Let’s make this easier for Aurora Police to understand: Much of the public doesn’t believe what you say right now.
Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz and some of his administration are befuddled about why so much of the public, the city council and the media keep saying that there’s a problem in APD.
It’s because there’s a problem.
The problem is that people keep being injured or killed when they come into contact with Aurora police. Then police investigate and judge themselves. They find no problem. They won’t allow outside review. Then police kill someone else.
See the problem?
It seems everyone can except for Metz, some of his team, local DAs and a handful of Aurora city council sycophants.
It doesn’t mean that there’s certain corruption and malfeasance in the police department. It does mean that Aurora police and district attorneys are unable to persuade the public of that.
The recent Elijah McClain and Andy Huff cases perfectly illustrate the problem. Both young men had separate encounters with Aurora police just a few weeks apart. Both were injured by police, one was shot and survived. The other died after having a heart attack.
These recent incidents come after a sporadic rash of inadvertent deaths, injuries and blatant episodes of harassing blacks and minorities.
Police and district attorney officials have regularly withheld information from the public while, at the same time, dispensing it to families and lawyers of the dead or injured.
Those people then become the sole public source of information, always damning for police. Then police counter with their own hobbled and often contrived account, too late.
Police blame the DA, saying they’re asked to sit on details so not to spoil criminal cases. District attorneys blame police, saying police can do what they want, just be careful about sensitive details.
The most bogus justification for keeping police-involved death details secret is saying releasing information makes it impossible to find a jury in the Aurora region.
If a suitable jury was empaneled for the Aurora theater shooting trial, local courts can find 12 people among a million or more for potential officer-involved death and injury trials.
First, we have to have a trial. There are none.
In lieu of question-and-answer press conferences with the media, Aurora police have begun posting edited, scripted YouTube videos that included select, edited police body cam footage and 911 recordings.
In just such a recent cop-u-mentary episode about the Huff shooting, Aurora police blatantly blurred the known facts of the case. They dumped the police video on social media one night a few weeks ago.
Just last week, police hastily called a Friday night press conference focusing on the McClain case. Metz said he knew it looked bad, but waiting until morning would have looked worse because he had received a DA report on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
Metz was right that Friday night bad-news dumps are the realm of officials trying to hide something. He’s wrong in thinking that a few hours of notice and a press conference made public would look like a scam.
The public and a growing majority of city council have had it with all this. They want change.
The public understands that, like most police departments, Aurora cops are like family. The vast majority of Aurora cops admirably get into their line of work because they want to help people, which is what cops do most of their time at work.
But no one would advise the head of any family from being the investigator, the spokesperson, the judge and jurist when one of his or her kids is accused of stealing, cheating or killing.
The conflict of interest is so clear cut that it’s ludicrous to have to point it out.
In the case of Adams County District Attorney Dave Young, who acquitted the officers and medics involved in the death of McClain, Aurora Police Detective Matthew Ingui did the actual investigation and reporting of the tragedy. Young only read the pieces and parts of the APD investigation and then rendered legal judgment on the case.
Young said that the bar for proving criminal malfeasance on the part of police or medics is stunningly high in Colorado, and that this case didn’t come close.
None of the cases ever do.
Friday night, Metz said additional Aurora police would review the McClain case and look for possible department changes.
Under pressure for independent oversight, Metz hinted at possibly having some former cops take a look at the case.
So, that’s all, folks, Metz implies. Now move along. No story here.
There has to be more, other than the inevitable civil lawsuit. That’s where the family sues for wrongful death. The city and the family settle out of court, and taxpayers pay dearly without any explanation.
Aurora has been there, done that, many times now.
Metz’ offer of having retired cops take a peek at the case can’t hurt. It won’t, however, overcome the fact that Aurora police and its two district attorneys are in no position to decide whether the police made mistakes in injuring or killing someone they came in contact with.
They cannot appear objective even if they truly are. In the recent cases of Huff and McClain, they provably are not.
Police insist that an innocent black man accused of nothing, wearing a coat and knit mask in the summer is provocative enough to demand arrest, capture, assault and tranquilizing.
Aurora cops insist a man inside his own house should have known it was police unexpectedly sneaking around in the dark outside the house near midnight and not a drug-addicted roommate evicted during a melee earlier in the day.
These aren’t questions for police to answer about themselves. Ultimately, state lawmakers must step in and ensure the public gets transparency, objectivity and accountability in dubious cases where police are accused of wrongdoing.
But right now, it’s up to the Aurora City Council to show the state how that might be done.
Metz has already resigned as chief. A new city council to be seated next week has a chance to hire a chief who walks the walk when it comes to transparency and oversight. The new city council has the power to ensure objectivity and accountability restore damaged credibility to APD.
When internal police reports align with independent ones, the public is reassured.
Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]