By Mike Dunn 

Police chief discusses drug investigation protocol


Saratoga Police Chief Tom Knickerbocker said he was taken aback by the questions at the Valley Service Organization (VSO) candidate forums about the Saratoga Police Department (SPD) not addressing the drug problems in town.

At the council and mayoral forums, a question asked of candidates stated, “there are drug dealers in some neighborhoods. Individuals have reported when they contact the police about it, they say they know all about them, and no one wants to do anything about them. Plus we do not have the money to pay for a confidential informant, etc. Our youth are falling into the influence of these dealers, and our neighborhoods are deteriorating. What would you do, if elected, to confront drug trafficking in Saratoga?”.

Knickerbocker assured the Saratoga Sun the way drug investigations were described in the question is absolutely inaccurate.

Knickerbocker said he will not provide specifics on how drug investigations are conducted, as it would compromise future investigations. He did say his department does not employ confidential informants as the question suggested.

Most solved crimes are the result of lengthy investigation by both the SPD and other law enforcement agencies Knickerbocker said. The SPD has worked with the Carbon County Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Criminal Investigation and other municipalities in past investigations. Knickerbocker said the SPD has not only received help from these departments, but has also provided resources, information and personnel to help with outside investigations as well.

“If they are beyond our capacity, I go up to the next level,” Knickerbocker said. “I will work in cooperation with other departments … I have other agencies at my disposal to utilize for these investigations, and to be quite frank, they have been utilized.”

Knickerbocker’s philosophy on law enforcement is if an officer has a hot lead on an investigation, they must follow it “until it is cold.” He said in the past, some of his officers have worked through two straight shifts in order to solve a crime. Getting a crime solved as soon as possible is critical and is essential to keeping more crimes from happening, Knickerbocker explained.

At the mayoral forums, candidate for Mayor of Saratoga and former Carbon County Sheriff Don Sherrod said if a drug problem is not being taken care of, he will “grab his hardware and take care of it himself.” Knickerbocker explained it cannot be as simple as someone making an accusation, and the police making an arrest with no evidence.

“There is much more involved in that, and it is of a sensitive nature that I won’t get into detail. But If you come to me saying ‘so-and-so is selling dope’, that doesn’t mean I go out to my police truck, drive over there and place him under arrest,” Knickerbocker said.

His department is likely aware of the crimes residents report as tips. However, Knickerbocker said they have to build a case first.

There is a strict process to investigations, which is critical in assisting the County Attorney’s Office in their case. Knickerbocker said his department cannot take “short cuts” when investigating crimes, as most offenders are let off when the police make mistakes.

When asked if there is a drug problem in Saratoga, Knickerbocker said while there are drugs in town, it is far from an epidemic.

“Every town has drugs in it,” he said. “Saratoga is not unique in that regard.”

Marijuana is the most common drug used in Saratoga, Knickerbocker said, though he is certain methamphetamine is in the community. He suspects most controlled substances are arriving from outside of Saratoga. Marijuana in the town is likely arriving from Colorado, where it was legalized for recreational use in January. Knickerbocker does not believe there are methamphetamine labs in Saratoga, but those who use it are getting it from Carbon County and surrounding areas.

When conducting drug investigations, Knickerbocker said it is their goal to “get the bigger fish” and stop the distributors.

Though he is still puzzled by the question the VSO asked the candidates, Knickerbocker said he does not mind if the town thinks the SPD is not doing anything about drugs in Saratoga.

“I like it best when they think I’m doing nothing,” Knickerbocker said. “Because that’s when we can get into these things.”


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