PERRY: Aurora police torment Black girls and cinch Worst Police Department accolades

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Screen grab from a video taken by witness Jennifer Wurtz, depicting Aurora police wrongfully arresting a family with children.

It wasn’t easy, but Aurora police have finally succeeded in turning one of the most respected police agencies in the nation into America’s most despised and ridiculed law enforcement agency.

The worst.

With more than 700 people working for the Aurora Police Department, it must be torturous for all the righteous, dedicated and competent officers dragged into the muck by APD schleps and villains. 

This is a broken police department that not only killed an innocent young guy with a thing for masks, but it took no action against the officers responsible for his dubious arrest and unforgivable homicide. And then? Then three cops made fun of how Elijah McCLain was killed by Aurora cops and firefighters.

Who does that?

Those would be the same type of cops who force young Black children out of a car and face down onto hot asphalt because they’re riding in a suspected stolen car with their auntie on a girls outing to a nail salon.

That was Sunday.

When it becomes public that, oops, it was a mixup to begin with and a giant mistake on the part of police, the department says, “sorry.” Officials said that Aurora cops just followed their protocol for handling stolen car cases.

What protocol does any decent and competent police department have that calls for forcing a screaming 6-year-old girl onto her face in a hot parking lot?

As it turned out, the license plate on Brittney Gilliam’s car supposedly has the same numbers on a motorcycle license plate in Montana, which had been reported stolen.

Among other ailments, Aurora police have an acute credibility problem, which means only an independent, outside, non-police investigation will be able to set the record straight on the department’s latest morass.

The license plate muddle is only one part of Aurora police’s sketchy story that spins out of control. To start, police have said nothing so far about why or how Gilliam’s car drew their attention in the first place. 

They were in an ARC parking lot sometime after someone called Aurora police dispatchers to say their motorcycle with Montana license plates had been stolen, possibly from that location. It’s not clear when or why police would think the thieves would still be there or whether they think motorcycle thieves go for joy rides in the parking lots of second-hand stores. 

So cops in the parking lot are intrigued by a blue SUV filled with Black girls and women instead of a motorcycle. 

The cops roll up on the car, get out, guns drawn. They make everyone pile out of the car and lie face down on the hot asphalt. Everyone included four girls, ages, 6, 12, 14 and 17. She was 6, a first-grader.

In a video taken by a courageous bystander, who got chased back for being too close, four hulking cops are seen standing over and cuffing the four hysterical girls. It goes on for several minutes as the girls screamed, pleaded and begged.

It’s one of the most ghastly, inhumane scenes of police cruelty and incompetence I’ve seen since another Aurora cop wrestled another Black girl to the asphalt in a King Soopers parking lot in 2006. In that case, the handicapped mom was accused by an Aurora cop of parking in a handicapped parking space without properly showing her handicapped parking pass, which she actually had. She complained to store management, and then APD Sgt. Charles DeShazer was caught on camera roughing up her 12-year-old daughter, injuring her shoulder. He later got promoted and kept his job until years later. That’s when, in 2018, he was caught on a police body cam referring to Black crime witnesses as “Alabama porch monkeys.” He got fired, but the city’s civil service commission forced DeShazer back onto the force because none of this was a fireable offense in Aurora.

If this all sounds a lot like the circumstances that led to McClain being killed because cops drove up on him at night while he was walking home from a convenience story with iced tea in a bag, it is. McClain was Black, too. And I don’t know any Black people anywhere in Aurora who for the past few years have gone from being skeptical of Aurora police to being downright unnerved thinking about any kind of encounter.

What Aurora police are essentially asking Black people to do is to remain calm when confronted by an officer while they harass or assault them so Black residents aren’t maimed or killed.

The cop who confronted McClain last year said he had every right to do so because the young massage therapist was acting suspiciously. It was August last year and McClain had a runner’s mask on. The cop was right to stop and ask McClain what’s up and, “why the mask on a summer night?” He was dead wrong thinking he had the power or right to grab and arrest him. The Supreme Court has given leeway to police when accosting citizens if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” they’ve been involved in a crime.

Nobody called in any crimes that night. A caller dialed up 911 just to say there was a guy in a mask, walking.

The standard parallel is, someone reports a car break-in and cops see you with a slim jim in your hand. Then you get questioned. Nobody said a guy in a mask had robbed the 7-Eleven of iced tea. When the cop accosted McClain, he panicked, like Black Americans do around police, and that was the end of his life. 

If McClain had been an elderly white man acting weird, wearing a mask in the summer, toting iced tea, he’d be alive right now. In the same “bad” neighborhood McClain was killed, there are endless homeless people dressed in all sorts of peculiar ways that are never bothered by police. Rarely are they young, Black and male.

That car full of girls? Police said they’re trained to handle possible stolen car situations just like they did — providing cops actually get the make and model of the car right, or even the right kind of vehicle. It’s always guns drawn, everyone out, get face down, cuff ‘em. 

So if the car had been filled with elderly white women headed home from Sunday Mass at St. Pius, it would have been face down on the pavement for them?

Oh, please. Besides the insanity of the pandemic, now we all have to worry about being molested by cops every time we get in our car in case our license plate has similar numbers to another one that’s stolen?

Just if we’re Black.

And if it’s true that cops don’t discriminate when it comes to kids and grannies in potentially stolen cars, what the hell kind of city do we live in where old women and children are handcuffed face down on broiling hot asphalt because they’re inside a possibly lifted ride?

Just a mistake?

So then what the hell kind of a city do we live in where police are so inattentive to details and incompetent that it can lead to only one thing:  forcing a car full of girls onto their faces in parking lots?

So this is just the price we have to pay to have the cops watch for stolen cars?

That’s not policing, that’s bull.

We’re supposed to believe that out of the 2,016 car thefts each year in Aurora, about 40 a day, this one actually got someone’s attention from a cop actually on duty?

We’re supposed to believe that four freaking cops stand by and watch four Black girls screaming hysterically as they’re being cuffed face down on the searing parking lot — and nobody thought better of it? Not one single cop thought, or said, “this is a bad idea.”

Aurora got a new police chief yesterday, Vanessa Wilson, who’s been the chief while waiting for the permanent appointment. For months, Wilson has said that the most important thing in changing the culture of Aurora Police is not just empowering cops to speak out when they see something wrong, but mandating that they intervene when it’s happening.

It’s wrong to force children, or really anyone, onto their faces in parking lots. It’s wrong to make such stupid mistakes that lead to such horrible choices and decisions. It’s wrong for cops to watch other cops abuse children just to retrieve a supposedly stolen car. If they thought this car was really stolen, and hopefully these cops are smart enough and observant enough to see that it’s filled with children, let it go.

Aurora police are not allowed to partake in high-speed chases or fire guns at fleeing cars. Don’t hold a car full of kids hostage, especially when they can’t even get the facts right.

More than anything, police must be trained and tested to know right from wrong. They must be empowered and required to stop wrongdoing and crime any time it’s being committed — by criminals on or off the police force.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]