DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s attorney general said Wednesday that a civil rights investigation has begun amid outrage over the death of Elijah McClain, finding that the Aurora Police Department has a pattern of racially biased policing.
The investigation by Attorney General Phil Weisser’s office, announced in August 2020, was the first of its kind launched under a comprehensive police accountability law passed in Colorado amid protests over the killing of George Floyd. It began several weeks ago, but was not revealed until that day when McClain’s parents filed a lawsuit against Aurora. The trial alleges that 23-year-old massage therapist McClain’s treatment of police was part of a pattern of racially biased policing that includes aggression and violence against black people.
The accountability law made it illegal for police officers or other employees of government agencies to deprive people of their constitutional rights and gave the attorney general the power to enforce it. Under the law, if the Attorney General believes that an agency has “a pattern or practice” of infringing on people’s rights, the Attorney General must notify the agency of the reasons for that belief and allow it to make changes. 60 days time should be given. If the agency doesn’t make changes, the attorney general can file a lawsuit to force them.
Weiser’s office is also prosecuting three police officers and two paramedics on charges of manslaughter, criminal negligent manslaughter and assault in McClain’s death. He convened a grand jury to decide whether to file criminal charges after Democratic Governor Jared Polis ordered another look at the case amid protests last year.
The grand jury convicted all five.
Police stop McClain on his way home from the store on August 24, 2019, when a 911 caller described a man wearing a ski mask and waving his hands in what seemed to be a “sketch.” Officers put McClain in a chokehold and knocked him down. According to the indictment, paramedics injected her with 500 milligrams of ketamine, which is 77 pounds (35 kilograms) heavier than McClain’s 143-pound (64-kg) frame. He was later taken off life support.
The Aurora Police Department also faced criticism when officers put four black girls on the ground last year and handcuffed two of them next to a car that police suspected had been stolen but was Didn’t come out
And an officer was charged with assault in July after being imprisoned in a body camera video pistol-whipping and strangling a black man during his arrest. Another officer was charged with non-interference under the new Police Accountability Act.