AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The Aurora Police Department’s Chief’s Review Board (CRB) voted to fire Agent Nathan Meier after he was found drunk on duty, passed out, in uniform and at the wheel of an Aurora Police Department vehicle. However, Chief Nick Metz overruled his top commanders and decided Meier should be demoted, and would be allowed to keep his job, according to APD sources with knowledge of the review board’s decision making process.
The review board, which is typically made up of just a few top level department commanders and administrators, reviews internal affairs cases and then makes disciplinary recommendations to the chief, who has the final say.
Sources familiar with the Meier case tell CBS4 the board suggested to Metz Meier should lose his job for his actions on March 29, but Metz overruled his commanders, opting for lesser discipline, deciding Meier should be demoted from the rank of Agent back to the rank of Officer, but remain with the department.
Metz would not comment on the CBS4 report about the review board vote. In an email sent to his department about the case, he said he “unequivocally” stands by his decision.
“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 review board rift is the first time it has become apparent that high ranking department personnel believed Meier should be sacked, and disagreed with the idea of retaining the officer.
Although Metz did not discuss the discrepancy between the review board’s recommendation in the Meier case and his ultimate decision, one source familiar with the Chief’s Review Board process said in other cases, the board has recommended keeping officers who Metz ultimately fired.
The Meier case has sparked outrage, criticism and accusations of preferential treatment. The veteran officer was found passed out while on duty, at the wheel of a department vehicle in the middle of the afternoon. The car was in gear and Meier’s foot was on the brake.
Several officers on scene said they smelled alcohol on Meier, who later admitted he had gone home during his shift, drank from a bottle of vodka and was impaired.
Meier was never tested for DUI or charged with a crime. Deputy Chief Paul O’Keefe said what happened near Buckley Air Force Base was likely a “medical episode” and the officer was taken to a hospital.
Meier has declined requests from CBS4 to discuss what happened.
O’Keefe wrote, ”My observations of Sgt. Meier led me to question if this was in fact alcohol intoxication or some other medical episode, as his physical demeanor was not what I thought was consistent with alcohol intoxication; it appeared more medical in nature.”
At the hospital, O’Keefe said, “based on the lack of information, my own observations and the lack of additional evidence… it was decided that no testing would be completed at this time.”
An internal affairs investigation found Meier violated four department policies, including one governing alcohol consumption.
Although he would not discuss why his subordinates recommended termination for Meier, in his department wide email, Metz wrote that he strives to find a balance between discipline and support.
“I will stand out front and take any criticisms the media, community members or uninvolved law enforcement personnel want to throw at the department if it means an officer gets the help they need.”