Police in Aurora, Colo., Engaged in Racially Biased Policing, Investigation Finds

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The investigation by the Colorado Department of Law began in 2019 after the death of Eliza McClain, a young black man who was stopped by police, put in a chokehold and injected with a powerful anaesthetic.

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The police department in Aurora, Colo., engaged in a pattern of racially biased policing and excessive force, according to an investigation that began after the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a young black man who was stopped by police and put in a chokehold Was. and injected with a powerful anesthetic.

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NS Investigation, by the Colorado Department of Law, found that police officers in the city of about 380,000 outside Denver were arrested more often than white people based on their percentage of the population and used force against people of color. .

For example, from January 2018 to February 2021, nearly half of the people against whom Aurora police used force were black, even though black people only make up about 15 percent of the city’s residents, the investigation found.

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The investigation also concluded that Aurora Fire Rescue had a pattern of illegally administering ketamine, the anesthetic that had been used on Mr McClain, often in higher than recommended doses, with the department suspending its use on September 14, 2020. before suspending.

The findings of the civil investigation were released by Colorado’s attorney general, Phil Weiser, two weeks after he announced that a grand jury had charged three Aurora police officers and two paramedics with murder in the death of Mr. McClain, 23. .

The report recommended that the police department enter into a consent decree that would require changes to policies, training, record keeping and hiring. If the department does not agree to enter into such an agreement, the state can seek a court order to force it to make changes, Mr. Weiser said.

“For us, the guiding light is how we build trust in law enforcement and in government, such that people are treated legally and fairly,” Mr Weiser, a Democrat, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said the department would work with the attorney general’s office “to determine how to implement the necessary and permanent changes” and that “the final consent decree will serve as another resource on our way.” I will work.”

Chief Wilson said that over the past 21 months, Aurora has improved its policing, de-escalation training and community outreach.

“Today is an incredibly difficult day not only for the Aurora community but for this agency,” she said in a statement. “We accept that changes have to be made.”

The city manager, Jim Twombly, said local leaders were committed to a “new way” of policing.

“I am still digesting the details of the Attorney General’s report, and it is painful to hear,” Mr Twombly said in a statement. “It would be premature for me to comment on any specific conclusions at this point in time.”

However, he said, the findings appear to align with the findings and recommendations of the independent review, which the city began more than a year before the attorney general’s investigation.

Fire Chief Fernando Gray said in a statement that although the department stopped using ketamine more than a year ago, “and we have no plans to reintroduce this drug into our systems, we report find value.”

Mr Weiser announced the investigation in August 2020 amid nationwide protests against police violence following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Mr McClain’s death had also set off demonstrations and calls for justice.

Mr McClain, who was described by friends and family as a gentleman who loves animals, was walking home from a convenience store on August 24, 2019, when someone called 911 to report a suspicious person. Called on

Officers grabbed Mr McClain’s arms, pushed him against a wall and dragged him to the ground. He used a “carotid hold” to tame Mr McClain – a potentially dangerous restraint on the neck that restricts blood to the brain.

“I’m an introvert and I’m aloof,” Mr McClain told police, according to an audio recording from the stop. “I’m just different. That’s all. That’s all I was doing. I’m sorry.”

When paramedics arrived, Mr McClain had already been handcuffed, and the indictment argued that he did not talk to Mr McClain, check his vital signs or monitor him properly after he was injected with ketamine.

Mr McClain was taken to hospital in an unconscious state and never recovered. He was taken off life support and died on August 30, 2019.

An autopsy report from the Adams County Coroner said the cause of death was “uncertain” and could have been the result of a homicide related to natural causes, a carotid hold, or an accident.

In a civil investigation by the Colorado Department of Law, investigators spent more than 220 hours “riding along” with police officers and firefighters and reviewing thousands of reports of use of force, Mr. Weiser said.

He said the Arora police and fire officials “cooperated fully” in the investigation.

The report concluded that police had a pattern of violating state and federal law, Mr Weiser said.

Investigators observed using force without giving officers time to respond to orders or after asking people to “stop protesting”, even if it appeared they were not protesting, Mr. he said.

Investigators also noticed that officers were having “immediately sharp” encounters with mentally disturbed people, but not posing a threat to themselves or others, he said.

“These actions are unacceptable,” Mr Weiser said. “They hurt people that law enforcement is assigned to protect. And they destroy community trust.”

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