By Brian Maass

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Both Aurora’s Interim Police Chief and City Manager acknowledged Thursday that the police department mishandled the case of Aurora Police Officer Nate Meier, who was found drunk while on duty and at the wheel of an Aurora police vehicle last March. But the department deemed it a medical situation and Meier was never arrested or charged with DUI.

Meier was demoted but remains with the department.

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Nathan Meier

Nathan Meier (credit: CBS)

“That case in my opinion should have been handled as a DUI,” said Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson. “If that was a regular citizen, a DUI investigation would have occurred, in my opinion.”

Wilson’s comments came the day after 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler told CBS4 he could not charge Meier with a DUI because of the way the Aurora Police Department mishandled the case.

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“I think these guys are looking out for their colleague, that’s what I think they’re doing,“ commented Brauchler.

(credit: CBS)

The first officer on the Meier scene last March was Deputy Chief Paul O’Keefe. He acknowledged smelling alcohol on Meier but decided to treat the case as a medical situation, not a DUI. So Meier was transported to a hospital. An internal investigation later revealed Meier’s blood alcohol level was more than five times the legal limit for DUI and he admitted drinking to the point of impairment.

On Thursday, Wilson announced she had launched an internal affairs investigation into O’Keefe’s decision making.

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“I think this was a decision O’Keefe felt was medical and I need to get into why he felt that way.”

Within hours, O‘Keefe announced he was immediately retiring, effectively scuttling the internal affairs investigation.

“This has destroyed our reputation,” said Wilson.

Vanessa Wilson

Vanessa Wilson (credit: CBS)

She said Aurora officers have suffered abuse as a result of the case, having insults hurled at them and being called drunks by citizens. She said she was taking steps to hopefully prevent a repeat of the Meier case.

The interim chief said in similar situations in the future, if there is any indication of drug or alcohol use by an officer, a criminal investigation will start before any administrative decisions are made and the chief will be notified.

She said other police agencies will be asked to come in and evaluate the Aurora police investigation of their own officers, to make sure the investigation is done properly.

Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said Thursday of the Meier case, ”We got it wrong.”

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Twombly said, “There were questionable decisions made at the scene that failed our residents, failed our many hard-working police officers, and failed our city.”

Brian Maass