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Former deputy marshal defends his performance in Mancos
By Suzanne Strazza
In response to recent articles regarding the Mancos Marshal’s Office, ex-deputy Wesley Short has asked to tell his side of the story — the story of his employment with and dismissal from the marshal’s office.
Short contacted the Free Press after last month’s article on Steve O’Neil, the new marshal in town. He said he was “tired of everything being so one-sided” and wanted “to tell the truth of what happened.”
The truth, he said, is that the town of Mancos doesn’t really want its law officers to do their job.
Short was terminated as a deputy on Nov. 13, after being placed on paid administrative leave following allegations that he had harassed some patrons of the Columbine Bar and had used unnecessary force. Short was still in his six-month probationary period, so no reason for his termination had to be given.
Marshal David Palacios, who had defended Short, resigned shortly thereafter. O’Neil was later chosen to replace him.
Short believes he did not deserve to be terminated, that he was a good deputy.
According to Short, when he was hired the town of Mancos was a “mess” and needed help – help that he was prepared to give. Mancos, he said, was a hotbed of drug deals, DUIs, speeding and other illegal activities. Supposedly, the three deputies prior to Short’s term were doing little about these problems.
The town board did not fully support efforts to strengthen law enforcement, Short said. When he was hired, he said, about half of the seven members of the town board wanted to see the town cleaned up and the rest wanted things “left alone.”
“Mayor (Greg) Rath was on the fence and Town Administrator Tom Glover was the main reason that the entire town was in this uproar,” Short said. “Glover was trying to control the marshal’s office without any law-enforcement experience.”
In response to this allegation, Glover said, “The town board has it set up that the marshal reports directly to me, so I was just doing my job as his supervisor.”
Short said he had a good record of dealing with problems such as speeding and drunk driving in town. He says that when he was interviewing for the job, he was asked if he was willing to write tickets, which he was.
According to Short, he brought in at least $2,500 in revenue from tickets issued in the speed zone on Highway 160 and nabbed 17 DUIs in one month. “I was doing my job just like they asked me to,” he said.
He claimed that he and Palacios also chased three known drug-dealers out of town, helping to clean up the streets of Mancos. “We were letting them know that they were being watched. We were so vigilant that they went to look for greener pastures,” he said.
When asked about the dispute over his treatment of Columbine patrons, Short responded, “People at the Columbine want to do whatever they want.”
Problems began in September with the arrests of several Columbine patrons, including Don Higman and Leslie Feast, both of Mancos, who accused Short of using unnecessary force against them. Feast said that one night in September she stepped out of the Columbine to let her dog out of her truck and that Short threw her against a fence and arrested her for DUI.
Higman said, on Oct. 3, after a verbal altercation between him and Short inside the Columbine, Short threw him onto the bar. Higman was arrested on charges of obstructing police and disorderly conduct.
Some bar patrons had also complained that Short hung out in the bar, counting people’s drinks and making them feel intimidated.
But Short said his visits into the bar were to check for underage drinkers and that he “never used force as an officer. If you have to physically put someone’s hands behind their back, it’s not force, it’s for officer safety.”
He said every time he arrested someone from the bar, there were at least “30 or 40 spectators siding with their friend or family member,” making it difficult to do his job.
Short said he does not yet know why he was fired. “I have never seen a complaint on myself – I am an excellent officer. They have never given me a reason for being dismissed.”
Glover responded, “We reserve the right to let someone go during their six-month probation period without giving a reason.”
Rath said Short’s termination was not because of the allegations of harassment and police brutality made by Columbine patrons.
“I witnessed the arrest of two of his accusers and, in my eyes, I saw no brutality,” Rath said. “However, something came to our attention and it was decided by the town administrator to let him (Short) go because he was on probation. We felt that Short was not going to fit what we wanted in Mancos.”
Short believes it all goes back to folks not wanting things to change in Mancos. “The town wants a show to be put on by the marshal’s office but they don’t really want results,” he said.
He feels that Palacios also bore the brunt of this apathy. “Palacios was doing the best job he could. The town just wanted to get rid of him because he was being a true officer.”
Palacios resigned, according to Short, because “he was talked down to, not allowed to do his job and he was backing me (Short).” He added, “Being voted back into office was more important than supporting what you’ve asked people to do.” Rath is up for re-election this year.
Glover denied such allegations. “That’s just not true. Of course we want the marshal to do his job.”
Short is currently awaiting trial on charges stemming from a Nov. 20 incident in which he allegedly held his ex-wife at gunpoint in her home — charges he says are not true. He has children in the area, a son from his first marriage and two daughters from his second, and he hopes to remain, although he guesses that his career in law enforcement is “ruined.”
But, Short said, “I would rather stay here and dig ditches than lose my kids.” He will probably have a better idea of what direction his life is going to take after the trial is over.