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Fill'er Up

For several years, Rudy Reveles, a young attorney with the state's public defenders' office, represented the indigent and the criminally accused of Trinidad, a city of 9,700 in Las Animas County, from an office in Pueblo. But by September 1995, the business of defending Trinidad's poor had become so big that the state decided to open a satellite operation there. What Reveles found was sobering.

Trinidad sits on Colorado's southern border at the bottom of Raton Pass, which climbs to nearly 8,000 feet in the Culebra Range before dropping into New Mexico. In 1867 prospectors blasted into the range and opened the area's first coal mine. Other prospectors followed, but recent economics have been unable to support the mines, and one by one they have closed. Today, public-assistance levels in the town are high. So are the problems associated with poverty and joblessness: Las Animas County ranks twelfth out of the 63 Colorado counties both in per capita DUI cases and in alcohol-related driving fatalities.

The area's liquor problem is no secret, and it is self-acknowledged. Nevertheless, in May 1993 a private company closed the doors of its three-year-old Trinidad alcohol-detoxification facility--the only one in town. Despite generous city subsidies, the owner said, there just weren't enough clients to justify staying open.

For the next two years, though, Trinidad's elected officials and law enforcement officers made it clear that they were desperate to get the local detox center back. Part of the reason was a recognition of the city's struggle with alcohol. And part of it was that the Las Animas County jail was perpetually full: Frequently, there was no room for those who were detained for minor, alcohol-related offenses, and a nearby detox would help ease the strain.

So Trinidad officials pleaded with the state to help fund the center. In exchange, they pledged to do whatever it took to make it worthwhile for the Crossroads Managed Care detox facility to reopen. Finally, on July 1, 1995, their efforts paid off; the center swung open its doors once again.

But have Trinidad's law enforcement officials gone too far in their campaign to make sure the local drunk tank stays full? The day before the local Crossroads facility reopened, Chief of Police James Montoya sent a memo to all his officers. Their aggressive assistance, he reminded them, would be required to keep the city's detox center in business.

"The detox will remain available contingent on full utilization," he wrote. "A great deal of cooperation, effort and resources went into the re-opening of this facility. If client referrals are not frequently made, the facility will not remain available." Client referrals, of course, meant police officers bringing in drunks.

A reception in honor of the detox center's reopening was attended by Trinidad's mayor and city council members, the county sheriff and Chief Montoya. Reveles didn't make the festivities. But he soon began to hear about Crossroads from his new clients.

"It's nothing I went looking for," he explains. "It just jumped out at me. What caught my attention was that people were coming to me and telling me that they were routinely getting hauled off to detox and locked up for two to three days, often independent of how much alcohol they had consumed. And I began wondering: Do we have prohibition in Trinidad?"

Getting drunk is not against the law in Colorado; in fact, state law specifically prohibits police from charging anyone with a crime simply for being intoxicated. Yet over the past two years, it has become common knowledge among those who drink in Trinidad that being caught after having a few--regardless of whether you are bothering anyone and, at times, regardless of even how much you have imbibed--can have serious consequences.

Indeed, ever since Crossroads reopened, Trinidad police have not stopped at detaining just bothersome drunks. They have hauled people off the street while they were quietly walking home. They have pulled passengers from vehicles--whose drivers weren't even drunk--and thrown them into the local tank. They have even entered people's homes, removed the residents forcibly and taken them to the detox facility; one woman was just getting into bed.

Nor has Crossroads necessarily released these people once they were sober. Visitors have been confined in the facility against their will for as long as five days.

Erica Fabec wasn't even drunk. Now a junior accounting major with a 3.68 GPA at the University of Colorado, Fabec had returned to Trinidad in October 1995 for her first visit home since moving to Boulder a month before. She and two friends drove to a party in the woods at the edge of town, where she socialized with old high-school buddies and drank a couple of beers out of a plastic cup before deciding to head for home.

 

On the way back into town, the three were stopped by a Trinidad police officer who told them their car had rolled through an intersection without coming to a complete stop. Declaring that he smelled alcohol, the officer asked the driver to step out of the car and submit to a series of roadside sobriety tests. She passed all of them and was released.

The officer wasn't done, though. Next he asked Fabec, who was riding in the front seat, to perform a Breathalyzer test. She agreed, and blew a .045--less than the level that would have been necessary to charge her with a DUI even if she had been driving. Under the city's four-month-old alcohol policy, it didn't seem to matter.

"The police had me get out of the car and told me to get into the cruiser," Fabec recalls. "I thought they were taking me home. But when we drove past the turn to my house, I asked where we were going. And he told me, 'To detox.'

"It was hard to make the call to my mother," Fabec continues. "I'd never been in this kind of trouble before." She wasn't out of trouble yet. "I couldn't sleep," she remembers. "I was too scared. When the next morning rolled around I said, 'How can I get out of here?' They told me I had to stay at least 24 hours."

So Fabec settled in. She asked her mother to bring her school books, and she spent all day Saturday studying in Trinidad's new drunk tank. She saw a short alcohol video. "It was a joke," she says. Finally, that evening, she was released.

Colorado's Department of Human Resources, through the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, pays Crossroads Managed Care more than $2 million each year. That figure is based on the estimated number of people the company will treat. To keep the government money coming, Crossroads, like a drunk, needs to feed its habit. In fact, the facility's contract with Colorado specifies a target number of "episodes" that the detox center must strive to reach in order to maintain the funding. The state also mandates that the majority of the clients be poor.

Since the summer of 1995, thanks to Trinidad's extraordinarily aggressive policing, Crossroads has easily met its target goals. According to public records, in June 1995, the month before Crossroads reopened its Trinidad drunk tank, 32 intoxicated men and women were detained. In its first years of operation in Trinidad, in the early '90s, Crossroads saw an average of 30 to 40 clients per month.

In July 1995, the month following Chief Montoya's directive to his officers to keep the center at "full utilization," the number of admissions to Crossroads' newly reopened Trinidad detox more than tripled, up to 114. The following month the number climbed to 125.

The increase has outraged Reveles. He suspects Crossroads' new numbers have less to do with a recent jump in Trinidad's drinking problem than with a police force suddenly willing to suspend a few citizens' rights rather than risk losing the local drunk tank. "And it's wrong," says Reveles. "It's just plain wrong."

The U.S. Constitution is clear on a citizen's right not to be incarcerated without the government making a good case as to why. The Fourteenth Amendment declares that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, detain or property, without due process of law."

People relinquish their liberty most commonly, of course, when they are suspected of committing a crime, arrested and detained. But you also can be confined legally without being arrested. A citizen suspected of being a danger to the public health may be detained against his will--say, if he has contagious tuberculosis and refuses treatment. Most states also have mental-health statutes that permit officials to take a person into protective custody if he is in danger of hurting himself or others; how long that person can be kept before a judge reviews the case varies by state.

Colorado's alcohol "emergency commitment" laws are based on such protective thinking. In 1973 the state passed a law declaring that "when any person is intoxicated or incapacitated by alcohol and clearly dangerous to the health and safety of himself or others, such person shall be taken into protective custody by law enforcement authorities...acting with probable cause, and placed in an approved treatment facility."

But the definition of "clearly dangerous" often is a moving target--a difficult call for a beat cop forced to make a decision on the spot. Is a drunk person a danger to himself--and thus ready for hauling into detox--if he is spotted reeling down the sidewalk near speeding traffic? What if an intoxicated person is discovered asleep, sitting behind the wheel of his parked car? Can a policeman be assured he won't wake up still drunk and drive away? Colorado has seen plenty of incidents that explain why a police officer might choose to err on the side of caution.

 

On an evening in September 1978, a teenager named Ralph Crowe attended a large outdoor party in Commerce City. He drank heavily that night, mixing eight cups of beer with three glasses of an alcoholic punch. Just before midnight, after receiving a complaint from an angry neighbor, police arrived and broke up the party. Crowe was disruptive, and so the police handcuffed him and prepared to detain him.

But they never got around to locking him up. Crowe's seventeen-year-old brother, Eddie, pleaded with the cops to release Ralph into his custody; Eddie promised to drive him straight home. He was sober and had a valid driver's license, so the cops agreed.

As they had promised, the brothers immediately left the party. On the way home they stopped at a local convenience store. Somehow, though, when they pulled away, Ralph Crowe was behind the wheel. He began driving toward Stapleton Airport, where members of the broken-up party had secretly agreed to reconvene.

As he arrived at the new party site, Ralph plowed the car into a group of six people; two were killed. The victims' families sued the police department, arguing that the cops were negligent when they made the decision to release Ralph Crowe from custody rather than lock him up.

Pressure to keep intoxicated people off the streets has not just come from their victims, either. Colorado law enforcement officers have also been taken to court by the drunks themselves.

In 1989, Kathy Hilliard and her boyfriend were involved in a minor traffic accident in a "high-crime area" of Denver. When police arrived at the scene, they took the boyfriend into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

They also determined that Hilliard was too intoxicated to drive, and the couple's car was impounded. While that prevented Hilliard from driving while drunk, it also left her stranded. Later that night, still stuck in the same neighborhood, she was robbed and raped; she was discovered the following morning, naked, bleeding and barely conscious.

Hilliard sued the Denver Police Department and the four officers. In her suit, she charged that the cops' failure to take her into custody under the state's emergency commitment laws had violated her constitutional rights.

The police in both the Hilliard and Crowe cases eventually were cleared. Yet lawyers say the potential legal fallout from such situations is in the back of every cop's mind when he approaches a drunk on the street.

And cops aren't the only ones affected by those cases. Such incidents also motivate professional staff members at treatment facilities such as hospitals and detoxification centers to err on the side of caution. Generally, Colorado court decisions have backed them up.

Pueblo Treatment Services, Inc., was founded in 1981 as a private, nonprofit corporation devoted to providing drug and alcohol treatment services to that city. But the company grew quickly, expanding into Huerfano and Las Animas counties, as well as other areas in the San Luis Valley. In 1994 it was renamed Crossroads Managed Care Systems, Inc., to reflect its growing service area.

One of the places the company moved into was Trinidad. In 1989 Pueblo Treatment Services took over the city's longtime alcohol treatment program, Fisher's Peak. But Trinidad officials were eager to have a new drug/alcohol detox and treatment center, and they quickly agreed to subsidize the construction of a fresh facility. In August 1989 the city council sold a piece of property on the south side of town to PTS for half its assessed value.

"I wish to state that the city's willingness to sell this property to your agency for an amount less than market value is reflective of the city's support for, and appreciation of, the services your agency provides," Bill Cordova, the city manager, wrote the company.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in January 1990. Five months later the 4,400-square-foot facility was opened. For the next three years the town of Trinidad contributed about $7,000 annually to help fund the center's operations. Even with the city's help, though, business was slow, and the detox facility began foundering almost immediately.

In 1988 a San Luis Valley native named Leroy Lucero had signed on as director of Pueblo Treatment Services; he helped guide its expansion into Trinidad. But in April 1993 Lucero suddenly announced his intention to close the new center. In a letter sent to Cordova the following month, Lucero explained: "The Clients Served graph shows the number of clients served in the Trinidad Detox facility by month. You will notice the downward trend in the number of clients starting in July 1992, with the low of 33 clients in February 1993."

 

Lucero, now 47, still directs Crossroads today. He hypothesizes that the Trinidad center was under-used in the early '90s because people had begun to take the local detoxification services for granted. "At that point, people probably assumed the services would always be there," he says. "They didn't realize how much they needed it until it was gone, and so they didn't use it as much as they could have."

Lucero kept the outpatient treatment component of the facility open, and he agreed to continue providing detox services to Trinidad. But starting in mid-1993, those services became more complicated. People picked up for intoxication had to be held in a temporary lockup until a driver from Lucero's Pueblo facility could drive down to Trinidad, pick them up, then take them to Pueblo to dry out.

The arrangement didn't always work out. Over both the Memorial Day and July 4 weekends of 1993, Trinidad police took several drunks into custody--but no one from the Pueblo treatment center showed up to take them to Pueblo. Such snafus irritated local officials, who felt their past subsidies made them deserving of better service, and a group of them began lobbying the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division for help.

"This county and community desperately need a detox facility in conjunction with a residential treatment program and outpatient treatment program," began a June 13, 1993, letter to the division's executive director, which was signed by a district court judge, the district attorney, police chief, sheriff, a probation officer, a city councilman and a local hospital administrator. "The closure of the detox facility...is depriving the citizens of this area of desperately needed services."

In January 1994, seven months after closing the Trinidad detox, Lucero agreed to work closely with an advisory board to reopen the center. A coalition of bureaucrats and elected officials--heavy on law enforcement officers--began meeting at the Trinidad Holiday Inn on the fourth Wednesday of every month.

From the beginning, according to minutes of those meetings, talk among boardmembers tended to center on numbers: How many clients per month would it take to make it worthwhile for Lucero to reopen the detox center? "Utilization" became a common theme of the monthly discussions.

From the minutes of the February 23, 1994, meeting: Chief Montoya wondered "if utilization reached a high sustained level, would detox be reopened? Leroy [Lucero] responded that the Board of Directors may consider reopening of residential Detox services in the future depending on high and stable utilization of existing Detox services."

From the minutes of the April 27 meeting: "Leroy stated that referrals must be sustained over a long period to support a ten-bed Detox. This means approximately fifty to sixty referrals per month, and fiscal support from both city and county."

From the minutes of August 31: Lucero stated that "The Trinidad facility would have to achieve an average of 80 percent utilization."

From the minutes of January 25, 1995: "Leroy [Lucero] indicated that, as in business, using the Detox facility in volume will make the unit more cost efficient."

The task force's efforts finally bore fruit. On June 27, 1995, the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division signed a $2.28 million contract with Crossroads for the coming year, $755,000 of which was to go toward detox services. About a third of that money was to go to the reopened Trinidad facility. (Crossroads operates two other detoxes in southern Colorado.) The contract specified that the company was to strive for a target goal of about 700 "episodes" per year in Trinidad in order to keep the same level of government funding.

On June 28 the advisory board met for the final time before the center was scheduled to open two days later. "Chief of Police Montoya will be working closely to ensure [the facility] is utilized," the minutes of that meeting concluded.

In conjunction with the reopening of Crossroads, Montoya issued a directive to his officers that he called General Order 95-03. Although it was similar to the state law regarding emergency commitments of intoxicated individuals, some crucial differences seemed to make it easier for police to detain and commit Trinidad's drunks.

For instance, where state law permits police to take people into custody only when "intoxicated or incapacitated by alcohol and clearly dangerous to the health and safety of himself or others," Montoya's memo set a lower standard. It directed that "when an Officer has contact with any individual who exhibits any potential of intoxication...the subject is to be evaluated by Detox staff for consideration of Detox treatment."

 

The memo closed with reminders of how hard everyone had worked to get Crossroads reopened and how the department's help in maintaining "full utilization" would be necessary to keep the center open.

"I had heard about the detox through the grapevine from guys who'd worked for me--they'd be walking home from a bar and get picked up, and then they'd disappear for five days," recalls Owen Shugard. "But I thought the police were just picking on the guys who were down and out."

That description hardly fits Shugard. In early 1995, Shugard, then forty years old, was living with his wife in Santa Fe, where they sold antiques and local crafts. On a drive north to Trinidad, he fell in love with the city's oddly angled streets and old adobe buildings and decided to move there.

"I wanted to build a straw-bale house on one of those 35-acre lots," Shugard says. He soon purchased a building downtown for his antiques business and put a down payment on a 42-acre lot outside of town, where he planned to build a house.

On a warm night in mid-August 1995, Shugard and his wife decided to head to the neighborhood tavern, The Big Horse, to meet some friends. The bar is situated about three blocks from the couple's antique shop, where they also were living at the time. At some point in the evening, "my wife decided to leave and walk home," Shugard recalls. "I just hung out and talked to some real estate guys. Eventually I left and began walking home through an alley. Suddenly I heard the police call on the loudspeaker, telling me to stop.

"I waited for them to get to me and asked, 'What do you want?' That's when they handcuffed me. So I said, 'Am I under arrest?' And they told me, 'No, we're doing this for your own good'--so I wouldn't hurt myself."

Shugard, who says he had never been to jail or even arrested, admits he was drunk, although he refused to take a Breathalyzer test. "I had had some drinks, but I certainly wasn't stumbling," he says. He also estimates that he was less than a hundred feet from his house when he was taken into custody.

Shugard spent the night at Crossroads. The next morning he was fed a breakfast of a grilled hot dog, canned peas and peach halves. The rest of the day dragged. He read three Reader's Digests in their entirety and watched game shows. At one point, he says, a detox staffer approached him with a vacuum cleaner and told him to clean the rug. "You've got to be kidding," Shugard replied.

He was eventually released--42 hours after he was brought in by the police. "When I got out, it was like leaving prison camp," Shugard says.

Soon after that, Shugard and his wife moved back to Santa Fe. It wasn't a difficult decision. "In Trinidad, I had a great deal," he says. "I had a ten-year mortgage on my building downtown, with $219 monthly payments. I was ready to build my house. Here in Santa Fe, I pay $1,200 a month rent on my shop, and I had to pay $115,000 for a small house."

But, he adds, "at least I'm not afraid of the police here. After I was locked up in detox, it was like, 'Anything could happen--the police could plant drugs on me and put me away for years.' So we moved. Bye-bye."

Steve Torma ended up leaving Trinidad, too. Like Shugard, he'd heard stories about the crackdown on the city's intoxicated--or seemingly intoxicated. Like Shugard, he'd convinced himself that the police action didn't apply to him. "I remember saying to myself, 'This will never happen to me,'" Torma recalls. "I mean, I'm a civic-minded person. I was on the library board there."

Torma had moved to Trinidad on a whim. A Minnesota native with a master's degree in library science, he'd read about the city with the old Spanish flavor in southern Colorado. So in 1994, after a visit, he moved there from just over the border, in Taos, where he'd been living.

On the night of Valentine's Day 1996, Torma, who is 46 years old, went out for some drinks with friends. "I'm single, and that's one of my forms of entertainment," he explains. "I go out and talk to my buddies and drink a little. That night I overdid it--I know that. But that's my business." Torma says he had about ten drinks over a five-hour period.

He estimates that it was about 1:30 a.m. when he began walking home from the Monte Cristo bar, about a quarter-mile from his house. Police later said Torma was stumbling; he says he wasn't. The cops stopped Torma, handcuffed him, pushed him into the patrol car and transported him to Crossroads. The facility's report on Torma describes him as agitated--an assessment he doesn't deny.

 

"I've never been in a fight before in my life, but I was angry," he recalls. "I kept complaining and asking for an attorney." When an attendant grabbed him by his upper arms to steer him into a "quiet room," Torma resisted. The attendant then pushed his foot into the back of his knees, Torma says, forcing him to the floor. His head bounced and split open; it took five stitches to close the wound.

By noon the following day, Torma says he was blowing "trace" amounts of alcohol--"like I had gargled with mouthwash." But staffers told him he would remain committed there because of his agitated state. The hours passed slowly. "I saw a twelve-minute video on the hazards of drugs and alcohol and filled out a questionnaire," he remembers. On the morning of February 17, after 52 hours in detox, Torma was released.

He quickly began looking for work away from Trinidad; two months ago he began a new job as the library director of a small Santa Fe college. But he's still fuming over his experience with the Trinidad detox center. "I can see how people come to join fringe groups," he says.

Patricia Dominguez also wound up confined in Crossroads. Like both Shugard and Torma, she admits she was drunk. Unlike those two men, however, she wasn't picked up after leaving a bar to walk home. She was already there.

"I had gone to a bar to meet my boyfriend," she recalls. "We drank a few beers and came home around 10 p.m. And we got into an argument."

The two had argued before--in fact, they argued so frequently that Dominguez's sister occasionally called to check up on Patricia. She telephoned that night and asked if everything was okay. Dominguez told her no, and the sister called the police. By the time the police arrived, however, her boyfriend had left. It was about 11 p.m., by Dominguez's recollection.

"The officer knocked on the door--it was Phil Martin, who I've known for years; we used to play cards when he worked as a dog catcher," Dominguez says. "He asked if everything was okay, and I said yes. He asked if my boyfriend was still here. I told him no.

"Then he said, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'I'm getting ready for bed.' I had already taken off my sweater and shoes and was just getting ready to put on my nightgown. And he said, 'No, you're not. You're going to detox.'

"I said, 'Come on, Phil, I'm going to bed!' I kept begging him. I was crying, saying, 'Please, Phil, come on!' But he took me in. All I did there my entire stay was cry. I kept telling them, 'I don't belong here; you guys shouldn't have brought me here.'"

Dominguez finally was released three days later. As in the cases of Shugard and Torma, no charges were ever filed against her. Officer Martin later said he took Dominguez to detox because he knew she had problems with her boyfriend, and he didn't want her to be home if the boyfriend returned.

Certainly, not everyone confined to Crossroads has been minding his own business. Many men and women who land in Trinidad's detox facility have been taken into custody on suspicion of committing various crimes in addition to being drunk. Daniel Gallegos was hauled off to Crossroads on September 29, 1995; like Patricia Dominguez, he was picked up drunk at his house by the cops. He'd also just assaulted his girlfriend before returning to his home.

Yet why Gallegos, and others with similar stories, were taken to detox instead of to jail is not entirely clear. Chief Montoya did not return numerous calls from Westword. Lucero explains that the county jail does not have the training or facilities to handle intoxicated criminal suspects, and so many of them end up at Crossroads.

But a sizable number of the people taken to Crossroads--people like Shugard, Fabec, Dominguez and Torma--were not bothering anyone or endangering themselves.

Edward Leroux, who now lives in Sarasota, Florida, where he installs security systems, was hitchhiking late one evening in July 1995 when he was stopped by a police officer. Noticing that Leroux appeared to be intoxicated and that he had a bottle of Seagram's in his backpack, the officer hauled him to the detox center.

"At nine the next morning I was blowing zeros" on the Breathalyzer, Leroux says. "And they said, 'Well, you might start going into withdrawal.'" He was released three days later.

 

"If I had been peeing in the middle of the street or staggering down the road, fine--take me in," he says today. "But I was just hitchhiking. I had never had any problems with the law before this. That's the sickening part."

According to Leroy Lucero, when a person is brought into a Crossroads detox facility by police, he is advised that he is being detained under the state's "emergency commitment" laws--much in the same way that a criminal suspect is advised of his Miranda rights.

A police officer presumably will pick up someone only if he is judged to be a danger to himself or others--as required by state law. So the detox's main goal at that point, Lucero says, is to determine whether the person is genuinely drunk and incapacitated--and thus appropriate for detox detention. Which is where things become confusing.

At some point after being dropped off at Crossroads, the person is asked to sign a release, giving the company permission to treat him. When, exactly, that request is made is debatable: Lucero says within a few hours of arriving; Lucero's assistant, Jim Williams, says upon arrival.

Several unhappy former Crossroads clients say they didn't sign their waivers until just before they were released. Even at that point, they add, the crush of paperwork is confusing. Shugard signed a waiver, but he says he was never quite clear what he was agreeing to. "They told me that if I wanted to leave, I'd be better off signing the papers," he recalls.

Ultimately, however, informed consent seems to be mostly a formality. Regardless of whether or not the person decides to sign, he is kept at the facility until he is deemed "stable," a designation made by the Crossroads staff. (Which makes the idea of an informed release for treatment even stickier: How can someone presumed to be too unstable to leave be presumed coherent enough to sign a legal document permitting Crossroads to keep him locked up?)

"Stable" can be a subjective term. Even after the person's Breathalyzer test shows his body to be free of alcohol, for instance, staffers may choose to keep him locked up. Which they often do: The average length of stay at Trinidad's Crossroads detox is just under three days.

Lucero says workers are trained to look for signs of alcohol withdrawal and fuzzy-headedness--reasons enough to keep someone detained.

"It's hard to explain unless you've seen it," he says. "There are times when a person reaches zero [on the Breathalyzer] but could still be a danger to himself or others. What if we discharge him and he gets sick, falls down and hits his head? What if he's dazed, steps in front of a car and gets killed? We have a responsibility."

In the two years since Crossroads reopened its Trinidad detox facility, the police's enthusiastic use of it has been challenged only twice. The first involved Erica Fabec, the CU student.

When Fabec was thrown into detox after attending a party, her father was outraged. He called his brother, Bob Fabec--who at the time happened to be Trinidad's mayor.

"I came to hear about it from my brother," Fabec recalls. "I was rather unnerved. There just didn't seem to be any judicial review. So I brought it up with the city attorney. When he said he didn't know about the policy, I became concerned."

Fabec conveyed his apprehensions to Trinidad's city council, which communicated them to Chief Montoya. In response, on November 6, 1995, Montoya revoked General Order 95-03 and issued the new 95-04. It offered two major changes from the first memo.

The first specified exactly what, in the chief's opinion, made an intoxicated person "clearly dangerous": "A person whose mental or physical functioning is temporarily but substantially impaired as the result of the presence of alcohol in the body...[and which] impair[s] the judgment of the individual, making the person incapable of realizing and making rational decisions with respect to his/her basic personal needs of safety, or lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate rational decisions concerning his/her person."

The other changes appear designed to prevent future hassles from important people whose relatives might be detained. Under 95-04, officers are instructed that "a brief notice or memorandum must be submitted to the office of the Chief of Police stating the identity, date of birth, address and circumstances of contact, on detox committals."

The second challenge to the city's detention policy occurred last year. In early 1996, Rudy Reveles told his friend Greg Stross, a La Junta lawyer, about all the complaints he'd received from clients who felt they'd been wrongly detained at Crossroads. By that June, Stross had rounded up eighteen people he felt had a good case. He filed a class-action lawsuit, naming Crossroads, the Trinidad police department, the Las Animas sheriff's department, Trinidad's current mayor and several other public officials as defendants.

 

Six weeks ago, however, the lawsuit was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge. "It is unquestionable that Crossroads did in fact participate with the [police, city officials] and other representatives of the Trinidad community, in the meetings designed to see that the Trinidad detox facility would reopen and be utilized in an amount sufficient to justify its continued operation," the judge ruled. "However, there is no law that precludes this type of community involvement; there is no law that precludes a facility from attempting to see that its services are in fact used by the community it serves."

Lucero, who says that utilization of the Trinidad detox center has stabilized at around sixty episodes per month, argues that the judge's decision proves that Trinidad police and Crossroads have been treating the area's intoxicated citizens correctly. "There has been a perception that the police just were out to pick up drunks and bring them to us," he says. "And that's not the case."

Reveles isn't so sure. "I think the police will see this as vindication of their position," he predicts. "I expect to see a lot more commitments into Crossroads.


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