Aspen Times Editorial: That’s not community policing |

Aspen Times Editorial: That’s not community policing

When Aspen police officer Adam Loudon aggressively arrested a 16-year-old boy earlier this month for allegedly rolling a joint, a firestorm quickly ensued about the police officer’s tactics. The takedown arrest was filmed by other teens, presumably the boy’s friends, and the footage showed Loudon, and eventually, other officers forcibly taking the teenager to the ground, applying “pressure-point techniques” to inflict pain and gain control.

The teenager was clearly out of line during the incident — he mouthed off to Loudon and refused to cooperate. When Loudon initially told him to put his hands behind his back, the boy resisted and screamed that he hadn’t done anything illegal.

Perhaps more disturbing than the teen’s failure to respect the officer’s commands were the comments coming from his friends watching and filming from the sidelines — one boy told Loudon he was a “f–king a–hole” and “I hope you burn in hell,” adding that he had no right to arrest his friend.

When Loudon shouts at the 16-year-old to stop resisting, the kid shouts back, “No, I haven’t done anything illegal,” and continues to be uncooperative. His friends continue to insult Loudon and use vulgar language as the incident intensifies.

While these kids undoubtedly need lessons in respecting authority, our issue with this incident is with the Aspen Police Department’s almost immediate defense of Loudon. Just two days after the incident, Police Chief Richard Pryor told The Aspen Times that it was an “open and shut” case — there would be no further investigation of officer Loudon. In two days, Pryor was certain Loudon and the other responding officers acted appropriately.

In the aftermath of such high-profile use-of-force cases, such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, followed by the strangulation of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York — both of which resulted in the deaths of unarmed men at the hands of police officers — police departments across the country are assessing their use-of-force protocols, and they’re also having to answer more questions about force.

While Aspen is a world away from places like Ferguson, why was the Aspen Police Department so quick to close the case? Why wasn’t further investigation warranted, and how did the department come to this conclusion so quickly?

Pryor acknowledged the tainted national perception of police following nationally publicized use-of-force cases in a Feb. 10 letter to the editor. He also encouraged parents to talk to their children about how to interact with the police and that mutual respect goes a long way.

Looking at videos of the arrest, it’s clear the teenager lacked respect, but also it appears that Loudon failed to deliver any, either.

In a Police Department that includes 22 patrol officers, two detectives and three command staff, Loudon accounted for almost one-third of the department’s 23 uses of intermediate weapons (Tasers, batons, pepper spray or beanbag guns) from 2011 to 2014. He used a Taser device seven times during that time frame, earning him the nickname “Lightning Loudon.”

With a department so proud of its community policing strategy — intended to de-escalate situations in order to prevent arrests — the department might want to look at officers such as Loudon who don’t appear to be fulfilling the mission. Is it really protecting and serving when a teenager is thrown to the ground for telling an officer he didn’t do anything illegal? Our view is that this incident, and specifically the department’s response to it, hasn’t helped the police establish trust within the community, which is the opposite of community policing.

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