Sep 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Colorado AG: Aurora police engaged in racially biased practices

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, left, and City Manager Jim Twombly are in the press conference at Aurora Police Department Headquarters in Aurora, Colorado on Tuesday, July 27
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson and City Manager Jim Twombly at a press conference at Aurora Police Department Headquarters on July 27. Photo: Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Wednesday that an investigation found the Aurora Police Department guilty of violating state and federal laws through a pattern of racially biased policing and excessive force.

Why it matters: The investigation began amid outrage over the death of Elijah McClain, which death drew renewed attention in the wake of George Floyd's murder and focused new attention on the practices of Aurora police officers.

  • Earlier this month a Colorado grand jury charged each of the three Aurora officers and two paramedics involved in McClain's death with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

The big picture: The investigation found a "consistent pattern of illegal behavior by Aurora Police" that was evident across "many levels of the department," noted the press release.

  • Aurora police had a practice of using illegal excessive force and deployed force against people of color nearly two-and-a-half times more often than it did against white people, the investigation found.
  • Aurora police also disproportionally arrested people of color and failed to properly document all interactions with civilians.
  • “These actions are unacceptable. They hurt the people that law enforcement is entrusted” to serve, Weiser said Wednesday, per the Associated Press.

What's next: Colorado's Department of Law will work with the department to come up with an agreement on reforms that must be implemented regarding officer training, policies, record keeping, and hiring.

  • The reform process will be overseen by an independent monitor, per the press release.

Thought bubble, from Axios' John Frank: This is a first-of-its-kind investigation in Colorado, allowed under a 2020 police accountability law that gives the state attorney general the ability to conduct an investigation akin to the civil rights division at the U.S. Department of Justice.

  • It’s an incredible new power and how far the attorney general will take it to address bad policing in Colorado is the big unknown.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the grand jury charges were announced on Sept. 1.

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