Aspen cops ready for change at the top
November 14, 2007
ASPEN ” Their department stained by the sexual harassment scandal that led to their boss’s resignation, Aspen police officers said Loren Ryerson’s resignation was something that needed to happen.
Most officers expressed sadness for the former police chief and his family, but said they are ready to move on under new leadership.
“We’re still trying to get our feet under us,” officer Chip Seamans said. “As for where my thoughts are right now, it’s with Loren’s family. It’s also difficult for [acting chief] Richard [Pryor] and our supervisors. I look forward to having things on an even keel.”
The city’s insurance carrier, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA), launched an investigation on Oct. 3 and found that Ryerson engaged in misconduct related to sexual harassment allegations. Barwick offered Ryerson his job back on Nov. 7, but Ryerson resigned two days later.
Many officers said the way everything happened is unfortunate and that it has not been positive for the police department. Few officers would discuss the sexual harassment allegations. Rather, many who did talk about the resignation spoke of other problems with Ryerson’s leadership.
“I didn’t know anything about the sexual harassment stuff. I just didn’t think he was the right one for the job,” said Adam Crider, a sheriff’s deputy who left the police department in September after six and a half years. “I was getting tired of driving around in the city but also tired of management styles. It definitely had an impact on my decision to leave.”
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Numerous officers said they were not sure what Ryerson did in his daily job. Indeed, some said he provided unclear direction for the department.
“The chief’s position is to go to council meetings, do the government part,” officer Walter Chi said. “I don’t think we saw much of Loren [Ryerson] because he was doing that most of the time. We need to be responsible to the public, and we have some changes to go through to get there. We have a great chance to look at everything and see how it can get better.”
In the meantime, Pryor said he will not make any substantive policy changes while interim chief. He wouldn’t talk about whether there were issues within the department regarding Ryerson’s leadership.
“I feel that is now water under the bridge,” he said. “I’m sorry some of those relationships were not as good as they could have been. Now the department is moving forward.”
For many, it’s just good to have the investigation over. Many said it was a stressful period of time waiting to see if Ryerson would return to the job.
Pitkin County Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo has offered assistance to the police department during the troubled times and has said he has good communication lines with Pryor.
“I hope they can move past this and focus on what they do best,” DiSalvo said. “Everyone is looking forward to putting this behind them.”
For many, it’s not the easiest hurdle to get over. City Manager Steve Barwick has said he will not make a decision on the hiring process for the new chief for another two weeks, so there might be a good deal of time before the department has a permanent chief.
Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.