Last month, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser released a report detailing the findings of an investigation of the Aurora Police Department by the Colorado Department of Law. The investigation followed a number of abuse-of-force incidents over the past few years involving the department. The most high-profile of these, in 2018, resulted in the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain when police confronted the young Black man whom someone reported as “suspicious” as he walked through the neighborhood.
In his statement addressing the report, the AG noted that the department has a “pattern and practice of violating state and federal law,” including “racially biased policing” and “using excessive force.” He noted issues with the department’s training as well as its review of use-of-force incidents. The AG said the department “does not create or oversee appropriate expectations for responsible behavior.”
The investigation also found that the department illegally used ketamine to sedate suspects. That is the drug that was used on Elijah McClain. The department no longer uses it.
Use of force is much more common with people of color
As for the “racially biased policing” that residents have long complained about, the report found that Aurora police used force nearly 2.5 times as often on people of color as they did on white people. About half of the use-of-force incidents that were reported involved Black people, even though they comprise just 15% of Aurora’s population.
The report also noted that just over 1% of eligible Black applicants to the department are hired. That’s compared to 4.2% of eligible white applicants. The report referred to “racial winnowing” throughout recruitment and hiring.
The state now has greater authority to address these issues
Thanks to a law passed last year, the AG now has the authority to investigate any government agency – including police departments – that repeatedly violate either state or federal law and to allow consent decrees between agencies to address problems. He said he’s hoping to get one between the state and the city of Aurora to overhaul police hiring, training and internal investigation procedures.
Anyone who has been the victim of excessive force or of any illegal actions by a law enforcement officer deserves justice. Their actions could affect your case – assuming that you’re even facing charges. Regardless of the situation, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.