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APD: Explore your options

So, following Loren Ryerson’s resignation, it’s clear that Aspen soon will get a new police chief.

This is an important decision that should not be taken lightly, especial­ly given all the controversy that has swirled around the Aspen Police Department in recent years.

As city officials consider how to approach the search for Ryerson’s replacement, we urge them to cast a wide net with a nationwide search.

The reason is simple: The decision is simply too important not to explore all possible options.

Among the APD’s recent missteps are a late- afternoon drug raid on two restaurants that was conducted with­out notifying the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office; the use of an elec­tronic stun gun on a 63- year- old homeless woman; and an ill- advised investigation into the actions of a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy that was brought on by a dubious letter signed by a fictitious person. Every one of these incidents embroiled the APD in needless public debate and sullied its reputation.

Now the city has an opportunity to start anew. We were pleased this week to see that Interim Police Chief Richard Pryor has an interest in the top job; he seems to be a thoughtful and dedicated public ser­vant, and others on the force like him. Hiring from within has many benefits and tends to ensure a smoother transition.

It would be a mistake, however, to hand the reins to Pryor too hastily.

After all, he was assistant chief dur­ing all of the recent turmoil; we don’t know if he bears any direct responsibility, but he was a member of the leadership team.

More important, there’s no telling how many qualified top- cop appli­cants there might be out there, and ” new blood” always holds the prom­ise of innovative ideas. Aspen is a unique community with a tradition of community- minded policing, and a broader search is more likely to yield the right applicant.

Pryor may well turn out to be the right man for the job. If so, a nation­wide search and a chance to com­pare his skills with those of other applicants would serve to legitimize his hiring. And who knows? There may be other capable applicants on the force or in the valley, as well.

The city manager has said he plans to think for a few days before deciding how to find Aspen’s new police chief. We hope that he’ll take the time and energy for a exhaustive search.


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