La Plata County Sheriff’s Office Hopes to Reinstate Deputy Ski Program at Purgatory Resort, CO After “Ethical Violation”

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Purgatory CO’s deputy ski program was forced to shut down in 2019 due to an ethics violation. Deputies hope to reimplement the program. (PC: Uncover Colorado)

The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office has hopes of reinstating the deputy ski patrol program at Purgatory Resort, CO after it was shut down by the Colorado Independent Ethics Department in 2019 because of a violation. 

The deputy ski program launched in 2012 and it began as a very simple and helpful idea. The main objective of the program was to spread critical mountain safety rules. Deputies who volunteered to participate in the program were instructed to perform law enforcement duties only if called upon. In exchange for these services, each deputy received a resort season pass. The program was a win-win situation for both Purgatory Resort and the La Plata Sheriff’s office. 

The program was originally launched in 2012 so that La Plata deputies were closer to Purgatory if a situation arose in which police would need to respond to a call. However, the program was shut down by the Colorado Independent Ethics Department in 2019. The ethics department shut the program down due to a violation of Section 3 of Colorado Amendment 41. 

According to the Durango Herald, the section states:

“Public and government officials and employees cannot accept gifts of substantial value or benefits tantamount to gifts of substantial value.” 

Technically, the deputy ski program did violate this amendment. The season pass deputies received as payment for their services was seen as gifts of substantial value. Chris Burke, spokesperson for the La Plata Sheriff’s Office speaks highly of the program. He says it is very helpful for deputies to be visible on the mountain. According to Burke, the deputies’ main job is to be mountain safety ambassadors and backup to ski patrol.

Burke told reporters at Durango Herald if the program were to be reinstated, it would have to be completely remodeled to avoid another ethics violation. Not only does the program benefit visitors at Purgatory resort, but it was also a program that deputies used to look forward to volunteering in each winter. The program allowed deputies to get outside, socialize with the members of their community, and shred some powder. 

Managers at Purgatory Resort have not commented on their opinion regarding reinstating the program.

Skiers would normally see Sheriff cars at Purgatory when the deputy ski patrol program was in full force. (PC: La Plata County Sheriff’s Office)

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