Colorado’s attorney general will seek a consent decree with the Aurora Police Department after a year-long investigation that found officers’ patterns of racially biased policing and use of excessive force regularly violated state and federal law.
Department officials treated black people and other people of color differently than white people, including arresting them and using force against them, according to an investigation released Wednesday. The investigation found that the officers regularly used unnecessarily excessive force against people and failed to properly record information about the people they stopped.
“We observed statistically significant racial disparities – particularly in relation to black individuals – in almost every significant type of police interaction with the community, from interactions to arrests to the use of force,” the report said. “These disparities persist across income, gender and geographic boundaries. Together with other information we reviewed, we find that Aurora Police engage in racially biased policing, targeting people of color (and especially black people). treated differently from their white counterparts.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser will seek to create a legally binding consent decree with the Aurora Police Department that will outline the steps his office deems necessary to fix the problems discovered.
“If this effort fails, we will seek a court-imposed order to rectify these problems,” the report said.
The investigation is the first under a new law passed in the summer of 2020 as mass protests against police brutality and racism raged across Colorado following the killing of George Floyd. The bill, SB-217, empowered Weiser’s office to conduct such investigations and, if the agencies did not make the necessary changes, forced them to do so through civil lawsuit.
Weiser chose to investigate the Aurora Police Department after a series of high-profile allegations of police misconduct, including the death of Eliza McClain at the hands of Aurora police and paramedics, in 2019.
“Enhancing the police system and building confidence in law enforcement is an important priority for the Law Department,” Weiser said in a news release. “Our right to conduct pattern and practice investigations is an important tool to advance this goal. In this case, our team conducted a thorough investigation – with the full cooperation of the City of Aurora – and developed important findings on how Aurora can come into compliance with the law and increase the effectiveness and credibility of law enforcement.
Investigators also found that Aurora Fire Rescue had a pattern and practice of illegally injecting people with ketamine. On several occasions, Aurora paramedics gave people doses of sedatives that were too large for their body weight and failed to monitor them properly after giving the drug. The department discontinued ketamine use in September 2020 as multiple investigations into McClain’s use of the drug continued.
According to the report, investigators attributed the failures of the Aurora Police Department to “systemic and serious culture problems.”
“Aurora does not create and oversee reasonable expectations for responsible behavior, leading to the use of excessive force and a violation of the civil rights of its residents,” a news release from Wessier’s office said.
Over 14 months, investigators analyzed data, spent 220 hours on rides with Aurora police and firefighters, attended dozens of police meetings, and reviewed body camera footage. Investigators read more than 2,800 reports, talked to residents of Aurora and interviewed employees of both agencies.