A local attorney is questioning the credibility of an Aspen police officer who wore her uniform while off duty and attended the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day festival in September without paying for admission.
Attorney Lauren Maytin contends that Aspen police officer Valerie McFarlane’s “misconduct … is relevant, exculpatory and probative of truthfulness or the lack thereof” as it pertains to a drunken-driving arrest McFarlane made. Maytin, who represents the DUI defendant, filed a motion last week in that case requesting officer McFarlane’s personnel file.
“It is believed that the documents [in the file] will show that on or about Sept. 4 and Sept. 5 , Officer McFarlane while off duty dressed in her Aspen Police Department uniform, trespassed onto the 2009 Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival grounds by deceitfully ‘badging’ her way into the concert and failing to pay for admission,” according to Maytin’s motion. “This occurred two days in a row but on the second day, Officer McFarlane, again off duty but dressed in her APD uniform, returned to the festival with her boyfriend and children and flashed her badge to gain access for her group. Not only did she gain access to the festival on this second day by use of her badge but she also trespassed into the VIP section of the festival where she was able to obtain free food and libations for her group.”
In an interview Wednesday morning, McFarlane admitted to attending the Labor Day festival on two separate nights while wearing a uniform off duty and not paying, but she said the first night she went there after her shift ended to scout it out for her 14-year-old daughter who planned to attend the following evening. “I knew my daughter would be attending the concert,” she said. “I came, I looked, I left.” The second night she said she again entered the festival off duty and in uniform without paying for admission but that she was there to watch over her daughter and daughter’s boyfriend — both of whom McFarlane claims paid for admission.
“I stayed off to the side and waited for the concert to end,” she said. “I was there really to protect her. … I couldn’t even tell you who the headliners were.”
Citizen Cope headlined Sept. 4. The Black Eyed Peas headlined Sept. 5.
McFarlane confirmed that she moved her daughter and daughter’s boyfriend from the general admission section of the concert to the VIP area, but she said none of them ate or drank from the free banquets and bars available to only the festival’s highest-paying customers.
“I cannot tell you how deeply sorry I am,” McFarlane said, adding that she feels she hurt the department and the community. She added that her supervisors and fellow officers have been extremely supportive of her.
Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor declined to discuss details of the incident or any disciplinary action that was taken, saying his “hands are tied” because it is a human resources/personnel issue. But he did say that another officer reported McFarlane’s misconduct. He also confirmed that unless they are commuting to and from work, officers are not allowed to wear uniforms off duty.
Maytin contends the incident casts serious doubt on McFarlane’s credibility as a police officer.
“Officer McFarlane did not pay for any of these admissions or for any of the services she received in the VIP section of the concert,” her motion states. “The total amount stolen from the Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival is not known at this time but a rough estimate would be at least $2,000. It is believed Officer McFarlane was officially sanctioned by her superiors at the Aspen Police Department.”
Jazz Aspen Snowmass staff said they were unaware McFarlane appears to have illegally attended the show.
A motions hearing over whether Maytin can obtain access to McFarlane’s personnel file is scheduled for next week, but a ruling may not come until later.