DENVER (KDVR) — More than a year after a new Colorado police integrity law gave the state’s attorney general power to investigate police departments for patterns and practices of civil rights violations, those who fought to get the law passed say it is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing.
“I look forward to partnering with the attorney general and others as we continue our work to ensure that law enforcement acts with integrity and is held accountable when they don’t,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat who pushed for multiple laws on police integrity – including the police accountability-focused Senate Bill 217 – to be passed 2020 and 2021.
‘We still shouldn’t celebrate … there has been harm’
Attorney General Phil Weiser released findings of the Department of Law investigation into the Aurora Police Department Wednesday.
The investigation found the police department has engaged repeatedly in racially biased policing and the excessive use of force. The investigation also found that Aurora Fire Rescue had a pattern and practice of administering ketamine in violation of the law.
“By the attorney general exercising its patterns and practices investigation powers that we gave in (Senate Bill) 217 — the first in the nation… We have affirmed what the citizens of Aurora and so many folks already knew: that the Aurora Police Department has operated in a way that is racist,” she said.
“We still shouldn’t celebrate, because what it means is that there has been harm that has been done to real people in our community, some that will never be able to speak up about what happened to them. But hopefully, this will prove to some people and vindicate to others that what they believed happened to them was real,” Herod said.
‘We cannot depend on police departments to police themselves’
Mari Newman, a civil rights attorney who has represented multiple people who claimed to be victims of police brutality over the past several years, said she hopes these findings will lead to real change.
“We cannot depend on police departments to police themselves,” Newman said. “They simply don’t do it.”
Newman said she has litigated other cases with the Aurora Police Department, including one that resulted in a settlement that required the police department to commit to structural, cultural, and procedural changes.
“Unfortunately, what we saw is that years and years and years after that settlement is that Aurora simply failed to live up to its legally binding settlement,” she said.
“This time, things will be different, I hope,” Newman said. “There has been a very comprehensive legal report, a public finding by our Colorado State Attorney General highlighting the police brutality, the civil rights violations, and other system-wide problems in the City of Aurora. The Attorney General has committed to working to create a legally binding consent decree which will force the City of Aurora to make changes that will be overseen by a court, and if Aurora fails to engage in those changes, Senate Bill 217 gives the Colorado state Attorney General legal authority to file its own litigation against the city of Aurora to enforce the law.”