AURORA, Colo. -- Aurora Police Department officer Charles DeShazer was caught on body camera clearly saying, “we have all the Alabama porch monkeys contained” in reference to a group of African-Americans standing at the scene of a crime.
The remarks led police chief Nick Metz to fire DeShazer, only to have his decision reversed by the Civil Service Commission.
Aurora Mayor Bob LeGare issued a statement on Thursday in response to the decision:
“I remain extremely disappointed in this decision, which feels like a slap in the face to the many hard-working and compassionate employees of the Aurora Police Department and the city of Aurora who serve our diverse community with integrity and respect. The Civil Service Commission gets its authority under the Aurora City Charter and exercises its duties independent of the Aurora City Council. The members of the commission don’t have to be judges or have a legal background, yet they hold evidentiary hearings and formal proceedings with authority on important personnel matters. There is no further check upon their decisions. Their ruling speaks to precedents in officer discipline, but those are cases from a different era, under a different leadership, that don’t reflect the standards and expectations we have of our officers today. After this ruling by the Civil Service Commission, some council members are asking whether it’s time for us to re-evaluate the charter and what any changes would look like. This discussion will rely heavily upon the community, because any charter changes would require voter approval. I look forward to that discussion so that it’s clear that in the future, comments as reprehensible as these have no place in the city of Aurora.”
The Aurora NAACP wants city officials to consider appealing DeShazer's rehiring.
“I disagree with [Deshazer] returning to work in law enforcement, period," president Omar Montgomery said.
Police said DeShazer will not be placed in a job where he interacts with the public or supervises staff. However, Montgomery said it doesn't matter.
“Anyone who uses a term like 'porch monkey' -- it’s not just a term, it's a mentality. You have new recruits coming in that he may have influence over," Montgomery said.
Also fueling the anger of many in the community is an incident caught on camera in 2006 showing DeShazer attacking Loree McCormick-Rice and her then 12-year-old daughter in a King Soopers parking lot, where he moonlighted as a security guard.
"The first thing he did to her was slap her in the face. She starts to cry. He said, 'Shut the (expletive) up.' He starts to choke her, knocks her onto the ground and starts kicking her," said McCormick-Rice.
The girl’s shoulder was fractured. McCormick-Rice, who uses (and used in 2006) an oxygen tank, said DeShazer accused her of parking illegally in a handicap spot. However, she had a handicap placard.
The city of Aurora paid McCormick-Rice and her daughter $175,000 to settle claims of racism and excessive force.
However, the Civil Service Commission's written order says DeShazer had no significant discipline history in his 20 years with Aurora police.
The commission was asked for an explanation as to why the 2006 incident was not included.
“The Civil Service Commission has no comment during this 30-day time frame where the decision can be appealed to district court," it said in a statement.
City officials said they need more time to respond to a request for DeShazer's internal affairs file.
Police said there is no set date for DeShazer's return to the department.