- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

TAOS, N.M. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service has promised better communication with Taos Ski Valley following a drug raid that left visitors and employees outraged, according to a report the agency released Thursday.

Officials said in the review that officers “should have considered the impression that a muzzled police canine may have had in a heavily populated ski lodge area,” the Albuquerque Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1oyzWK1 ).

Four heavily armed Forest Service officers conducted a raid Feb. 22 with a dog in Taos Ski Valley’s parking area and nearby roads, according to authorities. The area was especially busy that day with a breast-cancer awareness fundraiser and a teen athletic competition. Many of the complaints centered on the tone and demeanor of officers, the report said. Lodge operators complained that the raid had a negative impact on the ski area’s image.

But the officers say they found 13 violations, including speeding and marijuana possession. Tommy Barrs, an officer responsible for the Questa Ranger District, said the raid was in response to observing violations around the lodge before, according to the report. Initially, the raid was to be conducted with six officers including two that would hit the slopes searching for illegal activity.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson, who resides near the 9,000-foot elevation resort, said there is no crime problem and the area is relatively peaceful.

Taos Ski Valley runs on federal land with a special use permit and falls under Forest Service jurisdiction.

The agency said it will now have Forest Service supervisors work on building better relations with ski area operators, local law enforcement and residents. The review announced there would be new training to help improve the tone and sensitivity of officers when interacting with residents.

Chris Stagg, vice president of Taos Ski Valley, said he appreciates that the agency appears to be taking steps to have less of an impact on guests and skiers. The resort doesn’t dispute their right to do their duties as officers, he added.

“I’m glad they realize it could work better with coordination with the local community and the ski area operators,” Stagg said.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com

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