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Vail’s chief of police to work on Whistler’s front lines

Dwight Henniger appointed as temporary bylaw officer for Olympics

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Dwight Henniger credits his love of Whistler as the reason why he's the chief of police in Vail, Colorado.

"Probably one of the reasons that I'm the police chief here in Vail is because of my time that I've spent in your community," said Henniger, who has held the chief's position in Vail for the past eight years.

"I knew if I became a chief I needed to do it where I get to do the things that I love to do because time would be so valuable."

That meant finding a ski town like the one he found in Canada the year Blackcomb opened.

Henniger's love of Whistler is bringing him back here for the 2010 Olympic Games, this time not as a ski junkie but as a temporary bylaw officer.

The municipality has officially appointed Henniger as a bylaw officer for the Olympics, joining five other municipal staff members who have been redeployed to that department during the Games, for a total of 12 officers.

The move exemplifies Whistler's long connection to its American ski town counterpart. The police and bylaw departments in both communities have worked together over the years, sharing information on how they tackle similar problems, from bear and parking issues to noise management issues in towns where bars and residential units are built one on top of the other. Several years ago there was even a police and bylaw officer exchange between the two communities.

"I have gleaned a lot of good ideas from the bylaw services folks and RCMP in Whistler and we've used a lot of those," said Henniger.

"And I'm hoping that I'll be able to pick up some more ideas (at the Games)."

Bylaw Service Supervisor Sandra Smith, who will be providing a room for the chief at her home, said she hopes to provide Henniger with a well-rounded experience, volunteering not just with bylaw services but also with the municipality's operations centre and assisting the local RCMP.

It won't be business as usual for bylaw officers, predicts Smith. In addition to dealing with ambush marketing and illegal commercial signs, she expects their primary focus will be on transportation.

"I personally believe that our biggest responsibility is going to be making sure that cars are not parking illegally and blocking the flow of traffic," said Smith. "Really, that's our number one priority, keeping everything clear so that snow clearing can take place and keeping the subdivisions clear so that traffic can flow and the roads are clear and safe."

It's that kind of working on the front lines that's one of the things Henniger is most looking forward to because he doesn't get the opportunity to do that as Vail's chief of police.

"I can't be in that role of the line person having the interactions as much as the chief here so it'll be nice to be in that role again and remind myself of what it's like to be on the front lines," he said.

He will be coming on Feb. 10 and staying through the Games until March 1.

When he first became chief in Vail, he was sent to Salt Lake City during the 2002 Games to tour the venues and go over the security arrangements so that he could see what was involved in the security needs for a large scale athletic event (Vail is host to several events such as World Cups.)

He said: "I know what it's like to put on big events and it's nice to have some extra staff."

 

 

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