AURORA, Colo. — An Aurora police officer was fired for a disparaging racial remark caught on a body camera only to be reinstated by the city’s Civil Service Commission.
Aurora police Chief Nick Metz spoke out because he was disappointed by the commission’s decision to overrule him and reinstate Charles Deshazer to the force, though as a sergeant not a lieutenant.
Metz described his reaction to the reinstatement as a “combination of anger, appalled and probably the biggest one is hurt.”
Deshazer was responding to a police shooting a year ago in June when the incident took place.
Body camera footage caught Deshazer referring to a crowd of African-Americans who surrounded the police scene as “Alabama porch monkeys.”
The other officer immediately turned off his body camera after hearing the remark.
“I felt the termination was the correct course of action. I felt that it would send a strong message internally and externally about what our expectations are in this agency and we have set a high bar,” Metz said, defending the decision to terminate the officer.
Metz fired Deshazer two months after the slur, but 10 months later on June 29, the Civil Service Commission decided Deshazer only deserved to be demoted.
“It’s not the decision I was hoping for but one we’ll accept and move forward,” Metz said.
Metz is also adamant that Deshazer does not represent the department and when he’s reinstated he won’t be allowed to interact with the public or supervise other officers.
He will most likely be stuck with desk duty, though Metz said he’s unsure whether the transition back to the force will be a smooth one for the department.
“We’ll have some challenges. I think that the other thing I would really like for you to know is I’ve heard from so many people in our agency, so many police officers, officers who have been here, you know, five, 10, 15, 20-plus years, of all races who are absolutely appalled by what he said and many are not happy by the return,” he said.
Deshazer refused to comment on the issue.
Like Deshazer, the five-member Civil Service Commission is also declining comment. The vote was 3-1 to reinstate Deshazer.
The only African-American on the commission recused herself.
Metz released a statement on the issue.
“On June 18, 2017, an Aurora Police Department Lieutenant, Charles DeShazer, made a highly inappropriate and racially inflammatory comment while on the scene of a Denver Police Department officer involved shooting following a police pursuit. The offensive statement was caught on the body worn camera of another officer, and was reported internally by two APD supervisors who were also at the scene and heard the comment. An internal affairs investigation was immediately initiated. Following the investigation, I terminated Lt. DeShazer on September 1, 2017.
“Pursuant to rights provided by the City Charter, Lt. DeShazer appealed his termination to the Civil Service Commission. The Commission held a hearing on June 19 – 20, 2018. It issued an order on June 29, 2018, agreeing with me on the policy violation and the need for “substantial discipline.” However, the Commission reduced the termination to a demotion from lieutenant to sergeant and denied any payment of back pay for the ten months Sgt. DeShazer was out of work.
“The Department is in the process of returning Sgt. DeShazer back to work. He will first be assigned to the APD Academy to ensure he is in compliance with all POST certification requirements. His final assignment has yet to be determined. It is within my authority to set his assignment. I can assure the community that Sgt. DeShazer will not be in a supervisory or citizen-facing role.
“The racially insensitive comment made by Sgt. DeShazer is in direct contradiction to the values of the Aurora Police Department. We hold ourselves to the highest standards, and when one of our officers fall short, we strive to take immediate and necessary action to ensure they are held accountable.
“In making its decision, the Commission considered three other “comparable” cases. Although not noted in the Commission’s Order, two of these cases were decisions of prior chiefs and may have had a different outcome if I had issued the discipline. The one comparable case relied on by the Commission where I issued the discipline was notably different in that I found the statement in that case to not be racially motivated, and the officer involved promptly and genuinely apologized for his actions.
“Every day, the women and men of the Aurora Police Department work diligently to maintain strong cooperative partnerships that are built on trust and respect within our diverse community. They interact with the public thousands of times a year, with the overwhelming majority of these contacts occurring without incident or problem. They put themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of the community. Inappropriate and racially offensive incidents happen infrequently, but are nonetheless of great concern to the Department and to me. I am committed to investigating these incidents when complaints are made, either internally or externally, and taking swift and decisive action when appropriate to hold officers accountable.
“The Department will continue to work on its mission To Make Aurora Safer Every Day and will continue to provide the highest level of service to all residents, enforce local laws and foster a strong relationship with the community.”