Letter: An open letter to community members from Police Chief Richard Pryor
I wanted to take this opportunity to make a few comments about the arrest of a juvenile Friday, which occurred at the bus stop next to the Aspen School District campus. The response by the police has been the cause of much discussion, some anger as well as questioning. Many of you have watched the video of the arrest. I have received a variety of comments, questions and opinions relating to the actions of the police officers, but also many relating to the behavior of the juvenile.
First, I would like to personally acknowledge the degree of anger and distress this incident has caused in the community, particularly in the Aspen High School student body. Watching the video causes a visceral reaction in many of us. To see one of your classmates being handled in this way must be very difficult. To see the police acting in a capacity like this, that is rare in our community, is shocking. You are not used to seeing this in Aspen. I am very sorry that it has caused this degree of upset amongst you.
I also would like to acknowledge the culture of distrust of police that exists in our country at the moment. There is no doubt that recent events and the viewing of alleged police abuse videos have tainted the perceptions of police.
Second, policing in Aspen is unique and our community members expect it to be so. You expect us to respond to a wide variety of situations with thoughtfulness, compassion, respect and empathy. I can assure you that every member of our department wishes to achieve the same goal. Many of you know our officers personally and know of their desire to police in a friendly and approachable way.
A confrontational incident with a juvenile resulting in a use of force has not happened since I became chief. Our track record demonstrates a history of successful interactions. Only on rare occasions do we use force, and then at a low level. This demonstrates the very significant number of contacts we have with juveniles that go well. Those are the success stories we wish we were able to tell you about.
Lastly, the schools are an area that should feel safe for everyone. Using any drugs or alcohol in the area of the schools, such as at the bus stop or on campus will likely gain the attention of the Police Department. I ask for your cooperation in working to maintain that safe area for all our children. I urge you to discuss with your children how to interact with the police as mutual respect goes a long way to enabling productive communication and safe resolution of police contacts.
The Police Department is not perfect and will always be able to learn and improve in the way it operates. For that to occur we need you, our community, to let us know how you feel. Please call, email or stop by to talk to me about this incident. I am available any time.
Chief of police
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