Aspen Police: Cramped Quarters Present Problems

Aug 6, 2014

Michele McClinton manages evidence for the Aspen Police Department. One area where evidence is store, the vault, is stuffed full.
Michele McClinton manages evidence for the Aspen Police Department. One area where evidence is store, the vault, is stuffed full.
Credit Marci Krivonen

The Aspen Police Department is short on space. Authorities say that they’re forced to sort evidence at a lunch table and take statements from distraught victims in a busy hallway. Over the coming years, the department is looking to expand but, they’ll need the public’s support. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

The Police Department is in the basement of the Aspen’s courthouse on Main Street. A long, busy hallway is the department’s epicenter with a padlocked vault in the middle of it. Michele McClinton oversees evidence stored there.

"I’ve got evidence overflowing from the shelf there in front of the gun lockers. We have our gun lockers on each side and (the evidence) is on the floor now because I just don’t have space," she says.

The small vault was likely a jail cell years ago. Now, the shelves are stuffed with marked boxes. Getting the evidence to the vault is a challenge. McClinton has to walk it through the public hallway. She snuck a delivery in earlier today.

"A gentleman had a sword, some knives and some nunchucks and I wasn’t really interested in showing that to everybody."

The squeeze for space started last year when other agencies swapped offices in the courthouse, leaving the police department with little room to work.

"So, for the last year we’ve been working without any free space at all," says Richard Pryor, Chief of Police. He motions around the busy hallway. "This is unused space that we can park people in and kind of work out of. As you can see, we’ve got people coming and going through here all the time. I mean, it’s just not the ideal work environment to provide service to people."

Besides the hallway, the department’s employees work in a handful of offices. Overall, the working space is about 3000 square feet. A recent assessment by the City found the department needs an additional 10,000 to 12,000 square feet.

Jack Wheeler is the project manager for the City’s Capital Assets Department. It’s his job to identify a space for the department to grow into.

"We have to do something in the next three and a half years with the police department and we want that to be seamless for the public, so it is a high priority."

Cramped space is one reason for the move, but the department must vacate altogether in the next three to four years. That’s because the owner of the building, Pitkin County, is experiencing growing pains itself and it needs the space. So, the City is considering every chunk of land and space it owns to find a solution.

"We’ve actually looked at all of our assets from Maroon Creek in this Facilities Master Plan. We’re trying to be very comprehensive and it’s a big process," says Wheeler.

Besides the P.D., several other City divisions need new homes, like the building and engineering departments.

Police Chief Richard Pryor says it’s important to get the public’s support now because a big, possibly expensive, move will inevitably happen.

"There needs to be a whole dialogue with the public. We want the public’s support and we need to earn the public’s support because it’s going to be their tax dollars at work for them."

At this point, the City doesn’t have a solid price estimate for an expansion. But they will present ideas to City Council later this month. Also this month, an open house for the public, where the police department can show off its cramped space.