Pryor named Aspen police chief

Joel Stonington
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Richard Pryor is Aspen’s new police chief. His appointment to the post, announced at a city press conference late Monday afternoon, is effective immediately.

Pryor, 44, was a deputy chief with the Aspen Police Department and was appointed as acting police chief after Loren Ryerson resigned last month following allegations that he sexually harassed female employees at the police department.

“Richard’s performance and his character have made this decision as easy as it ever could be,” City Manager Steve Barwick said. “He’s going to do a great job.”

Pryor, a Missouri Heights resident, expressed interest in the post early on, and stepped in as interim police chief when Ryerson was placed on administrative leave in October.

Barwick said he did not consider other candidates and did not open the position for applications. Pryor’s excellent work history with the Aspen Police Department, good fiscal decisions, honesty and internal support were reasons Barwick gave for not opening the job for applicants.

Pryor vowed not to steer the philosophical direction of the police department away from a central value of community policing, though he said there would be some changes as he moves into the chief position.

“The people we answer to are the people of Aspen,” Pryor said. “We need to pay attention to our bosses, listen to what they say, and adapt to their needs.”

Pryor said he is seeking better communication with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, which shares the basement space in the county courthouse with the Aspen Police Department. In recent years, the two agencies have not seen eye to eye on policing, and a lack of communications between the two departments has been an issue.

“I’m extremely excited about this,” Pitkin County Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo said.

“Richard is the most logical choice and the best person to move the department in the direction it needs to go after a tumultuous period.”

Pryor is opening up channels of communication in the department that had grown closed. A public information officer position created during Loren Ryerson’s tenure will continue on, though Pryor said his door will be open to citizens and the press.

Aspen police officers expressed relief and excitement about having Pryor as head of the department. A dozen officers showed up for the press conference and talked positively of Pryor taking over as chief.

“Richard’s been here long enough to put us in the right direction,” detective Chris Womack said. “He’ll do the right thing for the community and the department.”

Mayor Mick Ireland also voiced support for Pryor as the new chief and for the police department in general, saying he was glad to have found someone local to fill the position.

Pryor said two assistant chief positions are unlikely to be filled soon and that he will continue to rely on the sergeants for the duties formerly taken by the assistant chiefs.

A native of Hertfordshire County, England, Pryor grew up in a farming community and attended the Royal Agricultural College before moving to the United States in 1989. After starting as a community safety officer with the Aspen Police Department in 1994, he served through the ranks of police officer and sergeant. He was promoted to deputy chief in 2001.

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