AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– The City of Aurora has agreed to improve policing and public safety in an agreement reached with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. This agreement comes after issues identified in a report from the investigation into the practices of the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue.
“We are looking for reform and we know that the community is calling for reform, and the AG’s pattern of practice was just one of many investigations. They had a job to do to provide some validity to what the community was saying and what they were seeing and we’re willing to do that and the culture change is in effect and we’re working on that,” said Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson. “We’re not going to sit back and take our time. We’re going to hit this full steam ahead.”
“This provides an enforceable roadmap to ensure that it happens in a transparent and effective and reliable now forward you what she’s thinking,” Weiser said.
In September, an investigation team appointed by Weiser found the Aurora Police Department has a history of racially biased policing and found Aurora police and fire departments have a pattern of violating federal and state laws.
The investigation, which lasted 14 months, stemmed from the controversial arrest of Elijah McClain. McClain died in 2019 after an altercation with Aurora police and medics with Aurora Fire Rescue. He had not committed a crime, yet was taken to the ground and injected with a potentially lethal dose of Ketamine.
McClain died days later in a local hospital.
“I know that this has been 23 months of pain 23 months of difficult conversations 23 months of change and reform. And I want to thank the officers out there protecting and serving. We’re not going to shy away from reform. And I can tell you that the officers out on the street are doing it with duty honor integrity,” said Wilson.
The consent decree, released on Tuesday, includes specific commitments that the Aurora Police Department, Aurora Fire Rescue, and the Aurora Civil Service Commission will take with the oversight of an independent consent decree monitor.
“This consent decree will elevate policing and improve public safety in the City of Aurora. The hard work ahead will be to build trust in law enforcement, operate with a spirit of continuous improvement, and protect public safety using legal and just means,” said Weiser during a Tuesday afternoon news conference. “Working together, we can protect public safety and civil rights by working with law enforcement to improve how it operates in Aurora. As the city does this important work, our department will support it and do all we can to ensure that it succeeds in delivering on its commitments.”
The draft consent decree unveiled establishes a framework for addressing the following issues:
• Creating specific guidance on police officers’ exercise of discretion during interactions with community members to address perceived or actual bias in policing;
• Improving use-of-force policies and training to avoid unnecessarily escalating encounters with community members;
• Promoting and improving the hiring of qualified police officers and firefighters to better reflect the city’s diversity;
• Developing a new system to collect data about police interactions with members of the community as required by law; and
• Ensuring the lawful administration of chemical sedatives and requiring review of policies and procedures by the independent consent decree monitor before ketamine may be used again.
“I think our officers are willing to do that, they want to police this community in a way that gives dignity and inclusion for all,” said Wilson.
“This means that if everyone is on the same page, and is making the same recommendations, hopefully this is something City Council will agree to, and that they will vote in favor of it, so that we can move forward and begin to bridge that gap between our residents, and our public safety organizations,” said Omar Montgomery, the President of the NAACP Aurora Chapter.
Montgomery has been watching the city closely over the last few years. After nearly being elected mayor he was on a citizen oversite committee for the police department last year.
“We have some people that’s doing amazing work and organizations, but we have some that do abuse a power and they must be held accountable. For me, I only see good coming out of this, if everyone goes in it with the best intentions,” he said. “This will help us centralize everything, make policies clear so that officers know their role. residents know their rights.”
The consent decree will last about five years depending on how long Aurora takes to implement the changes and comply with the requirements outlined in the consent decree.