Aurora is suing Denver over costs incurred after lawsuits filed by George Floyd protesters

The two cities disagree over who is responsible for the costs of the lawsuits.
3 min. read
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen marches and speaks with demonstrators on Monday, June 1, 2020, as they peacefully protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

It's neighbor versus neighbor between Aurora and Denver. The City of Aurora has sued the City and County of Denver over who is responsible for costs incurred following several lawsuits filed by people who were injured by police during protests in the summer of 2020.

During that summer, multiple protests broke out across downtown Denver in the wake of George Floyd's death. The city's police department requested personnel from surrounding cities, including Aurora.

"Part of this longstanding practice and course of conduct included an agreement and understanding that the requesting municipality would indemnify or otherwise assume responsibility for all claims arising out of the request for aid," the lawsuit, filed in Denver District Court, said.

In the aftermath of the protests, numerous people filed lawsuits against law enforcement agencies over alleged police misconduct and police brutality, resulting in millions of dollars of payouts. Aurora alleges Denver broke their mutual agreement and state law by not footing the bill for lawsuits in which Aurora police have been named co-defendants.

"Aurora has alerted Denver numerous times to these obligations, both orally and in writing," the lawsuit said. "To date, Denver has refused to acknowledge its obligations, leaving Aurora uncertain as to whether Denver will abide by them."

The City and County of Denver did not elaborate on its refusal, beyond a joint statement with the City of Aurora.

"Aurora and Denver disagree on which municipality should cover costs associated with legal challenges to the Aurora Police Department's involvement in the George Floyd protests," the two cities wrote.

A report from Denver's independent police watchdog found the city did not come to any agreement about how outside agencies would aid in crowd control during George Floyd protests. Civil rights attorney Andy McNulty, who has represented protesters suing Denver Police over misconduct at the protests, said such agreements are typical before bringing in outside forces. But like in the report, McNulty said he did not receive any such agreements during discovery for cases he has been involved in.

"Those agreements will almost universally say that the one who's invoking it will indemnify the responding agency for anything that happens because they need their help," McNulty said. "In this instance, Denver was worse than negligent, just so reckless, in the way that they policed these protests."

McNulty said that with so many lawsuits, neither city wants to foot the bill. "It's all about shirking accountability," he said.

In 2023 so far, Denver has paid more than $2 million in claims involving police dating back to the 2020 protests.

That's on top of more than $3 million in police-related claims in 2022, and $14 million awarded to protesters in a 2022 jury trial. Many of the suits involve police using tear gas on protesters, shooting them with PepperBalls and throwing stun grenades. In one case, a protester accused police of violating him with a baton.

It's something currently playing out across the country.

Philadelphia has paid protesters $9.25 million over police use of tear gas during the 2020 protests, while New York has paid $121 million for police misconduct.

Aurora, which is being represented by Holland & Hart, a law firm with several Colorado offices, is seeking a court-issued declaration ordering Denver to pay any settlements in cases targeted at Aurora law enforcement officers.

The two cities said the disagreement would not harm city relations.

"While Aurora and Denver argue their respective positions in court, they will continue to work together outside court toward a safer metropolitan community," the statement said.

Recent Stories