Aurora police chief fires officer for showing up to work intoxicated

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AURORA | Newly appointed Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson on Tuesday fired an Aurora officer found to be intoxicated on the job last year.

Wilson fired Officer Javen Harper, an 18-year veteran of the department, for being intoxicated while on duty last October, according to a news release.

Police Traffic Sgt. Greg Garcia noticed the scent of an alcoholic beverage on Harper’s breath when he came to work Oct. 17, 2019, according to internal affairs documents released by Aurora Police. Garcia mandated a sobriety test, which determined Harper’s blood alcohol content was .059 at 6:29 a.m., according to police documents. A blood test taken about two hours later confirmed his blood alcohol content was .035 grams per 100 milliliters.

Driving a a car with a BAC of more than .08 in Colorado is considered driving under the influence. A BAC of .05 is considered driving while ability impaired in Colorado and can be grounds for arrest.

“Since my appointment as interim chief, and now as the newly appointed chief of police, I have pledged to hold my officers accountable for their actions,” Wilson said in a statement issued Tuesday night. “Being transparent regarding issues of officer misconduct is paramount for rebuilding trust and legitimacy with our community.”

Harper was scheduled to teach a radar class to officers the day before Garcia smelled alcohol on his breath, but the class was eventually cancelled. Harper texted his supervisor about two hours before the class was supposed to start, saying that his wife had left him and he needed the day off, according to police documents.

Harper called his supervisor later the same day to report that deputies from the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office had been to his home after his wife called 911 “because she felt threatened,” according to Harper’s internal affair file. Deputies later reported that Harper was intoxicated when they arrived, though he was never charged with any crimes in relation to the incident.

The police department’s internal affairs bureau found that Harper had violated a trio of police directives: conduct unbecoming, unsatisfactory performance and alcohol impairment.

Harper is at least the fifth Aurora officer to be suspected of driving drunk on or off-duty in the past 18 months. Wilson fired former Officer Jaired Dozier after he was cited for crashing his car while drunk in El Paso County on St. Patrick’s Day.

Officer Annette Brook pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI in January, and another officer, Joshua Teeples, in February pleaded guilty to DUI charges stemming form an incident in which he crashed into another car while off-duty in Douglas County last August.

Last March, Officer Nate Meier was found passed out and drunk in his running cruiser while on-duty near Buckley Air Force Base. He was reprimanded internally and demoted, but remains on the force and was never charged with a crime.

Three other officers were fired last month after a supervisor discovered they had posed for a photo where Elijah McClain was detained one year ago. A caller described McClain, a 23-year-old unarmed Black man, as “sketchy” as he walked down the 1900 block of Billings Street on Aug. 24, 2019. Officers eventually placed him in a now-banned control hold, and paramedics later injected him with ketamine. He died at a local hospital six days later.