Letters to the Editor

From the week of July 12, 2001

During my time there, I arrested people, I wrote tickets, I filed reports and I worked as the community outreach officer (school resource officer). I am sure I upset the "bad guys"; I may have made a few enemies. When I tell my family and friends of my time in San Luis, I tell them the stories of everything that happened -- not just the part about a lawless town. San Luis may have been a bad place at one time, but things change over time. If you are not ready to make the change, then you will grow to resent it. Part of the community may resent the change, the strong-handed tactics, the deputies who seemed unfriendly or mean. For the most part, we were doing a job that was thankless, dirty and violent. We did the best we could with the tools and training that were provided.

The best tool provided to us was knowledge of the Colorado Revised Statutes. I found the best way to use this tool was to educate others about it. This worked. It worked for me at Centennial School and, later, it helped the students to better understand our job as police professionals.

One of the biggest challenges we faced was the role of going from a reactive to a proactive office. This change was probably the greatest shock to the small community. Instead of waiting for a crime to come to us, we went to find those crimes. We only enforced the laws that had long been in place -- they were just overlooked. Instead of taking drunk drivers home, we filed charges against them with the district attorney's office. We were doing our job -- not harassing, not making up charges, not perjuring ourselves in court. We were trying to make the community safe for everyone.

I think we did good work. I think I made more friends than enemies. I believe Sheriff Mestas and Undersheriff Pugliese did wonders for the county. They were never focused on themselves: They trained us and provided us with the skills and gave us the ability to work not for them, but for the citizens of Costilla County.

Kenneth Balltrip

To serve and harass: The article you printed exposing those Dukes of Hazard, Boss Hog impersonators was of great concern to me.

I grew up in San Luis! I have very good memories of those days when people were safe and free from police harassment. Some people come into a position of authority and go crazy due to the lack of self-control.

I would like to thank you for exposing this type of police enforcement that does great harm to a small community. My family also thanks you for the honest reporting you've done.

Augustine Sandoval
via the Internet

Act in haste, repent in leisure: Prendergast's exposé on Costilla County reminds me of a similar scenario in Gilpin County before gambling was introduced in Central City and Black Hawk. At the time, I was disturbed by the community's critique, which I thought was a bit shortsighted and rather naive. In all jurisdictions, there are mistakes, over-reactions, seemingly unfair practices -- and this reality is magnified when the community is small, for there is always something to complain about.

Sheriff Andy Taylor faced many a magnified complaint in that fictitious but reality-based series. But Mayberry was decades ago, and the challenges of today's jurisdictions are far more complex. A recall is the right maneuver if indeed these allegations are true -- but if they're made in contempt of authority figures just trying to do their jobs, a grave injustice will be served. The "bandwagon" to obtain enough signatures will be easy, but before it's all said and done, those folks in Costilla County might want to consider those who will replace these alleged perpetrators -- and then ask themselves if anything will really change.

J. Matthew Dietz

Vox of the People

The devil you say! In response to "Citizen's Arrest," the July 5 letter from Robert Avery, the gentleman who was concerned about the members of Vox Demonna living in his neighborhood:

I grew up in northeast Ohio, somewhere between where Brian Warner of Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails grew up, and I am about their age. I can't recall ever seeing a local news story about either of them plotting to harm someone's children or undermine their community. You see, they are artists, so they have an outlet. In fact, they had very little impact on their communities, as they were focused on honing their crafts. I can't remember hearing about Ozzy Osbourne or Alice Cooper molesting children on their way to stardom, either.

What I do recall distinctly was that not a year passed without the local news reporting the scandal of some scout leader or clergyman violating an adolescent. These were the kinds of children whose parents had not prepared them for life. No one had discussed with them inappropriate touching or warned them that adults might be predators, because they were trying to protect them from learning about these dark, uncomfortable corners of our world. The adults that molested them were thought to be rigid Christians and pillars of the community until they got caught.

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