The team found that the Aurora Police Department, which cooperated with the probe, treated people of color differently from their White counterparts, repeatedly used excessive force, and failed to properly document interactions with citizens, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D) said. The city fire department has also misused ketamine, an anesthetic, on citizens, he added.
The state will now ask Aurora to sign a voluntary consent decree that will appoint a third-party monitor to oversee changes to the city’s police and fire departments. The state is also prepared to seek a court order that will require Aurora to comply if the efforts to produce changes are unsuccessful, Weiser told reporters.
“Our objective is to develop an agreed-upon consent decree that’s going to enable Aurora to improve and build trust in law enforcement,” Weiser said. “It’s critical that we … institute meaningful and lasting change.”
Weiser began a 14-month investigation into Aurora’s police and fire departments in 2020, as outrage over police brutality against racial minorities grew following the murder of George Floyd by a White police officer in Minnesota.
The Floyd murder resulted in a broader look at previous police killings of minorities, including the August 2019 killing of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black massage therapist who was stopped on his way home from a convenience store. Police officers put him in a chokehold, and paramedics administered — without McClain’s consent — about 50 percent more ketamine than recommended for a person with McClain’s 143-pound body size.
McClain was unarmed when a passerby reported him to emergency services as someone who could be “sketchy.” He was holding a plastic grocery bag containing cans of iced tea, listening to music with his ear buds and wearing a black ski mask, according to an Aug. 27 grand jury indictment of the police officers and paramedics who were at the scene. Weiser announced Sept. 1 that the three police officers and two paramedics had been indicted on 32 counts.
One of the officers, Randy Roedema, said McClain had tried to reach for a weapon held by Jason Rosenblatt, another officer at the scene. Rosenblatt later said he “did not feel any contact with his service weapon.” As McClain fell into and out of consciousness, at one point vomiting into his mask, the officers called in paramedics, who administered ketamine.
McClain suffered brain death and was removed from life support three days after the incident.
McClain’s death pushed Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) to sign a police accountability law that, most notably, banned the use of chokeholds. A month later, Aurora’s interim police chief fired three officers who mocked McClain’s death in a reenactment.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said Wednesday that the city’s fire and police chiefs had been working to resolve the problems raised by the investigation. “We will achieve an outcome that respects the rights of everyone who lives and works in our diverse community.”
McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, participated in the investigation and welcomed the findings, according to the Associated Press. “It’s just terrible that it takes my son’s death for Aurora police to change what they’ve been doing for a long time in this community,” she said.