The Aurora Police Department’s system for reviewing officers’ decisions to use force is not comprehensive enough, according to a company overseeing court-ordered reforms at the department.
The Force Review Board fails to ask broader questions about how an officer could have prevented an incident from escalating and instead focuses on smaller questions, InegrAssure investigators wrote. A report surfaced on Monday.
The finding was part of the Consent Decree Monitor’s first public report, which found the Aurora Police Department had implemented a series of mandatory reforms following an investigation by the Colorado attorney general. The investigation found that the department regularly engaged in policing that was biased against people of color and routinely used excessive force. IntegrAssure will issue 12 reports on the department’s progress.
City and police leaders have cooperated with monitoring the consent decree and made substantial progress on several mandated changes, the report said.
Investigators with IntegrAssure expressed respect for how the department handled it. Traffic closed on May 15, 2021 That nearly turned into a police shooting because the incident “highlights many of the issues facing police and the community and the critical role of best practice policies, training and accountability systems.”
“This is an incident that could easily have resulted in a tragic officer-involved shooting,” the report said. “It involved miscommunication and misunderstanding between the officer and the subject, involved potential implicit biases that needed to be specifically recognized and addressed, and was particularly acute for new officers. Emphasizes the importance of field supervision and field training.”
An officer who had been with the department for 18 months stopped a car on May 15, 2021, after the driver nearly hit him when he made a different traffic stop. When the officer asked for identification, the driver reached in front of his waistband and the officer drew his gun and pointed it at the man.
The officer then called for backup and other responding officers also drew their weapons. One of the arriving officers tackled the man to the ground and three other officers joined the fight on the ground. The officer who made the initial stop shocked the man twice with a Taser.
The department’s Force Review Board looked into the incident and found that the officer should have acted in a more professional manner and exercised better self-control. The officer should not have used a Taser and failed to conduct a DUI investigation, the board found, and recommended that he receive training on those two topics.
But there were other lessons to be learned from the incident, the Monitor found. The Board did not examine how the officer could have prevented the situation from escalating, nor what role implicit bias may have played.
“The reality is that this situation unnecessarily escalated into a situation that came dangerously close to a police shooting,” the Monitor wrote. “Simply put, the board’s review should have been much more critical, in the nature of a deep-diving after-action report, with every aspect of how what happened could have been avoided and the lessons learned investigated. could be taught to both the officer involved and the department at large.”
The monitor also learned that understaffing in the department meant new officers received less oversight than in the past, the report said. According to the report, these inexperienced officers are often assigned to busy, high-crime overnight shifts with the least senior supervisors because of the department’s scheduling bidding system.
The Consent Monitor Team will meet Aug. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Beck Recreation Center, 800 Telluride St. in Aurora. I will hold a public town hall meeting.