help them make their operation successful by our community standards.”

DEA agent Jim Schrant said it comes down to the  DEA’s lack of trust of  the sheriff’s office.

The mistrust heightened last week after the DEA arrest of  of six Aspen-area residents on drug charges. The DEA told the media that local officials weren’t notified of the drug sweep because the  former Sheriff Bob Braudis and DiSalvo have close ties to the suspects.

“Oftentimes we work with other jurisdictions and we’ve actually integrated them into our investigations because usually there’s a local narcotics task force that we’re working with hand-in-hand from the inception of the case,” DEA agent Schrant told the paper. “Unfortunately, that does not exist in the city of Aspen or Pitkin County.”

DiSalvo did not comment on the alleged ties to the suspects. He told the paper:

“There still seems to be a trust issue that I’m working on with the DEA. Those trust issues still exist. I think those trust issues around the acquaintances or people I know or see — I’m not as close with them as they think I am.”

Ex-Sheriff Braudis commented to the paper about DiSalvo.

“Despite what a member of the national police force, the DEA, said about Joe DiSalvo, he is as pure as the driven snow. I’m proud of him and the community should be, too.”

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