AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– A female Aurora police officer apparently drove to work drunk in December, appeared to coworkers to be intoxicated, blew a .138 on a portable breath test an hour after arriving, but never faced a criminal DUI investigation, once again raising questions about treatment the agency gives its own officers when they are caught in compromising situations. This is the second time in four months a CBS4 Investigation has found an Aurora police officer escaping DUI charges despite being drunk on duty.
“It seems to me there’s got to be a heightened level of scrutiny about that conduct and she didn’t get that heightened level of scrutiny,” said George Brauchler, District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District.
After reviewing the CBS4 Investigation, Brauchler said he was frustrated that another case will further undermine confidence in the already beleaguered police agency.
“It is hard for members of the public to hear facts like this and not think there is a second standard that exists for people in uniform versus people outside of uniform,” Brauchler said.
The newly emerging case relates to Aurora Police Officer Annette Brook. Colorado State Patrol officers arrested her in June 2019 in Douglas County after she ran into a concrete highway barrier. Her blood alcohol was measured at .227, nearly three times the legal limit. But as that case was winding through the court system, Brook drove to work at the Aurora Police District Three station on Dec. 5, 2019.
According to an internal affairs summary obtained by CBS4 Investigates, and photos of her coming to work, Brook arrived just after 8 a.m. in her own car, and a sergeant who contacted Brook “believed that (Brook) showed signs consistent with the consumption of alcoholic beverages.”
She was given a portable breath test about an hour after she parked her SUV, which showed her blood alcohol content at .138, well over the threshold to be considered DUI in Colorado.
Later blood testing would confirm the DUI measurement and would also show the presence of Zolpidem, a controlled substance used to treat insomnia.
Brook told department investigators she had not been drinking alcohol that day, but claimed she “last consumed two glasses of alcohol at approximately 10 p.m. during the previous night.”
The evidence summary obtained by CBS4 Investigates suggests Brook was not asked what kind of liquor she had been drinking or the size of the glasses.
But despite the indications Brook had driven to work drunk, Aurora Police initiated an internal affairs investigation, not a criminal DUI case, raising the ire of the District Attorney who only learned what happened more than a month after the fact.
“Did Annette Brook get away with a second DUI? The evidence we have right now looks like she did. Should they have treated it like a DUI investigation from the beginning? I think they should have,” said Brauchler. “But instead they treated it like it was an administrative issue, and in treating it like an administrative issue they invoked internal affairs protocols that allowed them to accumulate evidence for internal purposes that would not be available to me for any future prosecution.”
But Brook opted to retire in the midst of the internal affairs investigation so never faced any repercussions for apparently driving to work inebriated.
Aurora’s interim police Chief, Vanessa Wilson, said the way Brook was handled December 5th was consistent with department protocols in place at the time, but she has since issued a new directive to prevent this from happening again.
“From here on out we will definitely not be making these mistakes,” said Wilson. “I think we learn from the past and we changed the direction that we are going.”
She noted that since Brook was already under scrutiny for a previous DUI, she was not in uniform, was not armed and was not driving a department vehicle. Wilson also said a criminal case could not be filed since it was plausible that Brook somehow drank at work after she arrived, but prior to the portable breath test. 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.
Brook’s case is the second to emerge in four months raising questions about APD protocols for dealing with inebriated officers.
Officer Nate Meier was caught drunk, in uniform, and behind the wheel of an Aurora Police vehicle last March. Although a later blood test would show Meier’s blood alcohol was measured at more than five times the legal limit for DUI, his supervisors decided not to initiate a criminal investigation and deemed it a medical situation, so Meier was never criminally charged and kept his APD job.
He was subject to an internal affairs investigation, which led to a suspension.
Brauchler also spoke out against how Aurora Police handled that case, saying in early February, “at the end of the day, I think this guy beats the system and part of the system helped him do it.”
In Brook’s case, Brauchler said the way Aurora Police handed her case in December had serious ramifications.
Since his office was never notified of a possible second DUI case against the female officer, when she pleaded guilty in January to driving under the influence and prohibited use of a weapon, in connection with her June DUI, she received 20 days of in-home detention and 12 months of probation. Prosecutors had asked the Judge to sentence her to ten days in jail.
Brauchler said had they known of the Dec. 5 incident, they likely would have presented that information to the Judge and Brook might have received a stiffer sentence.
“But it was frustrating, because Annette Brook was allowed to be sentenced without the court knowing that important information,” Brauchler said. “Had we had the information that Aurora possessed about her coming to work, driving to work, with alcohol on board, we might have gotten a different result.”
“I understand his frustration,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t a mistake that day, moving forward it will be.”