AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A task force made up of more than a dozen community members and Aurora leaders will present a series of recommendations for improving the City’s police department to Aurora City Council Monday evening.
One recommendation aims to develop an independent citizen’s oversight office called the Office of Police Accountability Transparency, and Transformation, that would have subpoena powers to review civilian complaints and investigate critical incidents.
“I will sit down with not only council but city management and some of the committee members and see how we can implement some of their suggestions,” said Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson.
“Having an independent oversight organization, somebody outside the police department, is a good move,” said David Gruber, the chairman of Aurora City Council’s Public Safety, Courts, and Civil Service Committee.
In February, the City announced that it would establish an Independent Monitor to help improve accountability.
The task force also recommended giving the OPATT power to reexamine Civil Service Commission decisions and to “recommend discipline to the Chief of Police, City Manager or appropriate authorizer.” The task force also suggested giving the committee the authority to overturn or reverse discipline cases within the department.
“We have a Civil Service Commission, and so the due process is already in place for the City, and that’s by charter,” said Wilson. “Of course, I don’t want any of my decisions reversed as far as discipline is concerned because I’m trying to navigate a culture and navigate a way in this agency. But I think having community input on discipline is always something that I would be in favor of.”
“Some of the recommendations that I’ve read about are in violation of the charter,” said Gruber, after reviewing the task force suggestions. “We’d actually have to change the city charter. We’d have to go to a vote of the people to make that happen. So, having a community group get together to talk about ideas is a good thing, whether or not city council moves forward with those, we’re going to have to decide over the next few months.”
“This Task Force has had a unique opportunity to learn, share, and now create recommendations. The collective believes these recommendations represent a great start to improve the community and police relationship and keep citizens of Aurora (especially Black, Brown, and Poor people) safe,” the task force said in a statement that was included in the City Council’s agenda packet.
The task force also requested increased funding for mental health services that would support the Aurora Police Department, including training and an enhanced co-responder program in which mental health professionals assist officers on calls.
There are also a series of recommendations related to “culturally relevant instruction and professional development opportunities” as well as “training around and assessment of racial disparities.”
Dr. Ryan Ross, the President and CEO of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado, who facilitated the task force’s discussions as they developed recommendations, called the experience “inspiring.”
“Sure, there have been some heated conversations. There have been some complex issues to talk through, but what’s been really cool is to see a really diverse group of citizens come together – give up time over a year – and really put together what they believe to be the foundation of what could be some meaningful change,” he said.