Aurora takes on “comprehensive” review of its embattled police department

The announcement comes on the same day Elijah McClain’s family sued the city.

Jeff Hughes plays his violin as Aurora Police officers in riot gear keep protesters demanding justice for Elijah McClain off the municipal building lawn. June 27, 2020.

Jeff Hughes plays his violin as Aurora Police officers in riot gear keep protesters demanding justice for Elijah McClain off the municipal building lawn. June 27, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

The city of Aurora will conduct a comprehensive review of its police department. The announcement Tuesday came hours after Elijah McClain’s family sued the City of Aurora and police over his death last year.

21CP Solutions, a firm specializing in civil rights and public safety, would be conducting the review of the Aurora Police Department. The agency has faced criticism over several high-profile incidents involving the use of force, its treatment of people of color and officer behavior over the past year. The most prominent example to date is the death of McClain, a Black man who died in August 2019 after an encounter with Aurora police and paramedics.

The release said the review will include:

  • the department’s leadership structure
  • the role of community policing and engagement
  • assessing current use of force policies and practices, discriminatory policing and bias-free policing practices
  • officer misconduct and accountability
  • stops, searches and arrests
  • recruitment, hiring and retention
  • interaction with vulnerable populations
  • crisis intervention interactions with individuals experiencing behavioral health challenges.

City Manager Jim Twombly said the community must be served in a way that “recognizes and honors our diversity.”

“That requires us taking a hard look at how we do things in order to build an agency that the community trusts,” Twombly said. “These changes are of the utmost urgency to the city, and most importantly, the community.”

Newly-appointed Aurora police chief Vanessa Wilson said the department embraces “this opportunity for change and are committed to evolve for the betterment of our profession, our community and the residents we serve.” The day she was appointed as chief last week, Wilson apologized to a Black family that was detained by Aurora police officers. She has fired at least seven officers since she took over as interim chief, in January.

“We will strive daily to regain the trust in our community,” Wilson said. “I believe this review, along with actionable policy and training changes, is a good first step.”

Aurora currently faces three separate investigations into McClain’s death from the city, the state and from federal authorities. Also on Tuesday, the state attorney general announced it was conducting its own investigation into the Aurora Police Department.

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