Community thanks Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor after 29 years of service |

Community thanks Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor after 29 years of service

Responsibility to choose successor falls to city manager’s office

Aspen's longest-serving police chief Richard Pryor is retiring this year after 29 years of service.
Josie Taris/The Aspen Times

Community members and public servants gathered over a beloved law enforcement cliche — doughnuts and coffee — to send off Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor after nearly 29 years of service. 

Pryor announced his intent to retire in June. His work in law enforcement started in the early 1990s with jobs like community safety officer and animal control officer. After attending the police academy and working on the force, he became chief of police in 2007. That tenure earned him the distinction of the longest-serving police chief in Aspen history. 

“Gosh,” he said. “It’s just so heartwarming to see everyone come out. Thirty-odd years I’ve been (in Aspen), you end up making connections that you enjoy in the moment and then people come back in a moment like this.”

Pryor also has worked to de-stigmatize mental health struggles so that they are viewed through a nonjudgmental lens.

The Pitkin Area Co-Responder Team — comprising the Aspen and Snowmass Village police departments and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office — was founded in 2017. Pryor played an integral role in its conception. The diversion program was formed to keep people plagued by mental health issues or with substance abuse out of jail. Through PACT, mental health co-responders have worked with law enforcement to line up those struggling with resources and support.

“Being a Brit, I don’t use the word pride much,” he said with a chuckle. 

But PACT and examination of law enforcement culture are standout points for him in his career.

“I think what I feel most satisfied about is the culture we created at the police department,” he said. “Trying to think differently and non-judgemental … how you bring humanity into policing.”

He talked about the future of policing as recognizing its role in public safety, but also valuing community support.

Suzanne Wolff is the Pitkin County community development director. She stopped by to send off Pryor, who she called an old friend.

“I know Richard from before he worked at the police department. We worked in Snowmass together,” she said. “I’ll miss getting to hug the police chief when I see him on the street.”

And folks newer to town attended. Bonn Sandiego started working for the city of Aspen in IT support and audio/video production in August. He attended the proclamation for Pryor at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“I thought I’d thank him for his service to the city,” Sandiego said. 

Pryor intends to travel to the English countryside with his wife and black Lab, Wilson, after Christmas with the kids. He and his wife will embark on their cross-country road on Dec. 27 to catch the Queen Mary 2 to sail to his home country. 

The responsibility to choose a successor falls to the city manager’s office. The city expects to release an update on the search soon. Once the city manager names a candidate, the City Council must confirm the choice.


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