O’Keefe drops out as interim chief on Christmas Eve; unclear who will lead Aurora Police in 2020

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AURORA | It’s currently unclear who will lead the Aurora Police Department into the new decade, according to a statement released to The Sentinel Dec. 24.

One week before Deputy Aurora Police Chief Paul O’Keefe was slated to take the reins of the department on an interim basis, he withdrew his name from consideration, according to a statement O’Keefe sent Deputy City Manager Jason Batchelor on Christmas Eve.

City officials were immediately unavailable for comment.

Pictured: Deputy Aurora Police Chief Paul O’Keefe. He will retire from the Department after a 24-year career March 31, 2020. Photo provided by the City of Aurora.

“This request is not something that I make lightly; I have given great thought to this decision and believe, under the current circumstances, that it is in the best interest of the police department, to which I have committed over 24 years of dedicated service, and to the City of Aurora,” O’Keefe wrote. “It is my intention that by removing myself from this interim position, that the men and women of the Aurora Police Department will ultimately be able to move beyond the negative depiction currently being broadcast and be recognized for the exceptional professionals that they truly are.”

O’Keefe’s statement comes exactly two weeks after CBS4 published a story detailing how an Aurora cop found drunk in his running cruiser earlier this year remained on the force despite recommendations from internal panels to fire him. O’Keefe was the first person to respond to then-Agent Nathan Meier’s unmarked patrol car, which was parked in a median near Buckley Air Force Base on March 29.

Meier later admitted to drinking vodka to the point of memory loss while on duty.

Earlier this month, City Manager Jim Twombly tabbed former U.S. Attorney John Walsh to investigate the police department’s handling of the incident involving Meier in March.

Several hours before O’Keefe sent his retirement plans to city management, Aurora police released outgoing Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz’s disciplinary action regarding the Meier incident, explaining the officer’s demotion and temporary suspension. Meier is also subject to random urinalysis and breath testing, according to Metz’s Oct. 22 report.

Metz has vehemently defended his decision to uphold Meier’s employment.

Metz, who worked in the Seattle Police Department for more than 30 years before coming to Aurora in 2015, announced in September his plans to retire from law enforcement at the end of the year. He plans to pursue a master’s degree and work at a local psychology firm that caters to law enforcement officials.

O’Keefe is retiring from the department on March 31, 2020, he wrote in his statement to Batchelor.

O’Keefe had been tabbed to serve as interim chief in October. He first joined the department in 1989 before briefly joining the Brighton Police Department, according to a city statement issued in October. He rejoined the ranks of Aurora police in 1995 and was named deputy chief in 2015. He was tasked with leading the department’s investigation into the Aurora theater shooting in 2012.

A spokesman for the Aurora Police Department said city officials likely won’t name a new interim chief until next week.