AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– A CBS4 Investigation has learned an Aurora Police Detective resigned last month, the day before he would have been fired. This, after a department-initiated internal affairs investigation indicated Agent Steve Chinn was being paid for hours he wasn’t working and collected overtime payments from a state grant that investigators say he did not earn.
“There was definitely a crime committed,” said APD Division Chief Terry Brown. “In the end he (Chinn) accepted responsibility and knew he was wrong.”
But despite that assessment, the District Attorney declined to file any charges against Chinn saying there was enough evidence to arrest and charge him, but not enough proof to gain a conviction.
“I think we can agree what took place here should not have taken place,” said 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, who went on to say, “If I make this decision not to proceed against Officer Chinn, it’s not because I think what he did was okay- I disagree with it entirely- its because I don’t think I can ethically prosecute.”
The Chinn case marks a setback for the Aurora Police Department, which has been trying to regain community trust after a tumultuous year of controversies and criminal cases involving its officers. The department is in the process of selecting a new chief from four finalists, two of who come from within the department.
According to an Aurora Police Department’s internal affairs investigation, interviews and documentation from the District Attorney’s Office, Chinn was under department suspicion in 2019, which led to an internal affairs investigation of his work habits. That probe found that between April 2019 through June 2019, the traffic detective was “absent from your duty shift numerous times without authorization and without submitting requests for leave for hours you did not work but were being paid for.”
Cell phone records showed that while he was supposed to be working in Aurora, he was far from the city in Castle Rock and Franktown.
“When he was supposed to be at work or court,” said Brown, “what we found through the investigation was he was either at his residence or someone else’s residence but not in the City of Aurora. When our people are on the clock we expect them to be working and they need to be at work, working,” said Brown.
In those months, APD said 49.5 work hours for Chinn were unaccounted for. The investigation also suggested additional wrongdoing on Chinn’s part.
“You untruthfully submitted requests for overtime that were not worked, you untruthfully documented tickets that were written while you were on duty to CDOT grant overtime forms, indicating that the summons count was accrued during the time that the overtime was worked,” Brown told CBS4, “I do think there was criminal activity, absolutely I do. There was definitely a crime committed.”
But in a letter that is part of the case, the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office said records suggested Chinn committed certain crimes like theft, forgery and embezzlement, but “that there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction based on the likely defense and evidence as a whole.”
Brauchler said he believed the detective provided false information and cheated the system, but since he didn’t believe Chinn would be convicted, he had an ethical obligation not to file charges.
“I don’t get to prosecute someone because we think we know what’s going on here, we need more than that.”
Chinn’s attorney, Donald Sisson, told CBS4, “He denies any of that conduct, Officer Chinn denies any wrongdoing.”
Although the district attorney issued what’s known as a “Brady letter” about Chinn in September 2019, indicating Chinn lacked credibility, and their criminal investigation concluded in November 2019, it would be another seven months after that before the Aurora Police Department concluded its internal affairs investigation and was poised to terminate Chinn. The department found Chinn violated four department regulations including neglect of duty and making a false or untruthful declaration. Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson planned to fire Chinn May 21. He retired the day before, May 20.
Sisson claims Chinn “decided to retire based on the current climate in policing.”
Brown, who supervised Chinn, told CBS4 the case is another embarrassment for his department, “If somebody tarnishes your profession, if you’re not embarrassed, you shouldn’t be in the profession.”