Election 2010 Endorsement: Change needed in Sheriff’s Office | PostIndependent.com

Election 2010 Endorsement: Change needed in Sheriff’s Office

Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

One of the more complex races to be decided by Garfield County voters this year is the contest between incumbent Sheriff Lou Vallario and his challenger, Tom Dalessandri.

Both men have had eight years of experience running the sheriff’s office: Dalessandri from 1994 to 2002, and Vallario since 2002.

Both men have backgrounds in small town police departments, and both have been in the valley for years.

But we believe that Dalessandri is the right choice for the position of Garfield County Sheriff, because he will be more transparent and community-minded than the incumbent, Lou Vallario.

To begin with, Vallario has long been a magnet for trouble, and his department has a record of questionable actions. For instance, his deputies conducted what can only be termed an irrationally overzealous raid on a home in the Apple Tree Trailer Park in January 2008.

Another highly public calamity arose out of reports of infidelity with one of his employees in the office, and preferential treatment for that same employee.

And, Vallario currently is embroiled in a lawsuit by a former jail employee, who alleges that Vallario fired her to cover up evidence that she had been sexually harassed by Vallario’s then jail commander.

Vallario also has mishandled a number of public issues. For instance, there was his decision to force members of the county’s search and rescue organization to undergo insulting and inappropriately detailed background checks before they would be allowed to perform the important, and voluntary task of serving on the team.

Then there is the feeling, shared by many, that he is building an empire, with an armored vehicle called the Bear Cat, roughly 150 employees, and an expensive satellite facility in Rifle, as well as a veritable fortress in downtown Glenwood Springs that houses the jail and the Sheriff’s Office.

The current sheriff is quick to trumpet accomplishments that he views as good publicity for his department, but he treats information about developing cases as something he needs to keep secret from the news media, and in turn the public.

Dalessandri, to be sure, presented his own menu of problematic behaviors while he was in office, most glaringly his efforts to juggle a full-time sheriff’s job with ownership of a private security business. With a few adjustments, we feel he has a better chance to succeed, and improve the quality of life for local residents, than Vallario.

To be successful in office, Dalessandri must clearly and publicly separate himself from his private business before he takes over the sheriff’s post. Dalessandri would also have to reestablish a pattern of openness in terms of providing information to the public.

Dalessandri is approachable, more interested in community-oriented policing, and less intrigued by the machismo trappings and tough-cop mindset that can result in a dangerous overreaction to events.

That said, he always has had a businesslike, no-nonsense approach to law enforcement, which is needed for a department that polices two worlds at once – the potentially troublesome I-70 corridor, with its drug runners and prison escapees, as well as the semi-rural areas surrounding the county’s small towns and the extremely remote zones that make up most of the county’s land mass.

We think Tom Dalessandri will do a good job for the citizens of Garfield County, and urge voters to put him back behind the sheriff’s desk.

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