1. Loren Ryerson, former Aspen police chief
December 27, 2007
For the past few years and especially in 2007, former police chief Loren Ryerson has made headlines. This year, the build-up to Ryerson’s resignation owned the front page for more than a month as a 5-week investigation by the city’s insurance carrier found that Ryerson engaged in misconduct related to sexual harassment allegations.
The probe arose from exit interviews with former APD employees, who were critical of Ryerson’s management style. More than one-third of the force, constituting more than 100 years of experience with the APD, left for other jobs this year before Ryerson’s resignation. Two of those officers ” Renee Rayton and Adam Crider ” crossed over to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department and took pay cuts in doing so.
Ryerson’s career as an Aspen cop began in 1984, after years on ski patrol at Snowmass ski area. He was selected as chief in November 2001 by City Manager Steve Barwick.
In 2005, Ryerson was a runner-up newsmaker of the year in the Aspen Times Weekly, following the December 2005 drug busts at two local restaurants. The raids netted a number of suspected drug dealers, but many Aspenites felt the raids, conducted during apres-ski hours on a Friday, were heavy-handed. Further, Ryerson’s failure to inform the Sheriff’s Office of the drug bust exposed a rift between the two departments.
Ryerson was a Times newsmaker again in 2006, partially because one of his officers used an electronic Taser on a 63-year-old homeless woman. Ryerson stood by officer Melinda Calvano but City Manager Steve Barwick eventually overruled the chief and fired her.
By summer 2007, Ryerson had stopped giving interviews to the press and delegated media calls to Sgt. Bill Linn. Soon after that decision, citizens learned that many of the most experienced officers were leaving the department. Though few spoke publicly about their reasons for leaving, exit interviews with those officers prompted the October investigation by the city’s insurance carrier, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency.
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In a letter published Oct. 13, Ryerson referred to the allegations as “malicious hearsay and cruel gossip,” and many locals came to his defense, publishing letters of their own and even running a full-page newspaper advertisement.
When Ryerson resigned on Nov. 9, his brief announcement included an apology to Rayton, whom he described as “an excellent peace officer who deserves the support of the community.”
On Dec. 17, the same day Richard Pryor was hired as police chief for Aspen, Ryerson returned to the job he left in 1984.
“I’m on the ski patrol and looking forward to having a great winter,” said Ryerson. “I’m also having a great time with my family and looking forward to that as well this winter. After that, we’ll see what life brings.”