External Investigation Finds Small Number Of Aurora PD Officers Create The Most Problems (Plus 98 Other Reason To Improve)

from the things-the-PD-already-knew-but-didn't-want-to-deal-with dept

Maybe cops are too close to the action? Perhaps that’s why it always seems it takes an outside entity to discover the problems (and problem officers) in police departments. The US Department of Justice frequently does this (less frequently from 2017-2020), although the long-term effects of its consent decrees and investigations seems to be pretty much negligible.

So, why can’t the police police themselves? The most obvious answer is there’s no reason to. Few politicians are willing to go head-to-head with law enforcement agencies and even less willing to do so with their unions. Appearing to be tough on crime usually plays well enough it won’t cost them votes. Looking the other way keeps legislators employed.

Accountability activists are doing the work we’re paying professional government employees to do, for the most part. But recent events have made some legislators realize sucking up to cops isn’t as likely to result in lifetime employment as it used to. Changes will be made, if only because they’re politically expedient.

But back to the original question: why can’t cop shops determine what’s holding them back or which cops are a detriment to the force? We’re still left to speculate, but there’s no speculated answer that makes these agencies look good. And neither do the outside reports, which highlight tons of stuff that should have been obvious to those closest to the action.

This report deals with a single agency in a Colorado city with a population of 369,000. And yet…

Here are the 99 ways Aurora police can improve, according to a comprehensive review launched by the city

Ninety. Nine. Only Jay-Z had this many problems and he was able to subtract at least one.

The Aurora PD has problems. It cannot pretend it doesn’t. There’s too much on the record. And yet, it refuses to do anything about it. Prompted by a series of incidents in 2020 — including an officer passed out drunk behind the wheel of a police car, the killing of Elijah McClain, and the wrongful detainment of a black woman and her four children, the City of Aurora decided to engage in some long-delayed oversight.

Its findings are things the PD should have known. (And likely knew, but did nothing about.) There are terrible officers. And there are the rest of the officers, supervisors, and top-level management who look the other way, which definitely does not make them “good” cops.

Just 35 officers accounted for 40% of the officer misconduct cases between 2017 and 2020, a “disproportionately large share,” according to investigators.

Can the PD operate without these officers? Most likely, yes. But it refuses to get rid of its worst employees, which turns city residents into ATMs for lawsuit settlements.

Why haven’t these officers been ousted? Well, it’s the department itself, which is most likely hamstrung by its contract with the Aurora Police Association, the local union that stands as a bulwark between bad officers and the accountability that would result in a better police department. The report also states there’s too much red tape for discipline to be effective, and that internal investigations take too long.

And so, having ignored the problems for years, the list of problems is exceedingly long. (And, to be fair, it is, at times, somewhat repetitive.) One of the main areas needing improvement is the PD’s use of force policies. What’s in place is minimal and provides very little guidance. It needs more specifics and limitations. The report lists a large number of improvements, including de-escalation as the default and giving people the opportunity to comply with commands before handing out beatdowns.

This, of course, will require more training, which the report recommends.

And there should be a lot more transparency and accountability.

APD should require officers to document, and provide specific information about, all interactions with the public that are not voluntary.


APD should make information about complaints relating to bias, profiling, and discrimination available on its website, along with information about the adjudication of investigations of such complaints.

A large part of the report deals with the APD’s handling of complaints against officers. The way it works now is that it doesn’t work. It’s (perhaps intentionally) convoluted, complex, and unlikely to result in thorough or timely investigations. The report says nearly everything about this needs to change.

Complaint and discipline procedures should be codified in separate directives with an emphasis on enhanced clarity.

The current process for handling external complaints should be streamlined. Currently, it is convoluted and substantially more complex than it should be. Policies relating to administrative investigations and external complaints should be consolidated.

Allegations of misconduct against employees that may result in discipline or other corrective actions should be identified and categorized by the severity of rule, policy, practice violation in the rewritten directive.

These are all recommendations. It’s unclear whether the APD is under any obligation to implement them. And if the city does make these mandatory, it’s unclear how much its existing agreement with the APD’s union will prevent some of these from moving forward. But it’s clear the department needs to change. The disappointing thing is that it took the city (and city residents’ tax dollars) to point out problems the APD already should have been aware of… and problems it should have already been making efforts to address.

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Comments on “External Investigation Finds Small Number Of Aurora PD Officers Create The Most Problems (Plus 98 Other Reason To Improve)”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The statement from a police official in that linked article about the drunk cop being passed out in his squad car on duty is absolute lunacy:

Due to an inability to exclude a medical condition, and absent confirmatory information, a DUI investigation was not conducted

That’s even more horseshit than the police union in Pittsburgh who argued it’s unconstitutional to drug test officers.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Stop asking, start issuing demands

The only way the problem is going to even start to be dealt with is if cities, states and even the federal government stop asking police to shape up and start telling them do so so, handing out hefty penalties for non-compliance.

A department refuses to cut lose a corrupt cop who’s costing the city millions in settlements, clearly their budget is far more than it should be and could do with some trimming.

Meaningful oversight blocked? Oh look, it’s the budget again, how did that appear and how are those numbers so high, some cost-saving measures are clearly in order.

The union refuses to play ball? Kill their contract with the city as soon as legally possible and make clear that if a contract with the city and the current police department will be re-negotiated rather than the department shut down and replaced wholesale the union will have no place at the table as police unions have shown that they cannot be trusted to do anything but protect and foster rot and corruption.

Kill the legal abomination that is QI, gut the legalized theft that is asset forfeiture and hand out some heavy financial penalties for police refusing to hold their own accountable and we could start improving things, so long as politicians keep cheering corrupt cops on or pretending that politely asking them to maybe think about cutting out some of the corruption will do the trick the police will only continue to get worse because they’ll have no reason not to.

Narcissus (profile) says:

Re: Stop asking, start issuing demands

I’m always a bit confused why exploited workers don’t look at police unions and think "Hey, perhaps a union would be a good idea!"

On the one hand we have unionized police that are practically free from consequences whatever they do, while on the other hand we have non-unionized Amazon workers who can’t even negotiate a toilet break…

I’m not saying that unions are the panacea to runaway globalized capitalism but perhaps if there is a significant power imbalance they might play a part.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Stop asking, start issuing demands

The main problem is that in most cases unionization (rightfully) costs the ruling class money. But throw the cops some money and they’ll show up and protect your pipeline, evict your tenants violently, waste hundreds of dollars investigating the theft of a 99 cent loaf of bread from your store, and on and on. This is basically the entire reason why when Wisconsin went public union busting the cops were exempt and the teachers got fucked.

David says:

Isn't the answer quite obvious?

So, why can’t the police police themselves?

A police officer who has perfected being a pernicious asshole that you want to avoid getting across is a colleague you want to avoid getting across. They operate in a bubble of stench not just citizens but also other officers want to steer clear off.

The problem is what to do when this becomes systemic. And most particularly, who is going to even want to do anything about it when it has become systemic?


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Policy vs Law

This is an ongoing problem in Seattle. The union argues that their contract supersedes laws meant to reform police.


Even our fucking worthless Sinclair channel reported on it.


David says:

Re: The bad apples spoil the whole bunch

Just because more than 90% of the officers washing up on TechDirt are bad does not mean 90% of all officers are bad. Just like it doesn’t mean that when more than 90% of the COVID-19 patients washing up in hospitals are unvaccinated that more than 90% of the overall populace is unvaccinated.

Either way that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem. It’s just one of a different size than what the overgeneralisation would suggest.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: The bad apples spoil the whole bunch

A good cop who covers for a bad cop is not a good cop. A cop doesn’t have to be robbing people blind, gunning people down or bouncing heads off the pavement for laughs to be bad they just need to be willing to look the other way for those that do, and under that metric I suspect that the overwhelming majority of US police are very much not in the ‘good’ category even if they are undoubtedly out there.

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