Aurora PD deputy chief avoided 30-day suspension and demotion by retiring

Problem Solvers
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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) – FOX31 has learned former Aurora Deputy Police Chief Paul O’Keefe would’ve been demoted and received a 30-day suspension had he not retired first.

O’Keefe found himself at the center of the Officer Nathan Meier scandal.

Meier was was found passed out in his patrol car with the engine running in March 2019.

He was never investigated for a driving under the influence because the highest ranking officer at the scene, O’Keefe, chose to have the case investigated as a medical episode instead of a possible DUI.

O’Keefe later admitted he “noticed a fleeting odor of an alcoholic beverage” but according to a disciplinary letter obtained by the Problem Solvers, O’Keefe did not follow through with “either a criminal DUI investigation or administrative internal investigation to determine if the APD member was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

In February 2020, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler announced he could not pursue a criminal case against Meier because Aurora police had never sought search warrants to obtain blood samples from Meier, even though the officer later admitted to drinking vodka before he was found passed out.

“I do think he (Meier) beat the system. I just think it was part of the system that helped him do it,” said Brauchler on Feb. 6. 

On the day Brauchler announced his hands were legally tied, Interim Aurora Police Department Chief Vanessa Wilson announced there would be an internal affairs investigation into O’Keefe’s decision making.

O’Keefe, who had already announced his retirement for March after the Meier scandal broke, instead retired the next day, Feb. 7, five days before Internal Affairs opened its investigation. 

According to the disciplinary letter, “The public response to how this incident was handled was overwhelmingly negative. The public image of the Aurora Police Department was damaged by this incident and the decisions made by Deputy Chief O’Keefe.”

The Chief’s Review Board recommend a finding of “sustained” for violating two department directives, professional conduct and responsibility, and unsatisfactory performance. But the Review Board found O’Keefe did not violate another department directive, conformance to law.

In a memorandum signed April 20, 2020, Wilson wrote, “Had he not retired, and based on the information in the file, I would have upheld the Chief’s Review Board recommendation of sustained findings.”

Aurora police never publicly revealed the results of the findings. They only came to light three months later because of a public records request by FOX31.

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