Aurora police report record officer departures in 2021

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An Aurora Police Officer, prepares to go on his shift from Police Headquarters in Aurora.
Sentinel File Photo

AURORA | A record number of Aurora police officers have left the department so far this year, surpassing the number of departures in all of 2020 and further straining an increasingly lean agency, according to data presented to Aurora city council members this week.

A total of 96 officers have parted ways with the Aurora Police Department so far in 2021, with another two staffers expected to split by week’s end, Deputy Chief Darin Parker told members of the council’s public safety policy committee Sept. 16.

“That’s very disturbing,” Councilperson Dave Gruber, said during the meeting, highlighting that about a third of the department’s staffers have turned over in the past three years.

The news comes on the heels of a review released Wednesday by the Colorado Attorney General, implicating the police department as having long mistreated people officers contact, especially people of color.

The number of exits among APD ranks through the middle of September already dwarfs totals from last year, when 87 officials left Aurora police — a 61% increase over 2019.

Resignations are the driving force behind the exodus, with 47 voluntary departures from the agency as of the end of August, according to police data. That’s higher than the total number of separations from the department in both 2015 and 2014, when 33 and 32 officers left APD, respectively.

At least 40 officers have retired from the agency this year — including several for medical reasons — and five officers have been fired, according to police records. One officer died while employed, and another transferred to another position within the city but outside of the department.

Aurora police currently have 744 sworn members, though only about 630 of those officers are fully trained and able to work, Parker said. About 70 personnel are still in training and cannot work by themselves, and other 40 or so are on some form of inhibited duty due to illness, injury, involvement with a contentious incident or military leave.

The department has added 75 officers through academies so far this year, including three lateral officers from other agencies, data show.

Police Chief Vanessa Wilson acknowledged there has been a dip in the number of officers her agency has been able to lure from other departments, possibly because of the near-constant tumult that has surrounded the city.

“For 21 months we have been in the spotlight — some for our own doing and I’m not trying to defend any of the individuals that I’ve held accountable or terminated — but it has been a very rough go to wear the Aurora police patch,” she said. “ … As far as laterals are concerned , I’m not sure, (with) the reputation and the scrutiny and the things that we’ve been going through, if their family and friends would want them to come and have to go through that.”

Aurora police have been a magnet for criticism in recent years, with increasingly amplified claims of unfair hiring, racially biased policing and heavy-handed arrest tactics.

This month, a state grand jury indicted the trio of Aurora police officers who detained Elijah McClain in August 2019, and on Wednesday, Attorney General Phil Weiser ordered the city to enter into a consent decree with the state that would require the Department of Law to oversee the Aurora police for years to come.

Police departures are not exclusive to Aurora, though the city has reported a higher rate of exits compared to other Colorado law enforcement entities, The Denver Post reported earlier this year.

Officials across the state have pointed to bellwether police reform legislation passed last year as a driving force behind the increases in attrition, according to a survey of police chiefs and sheriff’s released earlier this year. The multi-faceted bill requires departments to report more data to the state, outfit all officers with body-worn cameras and strips protections that have long shielded cops from lawsuits related to their daily duties.

“Even before the summer of 2020 and the passage of Senate Bill 20-217, applications for law enforcement positions were at an all-time low,” the report compiled by law enforcement trade groups and a statewide union reads. “Qualified applicants are looking for jobs in other career paths, and great officers are leaving the profession for other careers. This is a troubling trend because a diverse workforce that represents the best and brightest in our communities is an important part of meaningful change.”

About three quarters of Colorado law enforcement agencies said they’re currently experiencing shortages, and about half said they lost more officers in the second half of 2020 than they did over the same time period in 2019.

Attrition figures within Aurora Fire Rescue, which was also condemned in Weiser’s recent report regarding the department’s use of ketamine, are on track to be below average this year, according to current trend lines. A total of 13 staffers had left the department as of Sept. 1, compared to 23 total exits in 2020 and 30 departures in 2019, according to city data.

“Right now the city is under significant stress,” Gruber said. “Our residents, our citizens are looking to us to solve the issues that have been brought forward by the 21CP report and the attorney general’s report. Our goal, again, is to have the finest police department and the finest fire rescue in the nation, and we will continue on with that goal.”

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GeneD
GeneD
1 month ago

If reform is driving the turnover, great, let ’em go. I just hope that if they had unreasonable force complaints against them that other jurisdictions where they may apply take a good hard look at their records.

Anne Doerr
Anne Doerr
1 month ago

Having worked with the Aurora Police Department both as volunteer and paid civilian staff for over 20 I have not seen the racist, reckless, heavy handed practices described above.

I have seen dedicated officers who work overtime, work in situations that are heartbreaking, traumatizing and dangerous yet they keep on going.

There are needed changes in the entire criminal justice system. Police are one part of that system.

It is no wonder that officers are leaving law enforcement in general in record amounts. The numbers leaving Aurora are not surprising.

How many people want to work in an environment where the media, the City Council and some of the general public are not supportive to law enforcement?

The atmosphere in our country toward law enforcement vilifies law enforcement.With a broad brush all Officers are labeled as “bad, racist, over bearing, not sympathetic, mean, arrogant and many other labels are given.

The reality is that most officers are good, honest, hard working people. Trying to do the best they can with the tools the have. Every profession has bad apples.

When will society hold the criminals and law breakers accountable for their behavior? Why is is so difficult to answer questions, show an ID, comply with a request.
When will the upcoming generations of kids be taught to respect others, and authority (be it a cop, teacher, judge,parent?)

There are so many positive things that Law Enforcement does in our community that goes unnoticed or ignored. Why not focus on the good????

GeneD
GeneD
1 month ago
Reply to  Anne Doerr

Anne, it’s not that those actions are difficult, but the 4th and 5th Amendments tell us that we do not have to do those things. Look at the senior citizen in Longmont who was permanently disabled because a cop overreacted to her behaving within her constitutional rights. Same thing with Elijah, but they killed him.

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
1 month ago
Reply to  GeneD

“… we do not have to do those things.”

Therein is the crux of the problem. Just because you don’t have to comply is not a common-sense reason to eschew civility. Yet, society today fosters, and excuses, disrespect towards law enforcement. Why should the onus be on law enforcement to always deescalate increasingly antagonistic behavior?

Treat others as you want to be treated and we wouldn’t be in the mess we are.

Cat
Cat
1 month ago

96 left and 75 joined? Sounds like a non-issue to me.

BadDay2993
1 month ago
Reply to  Cat

You have never dome the job so you wouldn’t understand. It takes 2 to 3 years to feel comfortable in the job to where you feel you can handle most things. 96 experienced officer replaced by 75 new people is only a body count not an experience count.

Cliff Farris
Cliff Farris
1 month ago

Automatic defunding of the police department is well underway. This is expected when the department will not support their officers, give them any benefit of the doubt, publically bad-mouth any and all at the drop of a woke hat. An officer’s most trivial action within their job description is jumped on by social justice warriors as wrong.

I have been stunned at the callousness of Aurora leaders in public utterances regarding their police force. Accusations are deemed guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt.

GeneD
GeneD
1 month ago

If they’re leaving because reform is driving accountability, good riddance.

Dan Derby
Dan Derby
1 month ago
Reply to  GeneD

Go for you! Defund the police, vilify them, get rid of them! Just don’t whine when you are mugged. Just say “I got what I asked for.”

vern
vern
1 month ago

Years of the police and fire working to be there for the people that need them has been torn down by micro problems becoming major wining. A small number of cases (usually resisting arrest) has given Attorneys chances to sue for Millions- which citizens have to pay. I am not against compensation for wrongs… just massive payouts encourage more wanting to exploit that. It does take experience to do any job – and anyone that thinks hiring the bottom of the list is good for any job will find out that problem when they are needed by them. Any one that is sane and has a high IQ might not be the ones interested in taking a medium paying job with major headaches and maximum risk. I think Gene should do a ride along… or better yet put on a Police t-shirt and confront a mob… then tell me he wants to see more force complaints.

Kevin Cox
1 month ago

Bad policing brings scrutiny. Don’t run from it. Stay, be the good cop you always were, and let the sunlight disinfect the dept.

If a Black man runs when the police car comes, what do you think? It looks horrible to Black people in the community that, after added scrutiny due to the murder of Elijah McClain, police officers cut and run. If you’re not racist and you’re a “good cop”, why leave? Good cops should be fine when the Attorney General’s office looks in. The scrutiny shouldn’t hurt you, only show your quality. When Black people decried stop and frisk policies in NY or claims of unnecessary pull overs or searches in the drug war, conservatives said “if you’re doing nothing wrong, why do you have a problem with it?” These pro-police people don’t feel the same for the police themselves and that seems hypocritical. Conservative mindsets usually want a smaller government- unless they like authoritarianism. Careful with the logic used to blame this on dept oversight. Every freedom loving, constitution hugging citizen should want discerning eyes on the armed people whose job it is to protect and serve your constitutional rights. Especially when it’s the same ones who have killed innocent people on video and drawn weapons on little girls headed to a nail appt with their mom in a princess outfit in a Chevy Suburban that APD thinks is a stolen motorcycle from another state.

Once again, bad policing brings scrutiny.