The Aurora Police Department will no longer investigate its own officers’ shootings and will instead allow other law enforcement agencies to lead those inquiries.
Aurora police will join the multi-agency teams of the 17th and 18th judicial districts, which both include Aurora, the agencies announced Friday. That means that the next shooting by an Aurora police officer will be investigated by police from other agencies in those jurisdictions.
“This partnership brings additional transparency into our critical incident investigations, and will promote trust with the community we serve,” Aurora police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in a statement.
The new partnership replaces an agreement between Aurora and Denver police that allowed the agencies to investigate their own shootings. For example, when a Denver police officer shoots and kills someone, the investigation into that shooting is led by a Denver homicide detective. Aurora police provide additional support and sit in on interviews.
That agreement caused concern among prosecutors and police oversight officials.
And it came under scrutiny after outside consultants found Aurora detectives’ investigation into the death of Elijah McClain at the hands of Aurora officers was deeply flawed. The consultants, hired by the city, found that the detectives “stretched the record to exonerate the officers” and asked leading questions.
The Denver Police Department is also considering a new way of investigating police shootings, Chief Paul Pazen said Friday. He would not give specifics about the new arrangement because it is not yet final. He said Aurora police would still participate in investigations into Denver police shootings until the new arrangement is finalized.
“We’ve been looking to enhance that transparency and thoroughness of the investigations as well,” he said.
The Denver Police Department is different than other law enforcement agencies in the state because it is the only police department in its judicial district. Law enforcement agencies typically team up with the other agencies in their district to form the multi-jurisdictional teams that investigate police shootings.
A law passed in 2015 requires the creation of such teams, called critical incident response teams, and some agencies have used the teams to investigate other uses of force by police besides shootings.
The agreement between the Aurora and Denver police departments met the requirements in Colorado law but is unusual in a state where most jurisdictions don’t allow an agency to participate in the investigation of its own officer’s conduct.
Neither the 17th nor 18th judicial district critical incident response teams allow an agency to lead an investigation of a shooting by its own officers.
The team in the 17th Judicial District bans officers from the agency under investigation from participating at all and the 18th Judicial District team only allows officers from the agency under investigation to participate if there are not enough officers to complete all the tasks.
“With today’s announcement, I have much greater confidence that any such incident – whether it occurs in Aurora or another community in my jurisdiction – will be investigated properly,” 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason said in a statement.
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