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head: On law and latinos

Reid Williams

BRECKENRIDGE – He hardly had time to catch his breath, calling an auction and giving a commencement address in the two days before, but Colorado’s attorney general made time for two speeches in Breckenridge Saturday.

Attorney General Ken Salazar said he’s been traveling to Summit County so much recently, “I don’t get lost anymore.”

Salazar gave a short speech to officers attending the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police convention at the Great Divide Lodge. Salazar raced to make the meeting, coming from a graduation speech in Antonito, near the New Mexico border, the night before.

The attorney general and his staff of 300 work on behalf of law enforcement officers by pursuing convictions contested in courts of appeal and the Colorado Supreme Court. Salazar said he and other prosecutors have handled more than 3,000 such cases with a 90 percent success rate.

Salazar also told the police group about other projects in his office. The attorney general lobbied for Senate Bill 172, which would have provided as much as $1 million for police training around the state. The bill passed in the Senate, but died in a House committee. Police also took interest in Salazar’s work with gangs and a recently approved multimillion-dollar grant to develop a statewide gang information system.

The Department of Law has also been involved recently with such responsibilities as Columbine probes and the prosecution of murder suspects who have fled to Mexico. Salazar said there are approximately 200 outstanding homicide arrest warrants in the state and he believes 48 of the suspects fled south of the border. In the past year, Mexican prosecutors have won two convictions against murder suspects from Colorado with the aid of an international agreement to bring them to justice.

Describing a recent visit to the White House in Washington, D.C., Salazar urged the officers to remain vigilant in homeland security.

“In the post-Sept. 11 world, people still don’t know how we’re going to deal with homeland security,” Salazar said. “The one thing we do know is that the people who will bear the brunt are the men and women on the front lines of local law enforcement, and I hope that you stay involved.”

Salazar’s work and comments won him the endorsement of the police association in his bid for re-election this November.

After a brief lunch, the attorney general shifted gears to address a meeting of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition. More than 1,000 parents and children attended the conference at Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge for discussions and presentations on youth development and improving learning opportunities for Latinos in the state.

Salazar has taken an interest in the condition of Colorado’s immigrants. Thursday, he called an auction to benefit a Denver clinic that aids uninsured Latinos. Salazar also is co-chair, along with Gov. Bill Owens, of Closing the Learning Gap, a task force formed to address the disparity in school achievement between Latinos and other students.

“I’ll be telling them about our work on the task force, as well as the importance of parental involvement in education,” Salazar said. “I’m also trying to promote our work with safe schools initiatives.”

Eleven schools in Colorado were selected to implement a bully-proofing program. The curriculum goes beyond conflict resolution skills and teaches students to stand up for themselves and others, and how to identify and report bullying behavior in their school. Six of the 11 schools chosen are Summit County’s elementary schools.

“It’s up to you (Summit County) to lead the way,” Salazar said. “The rest of the state will be looking to you to show how to implement this program and make it work, so do a good job.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com


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