An alliance of Black ministers is giving Aurora’s leaders an ultimatum on reforming the city’s embattled police department, saying it will take steps to remove politicians who don’t act and will push for state and federal authorities to get involved.
The Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, in a news release, said the Aurora Police Department has been plagued by “longstanding, systemic, intrinsic racism and injustice.”
The calls for change come a week after a video taken by a bystander showed officers forcing four young girls to lie face-down on the ground as they wailed for their mothers, while performing what they thought was a stop for a stolen vehicle. The department’s police chief, Vanessa Wilson, admitted later that the officers identified the wrong vehicle and should have used better judgment once they realized they had made a mistake.
Bishop Jerry Demmer, president of the alliance, said he’s calling for Wilson to fire all the officers involved in the botched detainment — although after speaking with the chief, he said he knows that will not happen.
“We don’t want to talk about sensitivity training,” he told The Denver Post. “We been talking about that for 50 years.”
The alliance is looking at several options, including petitions to recall elected officials, as well as asking Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser to request a federal investigation into the department.
The news release says Mayor Mike Coffman and the City Council have 72 hours to make changes, although Demmer acknowledged that he doesn’t expect action in that time frame.
“We could give them 172 hours, and it wasn’t gonna happen that fast,” he said.
The recent controversy involving the young Black girls comes as the department faces investigations at the city, state and federal level over its handling of Elijah McClain’s violent arrest last year. His death sparked massive protests in the city over the past two months, as Wilson, just this week named permanent chief, attempts to restore the department’s image and reset its culture.
But despite the public statements, Demmer said Black people continue to be harassed by police when their white counterparts would never be bothered.
“This is something that has been contagious,” he said.
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