The Sentinel roster of Aurora cops caught lying, beating, cheating or behaving like a racist truly is a hall of shame, but the biggest shame is the state and local systems that let these broken cops keep working.
Reporters from the Sentinel, the Colorado News Collaborative, Rocky Mountain PBS, 9News and Colorado Public Radio released a months-long investigative report detailing how cops in Aurora, and statewide, are not held accountable for myriad shocking offenses. In some cases, they continue working, move to another department or even remain eligible to do so.
All this despite a heroic and hallmark effort in 2020 to push through statewide police reforms in the shadows of George Floyd, Elijah McClain and a parade of other unnerving bad-cop cases in Aurora.
The investigation, “Undisciplined” revealed that a bevy of loopholes in the nascent state law — including no mechanism for going back even a few years — allows cops, some in Aurora, to keep their jobs or remain eligible for work on another Colorado police force.
Local police discipline systems are dubious at best in ensuring the public is made aware of police misbehavior and protected from uniformed felons. The bulk of the problem, however, lies at the state’s Police Officer Standards and Training system. This is the statewide network that sanctions an officer’s good standing and ability to serve, essentially as a clerical service.
It fails to protect the public in that role.
Consider just a few of the Aurora rogue police officers still working or eligible for police jobs elsewhere:
Edward Acuti was demoted in 2022 after a series of incidents when he threatened members of the public. One time, when the Black occupants of a car were removed from their vehicle during a traffic stop and said they were afraid of the police, Acuti told them to “just keep breathing.” The Aurora’s Civil Service Commission described this as “an undeniable and indefensible reference to the George Floyd shooting and the death of Elijah McClain. Acuti also threatened the officer who reported his behavior to a lieutenant. Acuti was no longer employed by the Aurora Police Department as of October. According to the POST database, he remains POST certified.
Roland Albert pleaded guilty to felony theft in 2019 after stealing tens of thousands of dollars from police charities that had been set up to pay for flights to the funerals of slain cops and also support the families of officers who were killed or injured in the line of duty. He resigned after police officials became aware of the theft. While Albert’s POST profile includes a decertification action and indicates that he is no longer employed by any police department, his certification status is listed as “CERTIFIED.”
Charles DeShazer was fired in 2017 after referring to a group of Black crime witnesses as “Alabama porch monkeys.” His firing was vetoed, and he was reinstated by the Aurora Civil Service commission in 2018. DeShazer had previously been accused of using a racial slur while arresting a Black woman and her daughter in 2006, and the woman subsequently received $175,000 in a settlement with the city. DeShazer’s POST profile indicates that he is currently certified but is no longer employed by APD or any Colorado law enforcement agency.
Matthew Green threatened Elijah McClain with a police dog while the 23-year-old was pinned on the ground in 2019, saying, “If you keep messing around, I’m gonna bring my dog out, and he’s gonna dog-bite you.” An independent city panel found that McClain did not appear to be resisting at the time. According to the same report, Green was disciplined and removed from the department’s canine unit following the incident. Green eventually resigned, but he applied for reinstatement and was rehired earlier this year.
The police rolls in Aurora and across the state are rife with stories of similar cops kept on the job by clubby police looking out for their own.
Aurora police is currently under the grip of a state attorney general consent decree, mandating police reforms in light of apparent “patterns and practices” indicating abusive force use by police and widespread racist behavior, especially against Black people.
Keeping cops on the force like those on the Sentinel “Roster of Shame” is anathema to the police reform city officials consistently say they want to pursue.
Aurora’s newest police administration and the current city manager have been consistent in making clear they support scrubbing bad and dangerous cops from the police force.
We can imagine no better way to make good on those critical promises than to create an independent office of police oversight to create the critical transparency needed to hold rogue officers accountable, and the public informed.
The accountability needed by Aurora, and the state, isn’t an unfair, punitive system that punishes good officers for making mistakes. Calling Black people “porch monkeys,” pistol whipping harmless suspects and stealing from fellow officers aren’t mistakes. They’re crimes. And criminals in police uniforms carrying guns is dangerous and unacceptable.
Fix the system and adhere to it.