AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz told his department he “unequivocally” stands by his decisions made surrounding Officer Nate Meier. He was not cited for DUI nor was fired after he was found drunk, armed, passed out and behind the wheel of an Aurora police vehicle while he was on duty.
In an email to Aurora officers sent Friday night, Metz wrote, “I want you to know I unequivocally stand by my decision regarding the involved officer because I care about the human being who stepped up and owned his incredibly poor decision… and continues to courageously own it.”
The department has come under withering criticism after CBS4 revealed Meier was on duty March 29 when he was found in uniform, passed out, in a patrol car mid-afternoon during his shift. The car was on a busy road near Buckley Air Force Base and was in gear with Meier’s foot on the brake.
Rather than cite him for DUI, the department labeled what occurred as a medical event and Meier was transported to an area hospital, then sent home. The department said there was not enough evidence to pursue a DUI case.
Sources have told CBS4 that Meier’s blood alcohol was at least five times the legal limit. Several of the officers on the original scene reported smelling alcohol. Meier later admitted he had gone home during his shift, drank from a bottle of vodka before getting back behind the wheel.
He admitted he was impaired.
An internal affairs investigation found Meier violated four department policies, including one regarding alcohol use.
He was demoted, but remains on the force.
In his Friday email, Chief Metz decried “inaccurate media spin this past week has been frustrating.” Asked to specify what he was talking about, Metz said he was referring to suggestions “That my decision to retain him (Meier) was somehow part of a cover up.”
He also told officers in his email, “If you make a mistake, OWN YOUR S**T… Since my arrival five years ago, I’ve made it very clear that when an employee makes a mistake worthy of adverse action, before imposing discipline I not only consider the actual offense, but I also take into serious consideration whether that individual owns their mistake, takes responsibility, and takes steps to right the wrong.”
APD had previously said Meier voluntarily turned over his medical records which showed a high blood alcohol content, was honest about what he had done and cooperated with the internal affairs investigation.
Other law enforcement colleagues, like Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, have slammed Aurora’s handling of the incident. Smith said he was “appalled’ at how Aurora handled the incident.
“This kind of ‘BS’ behavior by the officer and lack of accountability from the Aurora Police Department are inexcusable and are a slap in the face to the 14,000 brave and honorable peace officers across the state. The citizens should demand transparency and accountability from the Aurora Police Department on this one,” said Smith.
Defense attorneys who routinely handle DUI cases contend what happened with Meier amounted to preferential treatment. Attorney Scott Reisch said his clients “don’t get a pass like this.” He went on to say, ”Had this been anyone other than a police officer they would have either been arrested or given a summons for a DUI. If this had been you or me, we would have been charged with DUI and possession of a firearm while intoxicated, no doubt in my mind.”
Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler directed his staff to gather evidence and information in the case to evaluate how Aurora Police handled the Meier situation.
Metz wrote, “Finding the balance between discipline and support is critically important… because I know cops are human beings.”
Metz, who is retiring at the end of the month, closed by urging officers to “Get help when needed. And come back stronger, more resilient and more empathetic to those struggling both internally and out in the community.”