Acting police chief to meet with public
ASPEN ” Aspen residents are invited to have coffee with the police chief on Thursday but they shouldn’t expect to see Loren Ryerson there.
Ryerson has been on paid administrative leave for nearly two weeks and is under investigation as a result of sexual harassment allegations brought against him.
In his place, Richard Pryor is expected to host his first community forum as acting police chief.
APD spokesman Bill Linn said city officials considered the controversy swirling around Ryerson but decided to hold the monthly community forum anyway.
“We said, ‘Do we realistically want to do this?'” Linn said. “And we thought now is certainly a better time than any.”
City officials remain tight-tipped on the investigation, Ryerson’s employment status and the allegations. And the APD isn’t commenting on the matter, either. But officers and Pryor are still willing to hear from the public ” whether it’s about Ryerson or any issue.
“At this point we know that a lot of people are concerned,” Linn said, adding the APD can offer little information but is willing to listen to citizens’ input.
“We’re just trying to be accessible and we’re striving to be open as a department,” he said. “A lot of this is being conducted behind closed doors or in the press.
“We’re limited in what we can say because people’s livelihoods are on the line and we have to be sensitive to that.”
Previous coffee and donut sessions typically attract people who want to discuss quality-of-life issues like street lights, dog poop or the placement of street signs. But this week’s forum might take on a different tone in light of the investigation.
Ryerson issued a public statement last week denying any wrongdoing.
“The allegations against me are totally false, and I am confident that the investigation will prove that they are nothing more than malicious hearsay and cruel gossip,” he wrote.
While the city has confirmed that the investigation centers around sexual harassment allegations, the probe ultimately will determine if Ryerson was involved in improper conduct.
The investigation is being conducted by the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA), which serves as the city’s risk manager. It’s unknown when CIRSA will complete the investigation and when ” or if ” Ryerson will return back to work.
A CIRSA investigator was seen interviewing local law-enforcement officers earlier this month. The subject matter of those interviews is unclear; however, sources who asked to remain anonymous have said that the probe concerns Ryerson’s approach to management.
The impetus for the investigation apparently was borne out of a common theme noticed in exit interviews from former APD employees who were critical of Ryerson’s style.
Ryerson joined the force in 1984 after working as a ski patroller at Snowmass. When he became police chief in December 2001, his starting salary was $80,000. It is currently $104,000, and Ryerson is drawing pay while on leave.
Ryerson has lived in Aspen for about 30 years. He has a wife, Mary, and four sons.
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The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this week affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit against the city of Aspen that challenged its zoning laws concerning Mill Street Plaza, which is home to locally serving businesses.