Aurora Police Department discipline, force policies need overhauls, city-commissioned report finds

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A city-commissioned report recommends 47 changes at the Aurora Police Department, including “significant” updates to its use-of-force and discipline policies.

The City of Aurora paid a group of consultants more than $350,000 for the report, which aims to make the police department more “inclusive, equitable, effective and just.”

Among the first three recommendations suggested by the consulting firm 21CP Solutions:

  • “APD’s use of force policies should be substantially revised to provide better, more specific guidance to officers on when force may and may not be used.”
  • “APD should ensure that it provides regular training to all personnel on force decision-making and de-escalation strategies. As with APD’s training overall, this training should include dynamic, integrated, skills-focused and scenario-based training grounded in adult learning techniques.”
  • “APD policy should better outline what officers must describe and articulate in narratives regarding the use of force.”
  • “APD should require officers to document, and provide specific information about, all interactions with the public that are not voluntary.”
Aurora police Officer John Haubert strangles Kyle Vinson during an arrest on July 23, 2021. (Credit: Arapahoe County Court)

“We requested the review because we wanted to know what blind spots might exist and welcome guidance on best practices,” said Ryan Luby, an Aurora spokesperson. “As we move forward in creating a new vision of public safety, we intend to keep our community at the center of these conversations,” he said.

The findings, written in a 161-page report, officially will be presented at Monday night’s Aurora city council meeting.

It also recommends:

  • revisions for the department’s bias policy;
  • that the department focus more seriously on alternative responses to mental health crises;
  • more diversity from within the department;
  • an overhaul on its discipline policies and processes;
  • and review its facilities, equipment and weapons, including non-lethal ones.

“Ultimately, this report does not have all of the answers. We do not have all of the answers,” the consultants wrote. “For that matter, it is unlikely that any one of Aurora’s stakeholders alone have all of the answers. Instead, the purpose of this report is to identify methods by which that the Aurora community, APD, elected officials, and other stakeholders might promote ever-more inclusive, equitable, effective and just public safety in Aurora tomorrow,”.

According to Luby, the city’s agreement with the consultant allows payment up to $376,900 for services, but the costs have not yet reached that amount.

Aurora City Council to review report

City council members say they are prepared to discuss the findings during their Monday meeting. The report eventually will land in the Public Safety, Courts, and Civil Service committee for additional scrutiny.

“It will have my full attention, obviously,” said David Gruber, an at-large city council member who chairs the city’s public safety committee.

Gruber received a copy of the report ahead of the council meeting and said the committee would be looking for specific recommendations that can be implemented.

“We paid a lot of money. We have a report that recommends that we re-write hundreds — if not thousands — of pages of regulations,” he said.

FILE – In this Aug. 24, 2020, file photo, two people hold posters showing images depicting Elijah McClain during a candlelight vigil for McClain outside the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles. An investigation into the arrest of McClain in suburban Denver criticizes how police handled the entire incident, faulting officers for their quick, aggressive treatment of the 23-year-old unarmed Black man and department overall for having a weak accountability system. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

“Parts of the report, I thought, were very good, but the major problems we have in Aurora right now are police retention and an explosion in crime – especially property crime,” Gruber said. “And I was hoping that I would see more tools — more ideas — in this report that would focus on how we could better protect Aurorans other than just changing the police department itself.”

Gruber said the city is already working on re-writing many use-of-force policies after receiving previous feedback.

Aurora Police Department use-of-force policy already under rewrite

“The recommendations that are in the 21CP report will be included in our final use-of-force regulations,” Gruber said.

He added that none of the recommendations are required to be implemented.

“The people that reviewed us didn’t come in and say, ‘You have to change.’ They gave us recommendations from other cities — Cleveland, Baltimore, Tampa — other cities, and say, ‘They’re doing these sorts of things,’ but very rarely in the report does it say, ‘You are doing this wrong, and this needs to change immediately,” he said.

Aurora still waits for results of the Colorado Attorney General’s investigation into alleged patterns and practices of civil rights violations at the police department, as well as the grand jury review of the Elijah McClain case.

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