Aurora lawmakers approve task force to study police controversies

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Protestors gathered for a press conference, Nov. 23, at the Aurora Municipal Center, after the APD released the body camera footage of Elijah McClain the previous evening. The case has been a major driver for the push for independent review of controversial police cases. City lawmakers agreed Feb. 10 to create a task force charged with developing such a review process.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | The question for creating a task force regarding community and police interactions in Aurora came down to whether the group should consider public safety after a recent spate of homicides and shootings in the city. 

Aurora City Council members ultimately decided that a task force charged with discussing, evaluating and developing recommendations for how Aurora police interact with the community is complicated enough for one task force. Council members Dave Gruber, Marsha Berzins and Francoise Bergan voted against creating the panel. 

While Gruber said during the meeting it seemed the idea for the task force started out as a good one, the task force “created an organization (for) targeting police” and could “become a platform for anti-police protestors.” 

Bergan offered an amendment that would prohibit anybody with a felony conviction from serving on the task force. It failed on a 6-4 vote. 

City management has been tasked with identifying potential members of the new committee, which they say would ideally include representatives from the police department, local NAACP, both city school districts, legal groups, police unions, and other groups. Council members will have to sign off on the city manager’s selections.

While the task force will not serve as an entity to review contentious incidents involving the city’s police department, members will likely work toward forming a mechanism to provide some kind of independent review, according to Councilwoman Nicole Johnston.

The proposed group is slated to be in place for one year, beginning in March, although council could propose to extend the task force’s mission past 2021.

Councilman Curtis Gardner offered an amendment to broaden the scope of the task force to address the alarming number of shootings he  constituents several constituents have contacted him about. 

Many council members said they are also concerned with violence, that may be tied to gangs, in the city, but that they didn’t want to burden this task force with investigating that topic too.

The lawmakers didn’t rule out creating another task force, perhaps one that operated on a different time frame, that would specifically look at the rash of gun violence.

— Quincy Snowdon contributed to this report.