The Aurora Police Department is doubling down on its pledge to improve policing after Elijah McClain's death from the hands of law enforcement in 2019 — but promises may be hard to keep when internal strife and crippling crime waves keep getting in the way.
Driving the news: The Colorado Attorney General's Office and heads of Aurora's police and fire departments announced Tuesday they agreed to an overhaul as part of a consent decree mandating changes around public safety practices.
- The five-year agreement comes in the wake of a state investigation that determined the police department routinely exerted excessive force and showed a pattern of racial bias.
Details: The requirements outlined in the consent decree include improving use-of-force training to prevent "unnecessarily escalating encounters" with civilians and diversifying the police and fire workforces to "better reflect the city's diversity," Attorney General Phil Weiser said at a briefing.
- Aurora's elected officials are now required to hire an independent monitor to keep tabs on the police and fire departments' progress toward achieving the agreed-upon conditions.
Yes, but: The police are preoccupied amid a crime spike and a high-profile mass shooting this week.
- Violent crime is hitting record highs in Aurora. Just one day before the announcement, a drive-by shooting left six high school students injured — causing the police chief to declare youth violence a public health crisis. Numerous other shootings and murders have occurred within the past month.
- Aurora police remained embroiled in controversy. The police union held a "no confidence" vote in police chief Vanessa Wilson, who says she’s committed to reform. And multiple officers are being suspended, fired or even arrested for excessive force this year.
- What’s more, the police department also faces a severe staffing shortage.
What they’re saying: "I need you to believe in this agency," Wilson told community members Tuesday. "We’re not going to shy away from reform."
The bottom line: Aurora Police remain in the spotlight more than two years after McClain’s death, and questions about whether the city’s officers can rebuild community trust while keeping people safe remain unanswered.
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