AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Body camera video from case after case illustrates what investigators with the Colorado State Attorney General’s office calls a pattern of racially biased policing and use of excessive force in Aurora. Police officers seen pistol whipping a man, holding a family at gunpoint, leaving a young woman cuffed in a car and in the case of Elijah McClain, put in a chokehold and injected with Ketamine.
“I was disappointed that it took my sons murder to highlight everything that is wrong with Aurora, Colorado’s police and fire departments,” Elijah’s mother Sheneen McClain said.
His case and the protests that would follow were a catalyst for the 14-month-long investigation into the department’s practices and policies.
“Most failures with Aurora police relate to systemic and severe culture challenges,” Attorney General Phil Weiser said.
The result the report says is a frequent use of force, that nearly half of the time involves a person of color.
“The people of Colorado expect more from law enforcement,” Weiser said.
More starting with who is wearing the badge, according to the report minorities make up most of the population in Aurora but the department is far from reflecting that.
In 2020, the report found the department employed 758 police officers and recruits of those, 600 were white, which is nearly 80% of the entire force.
The attorney general is now recommending changes to polices, training, record keeping and hiring which at an entry level is done by the City’s Civil Service commission.
Aurora Fire Rescue was also a focus of the investigation, and the report says prior to suspending their use of ketamine they found a consistent pattern of illegal use of the powerful sedative that in part led to the death of McClain.
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson responded to the report with the following statement:
We remain committed to cooperation and seeking solutions which keep the best interests of our community and public servants at the forefront.
In the coming weeks, we will work with the Attorney General’s Office to determine how to implement necessary and sustainable changes. The final consent decree will serve as another resource in our path forward.
Today is incredibly difficult for not only the Aurora community but this agency. We acknowledge there are changes to be made. We will not broad brush this agency or discount the professionalism and integrity that individual officers bring to our community every day. I am proud to say the Aurora Police Department began the implementation of many changes over the last 21 months, while this and other investigations were ongoing.
Those changes have improved overall policing, de-escalation training, community outreach and engagement. I have and continue to hold officers accountable as evidenced by my recent disciplinary actions, which are supported by many officers in the department who are proud to wear our badge.
The report acknowledges the dedicated work we have already achieved and are committed to seeing through. I consider this report as one facet of a comprehensive effort to provide the highest quality police officers and level of service to our community in Aurora.