Aspen Police Chief Ryerson on leave | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Police Chief Ryerson on leave

ASPEN – Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson is on leave, and it appears that an outside investigation related to his employment status has been launched.

City Manager Steve Barwick confirmed on Monday that Ryerson is on leave but offered no details.

“It’s a personnel matter,” he said. “I am not going to confirm or deny anything else.”

Barwick, did say, however, that Assistant Police Chief Richard Pryor is acting as chief during Ryerson’s leave, which began last week.

Ryerson declined to comment from his Aspen home Sunday.

“Don’t call me at home,” he said before hanging up.

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Those close to the issue also were tight-lipped.

“There will be no comment from the police department,” said Aspen Police Department spokesman Bill Linn.

Sources say an investigator was in City Hall on Thursday interviewing two local law-enforcement officers, one male and the other female. Both were in uniform, according to the sources, who asked to remain anonymous.

The investigator reportedly is working on behalf of the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA), which serves as the city’s risk manager. CIRSA could not be reached Monday.

Sources say Pryor is out of town attending a conference, which leaves Aspen without a city law-enforcement department head.

Ryerson’s absence was a surprise to some law-enforcement officials, including Aspen patrol officer Jim Crowley.

It’s news to me, and I don’t know why he’s on leave,” he said Monday while on duty.

Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis also hadn’t been informed of Ryerson’s status.

“I have not been told anything officially,” he said.

Braudis said that if a major incident were to occur and he needed mutual aid from the APD, he would go to the next in the chain of command if both department heads were gone.

“I would then ask the sergeant on duty for whatever I needed,” he said. “I would assume that in the absence of the chief, an on-duty sergeant would handle it.

“Whether they can grant my request I don’t know. It’s an interesting scenario.”

Barwick said he will not be issuing a statement regarding Ryerson.

Ryerson, since becoming police chief in December 2001, has not been without controversy.

Since December 2005, Ryerson has drawn criticism for how he handled drug raids of two downtown restaurants, the excessive force a former police officer used in Tasering a homeless woman, and ordering an investigation into Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy Joe DiSalvo based on an anonymous complaint.

Simultaneous cocaine busts at Little Annie’s Eating House and Cooper Street Pier in December 2005 struck many locals as heavy-handed and angered Braudis, who was not informed about the raid.

When an Aspen officer used a stun gun on a 63-year-old homeless woman in June 2006, numerous Aspenites accused the department of unnecessary force. Barwick eventually fired the officer, Melinda Calvano, against Ryerson’s recommendation.

In November 2006, Ryerson called for an investigation into a heated exchange between DiSalvo, then Pitkin County’s lead investigator, and a teenager at the Pitkin County Courthouse. Ryerson caught heat from the public when the teen and his mother both praised DiSalvo.

It’s unknown how long Ryerson will be on leave, or the status of his employment.

Ryerson joined the Aspen police in 1984 after working as a ski patroller at Snowmass. When he became police chief in 2001, his starting salary was $80,000.

Ryerson has lived in Aspen for about 30 years. He has a wife, Mary, and four sons.

Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is csack@aspentimes.com