Honorable Mention: Loren Ryerson and the APD | AspenTimes.com

Honorable Mention: Loren Ryerson and the APD

(Aspen Times Weekly file)

Aspen top cop Loren Ryerson emerged late in the year as a big newsmaker after his department’s controversial drug raids on two popular watering holes during après-ski hours.

Ryerson’s willingness to send his officers into action along with the Drug Enforcement Agency in a storm-trooper-type operation has many Aspenites crying overkill. A total of 53 federal and local officers made a surprise sweep of Cooper Street Pier and Little Annie’s just after 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2. Their blitz netted arrests of 10 Hispanic men on drug charges and another 11 on alleged illegal immigration violations. As much as 5 ounces of cocaine and $3,000 to $5,000 believed to be from drug deals were confiscated.

The operation angered some locals, not because small-time drug dealers were busted, but because of the dramatic way the sweep was handled. Ryerson cut Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis out of the loop before the operation was launched. The sheriff has publicly criticized the techniques on several grounds and questioned why the suspects couldn’t have been arrested individually at their homes or while coming to work.On the flip side, a handful of supporters have emerged to praise Ryerson and his department for taking strong action on drug dealing.

Ryerson’s actions left many upper-valley residents wondering how a longtime local with more than 21 years in local law enforcement could endorse tactics that seem out of tune with community values.After spending years on the local ski patrol, Ryerson became a patrol officer in September 1984. He was promoted to an assistant police chief position in July 1999. Two years after working the administrative side of the department, Ryerson was selected as chief by City Manager Steve Barwick, who was pressured to hire from within after his earlier recruitment of an out-of-town chief failed. Ryerson was named police chief in November 2001.Ryerson’s judgment became an issue in January 2005 when he abruptly decided to curtail the information supplied to the press about arrests. He nixed the new policy when he discovered it violated Colorado’s Sunshine Law.

Ryerson and his department are virtually guaranteed to be top newsmakers again in 2006, even if no new issues pop up. The Aspen City Council has scheduled a mid-January work session to discuss the tactics used in the Dec. 2 raids.

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