AG reveals new probe of Aurora police; Chicago consulting firm to manage wide-ranging review of bedraggled department

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AURORA |Attorney General Phil Weiser on Tuesday revealed that his office has spent weeks investigating patterns and practices of possible constitutional rights violations within the Aurora Police Department.

“The Attorney General’s Office is confirming that, for several weeks now, it has been investigating patterns and practices of the Aurora Police Department that might deprive individuals of their constitutional rights under state or federal law,” Weiser’s office wrote in a statement.

The review is separate from an ongoing investigation into the death of Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old unarmed Black man who died six days after officers placed him in a now-banned control hold last August.

Newly appointed police chief Vanessa Wilson said she supports Weiser’s new probe.

“I pledge the Aurora Police Department’s full cooperation with this investigation,” she wrote on Twitter. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to transparency and earning the trust of our community back.”

The investigation was confirmed less than an hour after Aurora leaders announced that the city has tabbed a national consulting firm to conduct a sweeping review of Aurora police department practices and protocols.

Officials have called on 21CP Solutions, a Chicago-based consulting group focused on analyzing and modernizing police procedures across the country, to coordinate a “comprehensive review” of the city’s beleaguered police force that has weathered a litany of scandals in the past year.

The group will evaluate the department from stem to stern by looking at leadership structures, use of force practices, discriminatory policing, accountability, arrest protocols, hiring approaches and a smattering of other subject ares, officials said in a news release.

“These changes are of the utmost urgency to the city, and most importantly, the community,” City Manager Jim Twombly said in a statement.

The newly announced look in the mirror is just the latest review or investigation related to the city’s policing practices. Both the FBI and Weiser are looking into how the city handled the investigation and detention of McClain last year. The city has also tabbed a Washington D.C.-based attorney to conduct its own review of the circumstances surrounding McClain’s death.

The McClain family attorney, Mari Newman, and the state health department have also said they’re conducting additional queries into McClain’s death.

Last week, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, said he’s evaluating the possibility of criminal charges against Aurora officers who were filmed erroneously detaining and handcuffing members of a Black family in a local parking lot.

The incident prompted an International outcry and came on the heels of further condemnation of the local police department earlier this year. The scandals included a former U.S. Attorney excoriating how Aurora police handled their investigation of an officer who was found drunk on duty in March 2019, and the firing of three officers who took a photo lampooning McClain’s death.

The city is also facing numerous lawsuits related to the use of force by local police.

Wilson said she supports the forthcoming review.

 “We embrace this opportunity for change and are committed to evolve for the betterment of our profession, our community and the residents we serve,” she said in a statement. “Law enforcement is being evaluated across the nation and we want to ensure that our entire community feels that APD is an agency that shows dignity and respect and can be a role model for 21st century policing. We will strive daily to regain the trust in our community. I believe this review, along with actionable policy and training changes, is a good first step.”

The Chicago firm selected to lead the new inquiry has conducted similar reviews of approximately a dozen police agencies and high-profile incidents across the country in recent years, including the death of a teen in Cincinnati and an examination of the Yale University campus police force. Several consultants at the firm were involved in former president Barak Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which was formed following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

It was not immediately clear when the impending review in Aurora may begin.