David Zalubowski / AP
DENVER – A civil rights investigation started amid outrage over Elijah McClain’s death has revealed that the Aurora Police Department has a racist policing model, the attorney general said on Wednesday from Colorado.
Attorney General Phil Weiser said the investigation found that the department has long had a culture in which officers treat people of color – especially blacks – differently from whites. He said the agency also used to use illegal excessive force; frequently intensifies encounters with civilians; and does not properly document police interactions with residents.
“These actions are unacceptable. They hurt the people that the police are responsible for serving,” he said.
Weiser urged the police department to commit to recommended reforms in officer training, its use of force policies, and in particular stricter standards for police checks and arrests. If he does not, he said his office will seek a court order requiring the ministry to do so – but he noted that the ministry had fully cooperated with the investigation.
David Zalubowski / AP
Police arrested McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist, on his way home from a store on August 24, 2019, after a 911 caller reported that a man was wearing a ski mask and waving his hands that seemed “sketchy”.
Officers strangled McClain and immobilized him. Paramedics injected him with 500 milligrams of ketamine, an amount appropriate for someone 77 pounds (35 kilograms) more than McClain’s 143 pound (64 kilograms) frame, according to an indictment. He fell unconscious, was declared brain dead in a hospital and was removed from the intensive care system.
The state’s civil rights inquiry, announced in August 2020, was the first of its kind under a sweeping police accountability law passed in Colorado the previous month amid protests over the murders of McClain and George Floyd.
Weiser said his office wanted a state deal with Aurora, called a consent decree, to go to court. The decree would specify what the city and the department must do to follow up on the recommendations of its investigation.
Sheneen McClain, the single mother who raised Elijah, said she was involved in the state’s investigation, welcomed her findings and urged the police department to work with Weiser’s office.
“It is just terrible that it takes my son’s death for the Aurora police to change what they have been doing for a long time in this community,” she said. “In the foreground: Elijah would still be there if the system worked the way it should. My son’s death was preventable and it’s really sad that it took all of this to get justice done and make sure it didn’t happen. ‘won’t happen to someone else. “
“The report confirms what many Aurora residents already know: The Aurora Police Department has a culture of violence and long-standing prejudice,” said Sheneen McClain’s attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai.
Colorado’s Police Accountability Act prohibited police officers or other employees of government agencies from depriving people of their constitutional rights and gave the attorney general the power to enforce them.
By law, if the Attorney General finds out that an agency has “a pattern or practice” of violating human rights, the Attorney General must inform the agency of the reasons for that belief and give it 60 days to bring forward. modifications. If the agency does not make changes, the attorney general can take legal action to force them.
Weiser’s office is also suing three police officers and two paramedics for manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault in McClain’s death. He has called a grand jury to decide whether or not to lay criminal charges after being ordered to reconsider the case by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis amid protests last year.
The grand jury indicted all five of them.
The Aurora Police Department has also come under fire when officers took four black girls to the ground last year and handcuffed two next to a car that police suspected was stolen but fell apart. turned out not to be.
And an officer was charged with assault in July after he was caught on camera body flogging and suffocation of a black man during an arrest. Another officer was accused of failing to intervene as required by the new Police Accountability Act.
McClain’s parents have filed a complaint alleging that McClain’s police treatment was part of a racist policing model that involved assault and violence against blacks.