Police chief can’t hide behind PIO
So I read that Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson has a public information officer now. As many blunders as this chief of police has made, I am not surprised.According to the article, the chief will only talk about ” issues of substance.” Even his newly minted PIO did not know what that meant.It is funny, though, that apparently Ryerson thinks of himself as a CEO, above answering the questions of “the little people in the media.” He is not a CEO of anything; he is just the police chief and not a very good one at that.The Rick Magnuson fiasco is the latest in a long line of blunders and examples of inept leadership. Here you have an employee of the police department, who makes an embarrassing video that shows throughout Aspen, writes dozens of letters to Osama bin Laden that attract the attention of a counterterrorism investigative unit in New Jersey, then tells his girlfriend that he has found out by using law enforcement computer files that she was wanted on a federal arrest warrant and does nothing to either arrest the woman or to get her to turn herself in. After all of these incidences, any one of which should have gotten Magnuson fired, he’s is being sent to the law enforcement academy at substantial expense to the tax payers of the city of Aspen to become one of Ryerson’s officers.Ryerson seems to be rewarding this type of behavior on the part of one of his officers. Unacceptable behavior anywhere else but at the APD. And the chief wonders why the department has been portrayed in an unfavorable light?It took Ryerson a year to come up with some kind of policy relating to the use of Tasers. He had to come up with something after Aspen officer Melinda Calvano tried to defend herself against a huge woman who tried to assault the officer with a 7-foot-long stick and was fired for violation of a policy that did not even exist at the time.Ryerson interestingly enough did not give any information about the new Taser policy to reporters. Maybe there would be those pesky “intimidating” questions that he did not want to answer? Ryerson requested independent investigations be made by other police departments into what happened. But their final reports did not come to a conclusion that he wanted. So, he disregarded all of the investigations.His record of dealing with females in the department is less than spectacular. Former officer Kimberly Hay filed a discrimination charge and left. She later sued the city, and I believe that the city is fighting her every step of the way.A lawsuit against the city from Calvano apparently is pending as well. It is also nice to know that the city of Aspen has a lot of money to defend itself against all these civil suits.Then, Ryerson makes the newspapers again by trying to go after the Pitkin County investigator over a situation that the chief should not have been involved in that turned out to be nothing. Another embarrassment for the chief and the police department. Tsk, Tsk.If the APD considers itself in an adversarial role with the news media in Aspen, the fault for this rests squarely on the desk of Ryerson. His implementation of a public information officer as a buffer between him and the press is not going to improve the situation. He can’t hide behind the PIO, no matter how much he would like to.The department during Ryerson’s tenure has become the laughingstock of law enforcement in the Roaring Fork Valley. The department has caught a lot of flack from the media in the last several years about numerous things, some of which I have addressed, and I think justifiably so.No other police department in the Roaring Fork Valley has a public information officer. No one else needs one. Ryerson is afraid to talk to the media. After all, they can be soooo intimidating (according to the Aspen PIO), asking all those pesky questions that the chief really doesn’t want to answer. All those questions that deserve an answer. A truthful one, that is.Jim Weber is a resident of Denver. Editor’s note: “Soapbox” runs weekly on the Sunday opinion page. This spot is a forum for valley residents to comment on local topics. If you’d like to contribute, contact Naomi Havlen at The Aspen Times at 925-3414, ext. 17624, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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