Aspen officer in teen pot arrest leads department in Taser use
The Aspen Times
A look at the Aspen Police Department’s use-of-force statistics compared to Officer Adam Loudon’s from 2011 to 2014.
Aspen Police Department
• Total arrests: 1,575
• Soft techniques: 1,030
• Hard techniques: 24
• Intermediate weapon: 23
• Total arrests: 183*
• Soft techniques: 134
• Hard techniques: 1
• Intermediate weapon: 7
• Soft techniques include handcuffing, muscling, pressure-point control tactics, joint locks, Ripp Restraints, shackles.
• Hard techniques include strikes and kicks.
• Intermediate weapons include Tasers (display or use), pepper spray, beanbags (display or use), batons, firearms (display or use).
* Through August 2014
SOURCE: Aspen Police Department
The officer whose takedown arrest two weeks ago sparked community debate accounted for almost one-third of the Aspen Police Department’s use of intermediate weapons from 2011 to 2014, according to police records.
During that time frame, Officer Adam Loudon used a Taser device seven times to either threaten or subdue criminal suspects he believed posed a violent threat, were resisting arrest or fleeing the scene.
Among those on the receiving end of Loudon’s stun gun were a snowboarder, a construction worker and a college football player.
All told, the Police Department used intermediate weapons 23 times from 2011 to 2014, data show. In addition to Tasers, intermediate weapons include batons, beanbag guns, firearms and pepper spray.
From 2011 to 2014, all of Loudon’s intermediate weapons incidents involved stun guns.
The Aspen Police Department provided the statistics to The Aspen Times in response to an open records request. In an interview Wednesday, Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said Loudon’s Taser use over that period isn’t due to any apparent reasons. The Police Department reviews all incidents involving officers’ use of intermediate weapons, he said.
“That it happens to be one individual (accounting for one-third of the intermediate-weapons incidents), I can’t explain it,” Pryor said. “Perhaps it’s the nature of the cases, the nature of the timing. When we take each of those individual cases and we look at them, we see if they are justified use of force.”
Loudon’s use-of-force incidents with intermediate weapons haven’t led to public complaints, Pryor said.
“I don’t know of anyone coming in making a complaint about him from that perspective,” Pryor said.
Yet they have led to the nickname “Lightning Loudon,” a term evidently used to describe his propensity to fire Tasers. The term was expressed in a letter to the editor that was critical of Loudon’s Feb. 6 arrest of the teenager. Pryor and Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra said they were vaguely familiar with the moniker.
Pryor and a number of Aspen residents have voiced their support for Loudon in wake of his Feb. 6 arrest of the 16-year-old boy, well publicized because some nearby students video-recorded the incident on their cellphones. Loudon initially approached the Aspen High School student because he believed he was rolling a marijuana joint, the Police Department has said.
Police said the boy became “combative” and resisted arrest, which happened at the Maroon Creek Road bus shelter that’s located next to the campus. Loudon called for backup and within minutes he was aided by a firefighter and off-duty police officer Chip Seamans, who was in the area and on his way to ski Aspen Highlands, said Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra. The arrest involved applying pain-pressure techniques and bringing the screaming, resisting boy to the ground.
Mayor Steve Skadron said he has watched the video.
“My impression is I think it’s unfortunate that it escalated the way it did,” he said. “And it’s my hope that the officers practice the principles of community policing.”
The arrest falls under the Police Department’s “soft-technique” description for responses to resistance. Soft-techniques include handcuffing, muscling techniques and pressure-point control tactics, among other methods.
Loudon employed those methods on 134 of the Police Department’s 1,030 soft-technique instances from 2011 to 2014. He also accounted for 183 of the police force’s 1,575 arrests that were recorded from 2011 through August 2014. The Police Department, which includes 22 patrol officers, two detectives and three command staff, recorded 84,503 calls for service from 2011 to 2014.
“Officers come in contact with hundreds of people everyday,” Skadron said. “And I’m proud of the work they do. If facts suggests that their interactions with the community are inappropriate, we’ll deal with it.”
During one episode, on Feb. 11, 2012, Loudon reported that he used a stun gun because he felt threatened by a man with a snowboard. Loudon was on the Hyman Avenue mall, where two men were on the verge of fighting, the officer reported.
“As I got closer, (one man) pulled the snowboard away from (the other man) with two hands,” Loudon wrote. “Not knowing (the man’s) intentions with the snowboard, I drew my Taser. I yelled for the last time ‘Stop police!’ as (the man) drew the snowboard back toward himself. As I neared (the man) I could see his full muscular size and knew I could not stop any of (his) actions on my own. I also knew that snowboards have a fine metal edge capable of cutting. I decided to deploy the Taser to stop (the man’s) actions and prevent any injury to himself or (the other man). I hit (the man) with the Taser probes on his chest, one above his left nipple and one in the abdomen. (The man) immediately stopped what he was doing, dropped the snowboard and fell to the ground, without injuring himself.”
Loudon then handcuffed the man, who “complied immediately,” the officer reported.
Another incident, on March 10, 2011, involved two football players for Michigan State University. Loudon had responded to a disturbance at the now defunct Regal Watering Hole in the early morning hours. The two athletes, tight end Brian Linthicum and linebacker Max Bullough, had attacked a patron at the bar, according to witness reports.
When Loudon and other police arrived, the tandem fled the scene, ignoring authorities’ commands to stop. When Loudon came within about 8 feet of Linthicum, he deployed a Taser, hitting the athlete in the upper part of his back. Linthicum dropped to the ground and was handcuffed. Loudon reportedly said he had no choice but to use a stun gun on Linthicum. Linthicum, now a free agent in the NFL, also was warned about the Taser, Loudon wrote.
An additional incident led to a Snowmass Village man being hospitalized after Loudon stunned him with a Taser. That happened June 8, 2013, when the man had been causing trouble at the Regal. Loudon approached the suspect and identified him, learning there was a warrant for his arrest for failing to appear in Garfield County Court. Once notified of the warrant, the man dashed down Galena Street, Loudon reported.
“I ran after (the man) and yelled ‘Stop police!’” Loudon wrote. “I drew my Taser, pointed it onto (the man’s) back and deployed the Taser in probe mode. I was approximately twelve feet behind (the man) when the Taser was deployed. (The man) fell to the ground, face first.”
The suspect, a construction worker, suffered lacerations and abrasions to his face and was treated at Aspen Valley Hospital. The incident prompted a review by Aspen police and an officer from an outside agency.
At the time, Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said, “Specifically, an officer is justified in using reasonable force when they’re affecting an arrest or preventing the escape, and the rest of that test is based on the severity of the threat to officers and others.”
The high school arrest
Aspen School District administrators have asked the Police Department to keep an eye on the area where they say substance use has become too frequent among students. That area includes the bus stop on Maroon Creek Road, which is near both the school campus and the Aspen Recreation Center.
The day Loudon arrested the teen, the officer initially was by himself. Police Chief Pryor said, “Generally speaking, we would prefer more than one officer to make an arrest.”
But Loudon initially hadn’t planned to arrest the student, Pryor said.
“This is one of many conflicts about the concept of community policing,” Pryor said. “When an officer sees something happening, do you want three cops to pull up? I’d hope an officer can approach someone and have a dialogue and move on rather than sending more officers there. Maybe you end up with three cars there and is that what this community wants?”
But the downside of not having aid is the potential for something to go awry and putting an officer in danger.
The Aspen Police Department has long held community policing as its central value, a philosophy rooted in preventing arrests rather than making them, which is supposed to establish trust among residents.
“The culture that Richard Pryor has built within the Police Department is a good one, I believe, and is very much based on serving the community,” Skadron said.
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