Report: Fired Aspen officer drove patrol car drunk
September 9, 2008
ASPEN ” After Jim Crowley met with his supervisors to report for duty on the morning of Aug. 28, the 18-year veteran of the Aspen Police Department got behind the wheel of a patrol vehicle while allegedly intoxicated, according to records released Monday.
One supervisor, Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn, was suspicious that Crowley was under the influence of alcohol before he hit the streets in a Volvo police car. And after Crowley called dispatch to say he was “mobile,” Linn told him to return immediately to the office ” for a portable breath test (PBT) ” which showed he was legally drunk, according to an incident report prepared by Snowmass police Sgt. Brian Olson.
After Crowley took the PBT, he was taken home. While not admissible as evidence in court, a PBT can give officers probable cause to investigate further.
Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor and Linn could not be reached for comment yesterday, but APD community relations specialist Stephanie Dasaro said Crowley drove the patrol car after he had met with Linn and Sgt. Dan Davis to report for duty.
Suspicious that Crowley was intoxicated, Linn met with Davis after Crowley left the briefing.
“During the time they conferred, that’s when officer Crowley called mobile on the radio,” Dasaro said. “At that point they got on the radio and called him back to the office and that’s when they spoke to [Linn’s] concerns and asked him to take the PBT.
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“When they got the PBT, at that point they escorted him home.”
Olson was then called in by Aspen police to investigate. He arrested Crowley later that morning for driving while ability impaired (DWAI) and possession of a weapon while under the influence of alcohol. Pryor fired Crowley the next day.
Pryor has stood behind his decision and maintains that he terminated Crowley because he was not fit for duty and posed a safety threat because of his condition.
Crowley, 42, has not spoken publicly about the matter. However, his legal consultant, Lawson Wills, has argued that Crowley’s alleged conduct did not meet the standard for job termination, especially for someone who had been on the force for nearly two decades. Wills, a Glenwood Springs attorney and a friend of Crowley’s, also has insisted that Crowley was hung over ” not drunk ” when he came to work.
Wills would not comment for this story when contacted Monday.
In the meantime, Snowmass Police Chief Art Smythe explained that the report took 10 days to complete because of the time it took to gather evidence demonstrating Crowley was allegedly driving a police vehicle. Wills has argued that there’s no proof Crowley was behind the wheel of a vehicle of any type.
But Olson wrote in the report that evidence, namely audio recordings of Crowley’s exchange with police dispatch on the morning in question, shows Crowley was driving a patrol vehicle.
On Sept. 4, Olson obtained recordings showing that Crowley had radioed in for duty at 7:33 a.m., and at 7:54 a.m. communicated that he was “mobile,” meaning he was behind the wheel of a police car, according to the police report.
At approximately 9 a.m. ” one hour after Crowley took the PBT ” Linn called Olson, who arrived at Crowley’s house at 9:22 a.m., the report says. Davis of the APD met Olson in front of Crowley’s house, according to the report.
“I knocked on Crowley’s residence, and he opened the door and invited me in,” the report says. “Crowley agreed to allow Davis to enter also. I asked Crowley how he was doing. I observed Crowley had blood-shot eyes.
“I asked Crowley if he had drank any alcohol or used any drugs since returning home. Crowley denied drinking any alcohol or taking any drugs since returning home. I told Crowley I was there to investigate him driving while under the influence of alcohol and possessing a firearm while intoxicated while at work this morning. I asked Crowley if he would be willing to perform any roadside maneuvers, explaining that they were completely voluntary and not required. Crowley declined to volunteer to perform any maneuvers. Crowley was polite and cooperative.”
Olson initially cited Crowley for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) and possessing a firearm while under the influence. Crowley was placed in handcuffs and transported to the Pitkin County jail, where he agreed to submit to a Breathalyzer test, which showed his blood-alcohol level to be 0.063. That level is below the 0.08 threshold for a DUI charge, but above the 0.05 level for a DWAI. It was also below the PBT conducted hours earlier, which showed his blood-alcohol content to be 0.105.
The Breathalyzer result was issued at 10:54 a.m., exactly three hours after Aspen police learned that Crowley was allegedly behind the wheel of a Volvo patrol vehicle.