In case the rest of Colorado hasn’t noticed, we have a serious police problem here in Aurora.
A string of worrisome gaffes in providing public information about incidents where Aurora police are involved in the death or injury of people they encounter went way over the top last week.
Without notice, Aurora police released another docu-drama Thursday night. This time, Deputy Chief Paul O’Keefe relays a scripted, edited, video account of how an Aurora cop, standing in a man’s front yard near midnight, shot the man in the back while he was standing inside his living room.
Rather than answer questions from the media, this is the second time police have created propaganda videos. The intent is clear. Police create these in an effort to spin a story to their advantage in cases where the public was wounded or killed.
Beyond unnerving, it’s clear the Aurora Police Department administration is dangerously lurching out of control.
All this first appeared to be just well-intentioned bungling in handling a spate of officer-involved deaths and injuries.
Now, this is alarmingly looking more like a cover-up.
In Thursday’s docu-drama, O’Keefe looks into the camera and relates to viewers what is now apparently the official police version of how Officer Alexander Ord came to shoot Andy Huff Oct, 10. Then the docu-drama cuts to edited police body-cam and inserts edited 911-call clips.
These are clips that police just days before told reporters could not be released for fear of crippling some kind of investigation.
The body-cam clips clearly show police walking at least several hundred feet up to Huff’s house, in the dark, after inexplicably parking far away.
“Inexplicable” and “Aurora police” are frequently intertwined with these cases.
O’Keefe cuts back and says police saw Huff run from a truck and into his home. I’ve had several people look at the tape, and not one saw anything like that, but it’s extremely dark.
While the tape lasts a couple of minutes, from the time where officers approach the house until Ord fires through the living room window takes less than 20 seconds.
O’Keefe keeps underscoring that Huff is inside a well-lighted living room. He highlights that the police are standing in the dark, far from the living-room window. So Huff had to know police were out there, O’Keefe has repeatedly said.
It’s as if O’Keefe and other cops really don’t understand what any cogent person can. If you’re in a well-lighted room, looking into the dark, the window becomes a mirror. You can’t see into the dark from a well-lighted room. If this just boggles Aurora police, I can offer contacts for some high-school science teachers who can help explain the phenomenon.
But police keep pressing the point. Then they add in what is clearly edited 911-call quotes that Huff’s attorney says he can prove is taken completely out of context.
Huff’s attorney convincingly makes the case the Huff never expected a surprise, midnight encounter with police in his front yard, but that he was wary of a revenge visit from an angry roommate. That encounter, earlier in the day, is what started all of this.
The problem police have is that Huff’s story makes sense, and the police story fails that test. Huff may be wrong, but police hiding, dodging, night-dumping and propaganda docu-dramas do not build public confidence in their side of the story.
We don’t know who’s telling the truth, because Aurora police only release what they want, when they want. And they dump this propaganda onto social media, without public comment or questions.
These are either the missteps of police officials completely out of their depth in handling the difficult and critical business of public information, or they’re trying to hide something.
Those are both bad options for Aurora and for the professional and dedicated police officers in the department being sullied by these docu-drama scams.
Police administrators say they can’t offer real details or information because of demands made by the local district attorney.
On more than one occasion, however, even just last week, DA officials say they don’t demand anything of Aurora police. They ask only that police be prudent in releasing information until their investigations are complete.
This is not prudence. This is a deadly serious problem.
Most of those who die or are injured at the hands of police are minorities. Just ask someone of color if they’re unnerved by Aurora police.
We asked recent minority candidates for mayor and city council. It’s was appalling so many say they’re afraid for themselves, their friends and their families. It’s an issue they say they hear about frequently.
What’s so mind boggling is that just steps away from the police department is an entire city hall filled with seasoned, skilled PR professionals who can lead police back to credibility.
If there’s any hope here, it comes from the fact that Councilwoman Nicole Johnston and local state legislators have gone around the city and police to begin soliciting public opinion on how best to create independent oversight of the Aurora Police Department. While that does nothing immediately to force police to hand over these controversial cases to other trusted, independent state agencies, a new city council can change that.
Two incumbent city councilmen who actively stood in the way of forcing independent review of police problems are now gone. Voters last week replaced them with city lawmakers who’ve made it clear that the time for intervention is overdue.
There will soon be a majority of city council members who’ve said this is a problem not to be dismissed or handled solely by police.
It may not be enough, soon enough.
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