Aspen police veteran fired for alleged on-duty intoxication
ASPEN ” Jim Crowley, an 18-year veteran of the Aspen Police Department, was fired Friday for allegedly showing up to work Thursday morning under the influence of alcohol.
Crowley is charged with driving while ability impaired (DWAI) and prohibited use of a firearm. Both charges are misdemeanors.
“This has been a very difficult decision,” Police Chief Richard Pryor said. “But for me this was an issue about officer safety and public safety. And if someone is coming to work carrying a gun and driving a car while intoxicated, that is unacceptable.”
Pryor, Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra, and the city’s human resources director, Allisa Farrell, met with Crowley on Friday afternoon at the police station to inform him that he had been terminated. Crowley, 42, appeared by himself, Pryor said.
Glenwood Springs defense attorney Lawson Wills confirmed Friday that Crowley will be using his legal advice during the early stage of the case. Wills, a former Pitkin County prosecutor, said Crowley likely will not hire him because “we have a close relationship.”
“He is quality police officer,” Wills said, before it was revealed that Crowley had been fired. “I would hope they can do what they can to retain him.
“There is a human interest here. He is an 18-year veteran of the Aspen Police Department and has given them everything he has. He is probably responsible for more arrests than anyone else in that department.”
In Aspen crime cases it was not unusual to see Crowley, who did not return a telephone message seeking comment, with some type of involvement. Just this week, Crowley arrested the manager of Cooper Street Pier on suspicion of sexually assaulting an employee on the morning of Aug. 20.
But now Crowley, generally regarded as a straight-laced officer, finds himself on the other side after Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn became suspicious when Crowley reported to work for his shift Thursday, which began at 7:30 a.m. Crowley smelled of alcohol, Linn said, adding he noticed other signs of alcohol consumption. Linn said he did not see Crowley drive to work, although he did see his vehicle parked in front of the police station.
“It’s my belief this was not the result of an intentional act,” Linn said. “I don’t think this was him cracking open a beer before going to work.”
Pryor said Crowley originally was given a preliminary breath test (PBT) by Aspen police. While not admissible as evidence in court, a PBT can give officers probable cause to investigate. Crowley was then taken home by Aspen officer Dan Davis, and Linn, taking orders from Pryor, contacted Snowmass police to take over the case.
“If we do [the investigation] ourselves we do not look impartial,” Linn said.
Later in the morning, Snowmass Sgt. Brian Olson went to Crowley’s home, placed him in handcuffs, and drove him to the Pitkin County jail, which has Breathalyzer equipment. According to a city of Aspen news release, Crowley was placed under arrest at 9:45 a.m. and immediately placed on unpaid administrative leave.
The jail was put on lock-down because some inmates there had been arrested by Crowley, two sources said.
Snowmass Police Chief Art Smythe said Crowley was cooperative and agreed to a Breathalyzer test, which showed his blood-alcohol level was .063, a high enough level for a DWAI, but not reaching the standard for driving under the influence (DUI), which must be a blood-alcohol level of at least .08.
Crowley, who drove to work that morning, declined to participate in a roadside sobriety test, Smythe said.
“I know he was cooperative with our officer and very respectful,” Smythe said. “It’s a difficult thing.”
Charges have not been filed by the District Attorney’s Office. Pitkin County prosecutor Richard Nedlin could not be reached yesterday afternoon.
“It will be the DA’s decision to decide if charges are appropriate,” Smythe said.
Linn said Crowley had not had any contact with members of the public the morning in question. Crowley was charged with prohibited use of a weapon because he was under the influence of alcohol and had a firearm in his holster, Linn said.
“Jim is an honorable guy,” Linn said. “He was not hiding from anything. This is just horribly painful. I’ve worked with him for a long time.”
Crowley joined the Aspen Police Department in June 1990. He started the same day as Ron Ryan, now an investigator with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
At one time Ryan and Crowley shared space in the investigator’s office, which the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office operate in tandem. Several years ago Crowley was assigned to the patrol beat. The move was considered a demotion.
“I’ve worked with Jim for 18 years and I’ve always found him to be an excellent police officer,” Ryan said. “I hope the city takes into consideration the time he put in with the city of Aspen.”
For sure, this is a case that hit close to home with those in the local law-enforcement community.
“Everybody has worked with him,” Smythe said.
Many officers with the Aspen Police Department live on Waters Avenue, where a bulk of the city’s employee housing is. Crowley, who lives next door to Linn, will likely have six months to leave, Pryor said. He also will leave behind a salary of nearly $70,000, according to Pryor.
On Friday morning, Linn was making his rounds at the local newspapers to tell them the news. In the afternoon, staff at the Aspen Police Department was made aware of Crowley’s termination. Pryor said he also called police officers who could not attend the meeting.
“The reaction has been shock,” Pryor said. “It is exceptionally said. The emotions run the gamut.”
Said Linn: “We are heartbroken, but none of us are above the law.”
Pryor said he also consulted with City Manager Steve Barwick about Crowley.
“He has been supportive,” Pryor said.
The firing of Crowley marked the second time an Aspen officer has been terminated this year for allegedly coming to work intoxicated. Rookie officer Ron Hutchings was fired Jan. 7 after police allegedly noticed alcohol on his breath.
“I feel I need to apologize to the community for this happening,” Pryor said. ” I feel like we let the community down. We strive to do better and we will do better. We have to be trusted.”
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