Off Limits

"I give him this look. I mean, I've come all this way--what's the point if I can't look at the forklift? He looks around nervously and takes me in. Now, there's nothing in this building except the forklift! It's just sitting there in the middle of the floor. I check it out and get it running. It had a blown fuse that cost all of forty bucks.

"So I'm leaving, and they stop me on the way out. My badge is showing that I've been contaminated. Did you ever see the movie Silkwood? There's a scene where they have to decontaminate Meryl Streep, and that's what they did to me. I had to strip down and go through these showers where they sprayed me with this stuff that looks like oatmeal. Of course, after all that, it turns out I wasn't contaminated. The badge was defective."

Bad cop, no doughnut: Last week two local refineries, Conoco and Ultramar-Diamond Shamrock, announced that they'll produce new, cleaner gasolines to try to help clear up Denver's notorious brown cloud. At the same time, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced it would begin issuing ozone advisories during the summer.

The Denver Police Department might want to make note of those developments. Over the last few years, Denver's Green Fleets committee--which since 1993 has been charged with reducing the carbon-dioxide emissions and fuel costs generated by the city and county's official vehicles--has been trying to convince the police department to switch from Ford's bulky, thirsty Crown Victoria to its leaner, more fuel-efficient Taurus. "We'd like to see cars that are used by single officers--a sergeant, lieutenant, captain--all reduced to a Taurus instead of a Crown Victoria," says Denver city councilman and committee member Ted Hackworth, "and that seems to be something that's very difficult for the police to accomplish."

"There's a lot of different sides to the story," says Steve Foute, director of Denver's environmental protection division, who also serves on the Green Fleets committee. There are many reasons why a Taurus is not as practical as a Crown Vic, he says. "If they need to get five people in a car for some reason, the Taurus isn't big enough." Moreover, Tauruses have front-wheel drive, so when cops wreck their cars during high-speed chases, they're extra-costly to repair. "We did buy some Tauruses a couple of years ago to put into the patrol fleet," says Deputy Manager of Safety Tracy Howard, another Green Fleets committee member, but that raised safety concerns for the officers, since "the front seat is closer to the back seat," so the people who were under arrest were closer to the officers. But "the bigger problem, with the mobile computer terminals, radios, shotguns and other stuff that they put in that front-seat area"--Howard made no mention of Big Gulp soda cups--"there's not enough room, physically, to put all of that stuff in a mid-sized vehicle."

Foute says the police have not been resistant to downsizing to Tauruses "when it's appropriate." And, Howard adds, "we have downsized to a great extent the administrative or unmarked fleet. Now we're actually buying Tauruses and Luminas and other mid-sized six-cylinder cars for the non-marked fleets--detectives and other administrative types, command officers who are not in a patrol situation." Ultimately, though, as Foute points out, it's hard to get "some of the police package equipment" into the smaller vehicles.

Get the point? It's brass-tacks time at the Denver Post, as evidenced by the following e-mail sent this week: "To whom it may concern. Please, do not use the third-floor conference room as a resource for tacks. The city desk editorial assistants must post tear sheets every day and the continually diminishing supply of tacks/push pins has been impossible to keep up with. Thank you."

Next week: Stamp out excessive use of staples!

Off Limits is compiled by Jonathan Shikes. If you have a tip, call him at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail denver-editorial@westword.com

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