APD says Magnuson the man for job
ASPEN Former Aspen community safety officer and performance artist Rick Magnuson started his first day as a cop Monday, some 10 months after his controversial campaign for Pitkin County sheriff. Aspen Police Department spokesman Bill Linn said he knew the promotion would raise questions and wrote a press release about it in advance. Police Chief Loren Ryerson expressed his happiness with the promotion in the prepared statement, but he would not return calls for comment. “We all went through some soul-searching on his promotion,” Linn said. “We knew it was going to be an issue of public interest because of his recent political campaign.” Magnuson has been a community safety officer with the Aspen police for 11 years and just completed police academy training. He is now in a 12-week training period with the department, during which time he will be paired with a veteran officer for observation during patrols. Magnuson caught flak from the public and the national press for a number of issues that surfaced during his run for sheriff last year. He was defeated by the incumbent, Bob Braudis, by a 9-1 margin. It was a widely held view that Magnuson’s highly publicized performance art and his lack of experience in law enforcement – combined with Braudis’ popularity – led to the landslide. “I was inspired by the sheriff’s race to forward my career,” Magnuson said Monday, adding he would not speculate about the possibility of running in the next race. “I learned a lot and realized my skills were being underutilized.”Manguson was in the hot seat at times before the 2006 election, however.While a community safety officer in 2002, Magnuson was put on departmental probation after he ran a driver’s license check for a girl he was dating, saw a warrant for her arrest and provided her with a copy of the record.”The matter has been thoroughly addressed,” said Linn, responding to questions about whether or not the department has confidence in Magnuson.Also in 2002, Magnuson sent letters addressed to Osama bin Laden to random addresses throughout the U.S., prompting an investigation from a New Jersey counterterrorism unit. That same year, Magnuson drove a rented truck repeatedly through a roundabout in Vail and refused to stop, prompting a complaint to his superiors.More recent was Magnuson’s film “Hole,” in which he celebrated his 40th birthday by going to the Mojave Desert, setting up a camera on a tripod and, recording from a distance, digging a hole and masturbating into it.”His art, in his private life while not a police officer, is not a topic of particular interest to me,” Linn said. “All of our police officers are given exceptionally thorough psychological exams, personality profiles. … We don’t make these decisions lightly or in a vacuum.”Evidently, the decision to promote was already made when the department sent Magnuson to the police academy in May. Linn said Magnuson had been through the hiring process at that point and only needed to complete the academy to be hired; in May, however, Linn said the promotion was nowhere near complete and that Magnuson still needed thorough evaluations and interviews before being hired. Monday’s press release focused not on past controversy regarding Magnuson but on the hiring of two officers. The other new officer is Ron Hutchings, a former Telluride town marshal who has already served as a peace officer. Linn said that Magnuson has been under undue scrutiny in the press and that the media attention has made him into “a caricature very different from the guy we know.”Magnuson said Monday that was excited to be sworn as a peace officer and that it feels like starting a new career. “The police department doesn’t hire cookie cutter cops, this is not Anytown, U.S.A.,” he said. “I know I made some controversial art projects. I know I’ll be under increased scrutiny as a police officer, and I’ll keep that in mind with future projects.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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