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

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Posted at 10:03 PM, Aug 13, 2021

AURORA, Colo. -- Denver7 Investigates has obtained a copy of a highly anticipated report that analyzes the policies and practices within the Aurora Police Department, following a series of incidents last year which put in question how effective the agency was at handling misconduct by members of the force.

The comprehensive review was launched after a series of incidents last year including: An officer passed out drunk behind the wheel, while on duty, the death of Elijah McClain, and the case where a Black woman and four children were wrongfully detained by officers.

Here are some of the key findings:

  1. Just 35 officers accounted for 40% of the officer misconduct cases between 2017 and 2020, a "disproportionately large share," according to investigators.
  2. The report also states there's too much red tape for discipline to be effective, and that internal investigations take too long.
  3. When it comes to "use of force," the report advises the department implement clearer and stricter guidance as to when an officer can and cannot use force.

Other statistics in the report revealed force was used against Black men at a significantly higher rate than white men: Black men made up 295 of use of force incidents in 2020, even though Black men only make up 9% of Aurora's population. Compare that to white men, who were the subject of 23% of force incidents, even though they represent more than 30% of the population in Aurora.

Below are the 99 recommendations issued by 21CP Solutions, who was tapped to lead the review by the city last August.

Recommendation 1. APD’s use of force policies should be substantially revised to provide better, more specific guidance to officers on when force may and may not be used.

  • APD should streamline its existing policies on use of force into a centralized policy, or a few core policies, addressing force.
  • APD’s use of force policy should contain a comprehensive statement of purpose and the Department’s values – expressly affirming the sanctity of human life, emphasizing the imperative that force be minimized or avoided when possible, and articulating the community’s values and expectations regarding the preservation of life and use of force.
  • APD’s force policy, consistent with its other provisions and the other recommendations presented here, should provide more specific and comprehensive definitions of key terms and concepts to better aid officers in understanding the policy’s performance expectations.
  • APD’s use of force policy should authorize force only when it is necessary under the circumstances.
  • APD should refine and expand its treatment of de- escalation in its core force policy – more directly emphasizing that de- escalation is an affirmative duty of all officers in all circumstances.
  • APD should strengthen its policy on providing verbal warnings by clarifying that warnings are required whenever feasible, regardless of the type of force; by requiring that officers identify themselves as law enforcement officers whenever possible; and requiring that officers provide subjects with a reasonable opportunity to comply with officer commands before using force.
  • Consistent with the concepts of de-escalation and necessity, APD should consider expressly requiring that officers exhaust all other means reasonably available to them under the circumstances before using deadly force.
  • APD’s use of force policy should authorize force only when it is proportional to the nature of the threat that a subject poses under the circumstances.
  • APD should substantially define and describe the core concept of “objective reasonableness,” providing specific guidance to officers on factors that may be a part of the objective reasonableness inquiry. APD policy should clarify that the reasonableness inquiry with respect to force is an objective, not subjective, inquiry.
  • APD policy should specifically prohibit various problematic types of force.
  • APD’s policies, procedures, and training should guide officers to seek a medical-based response whenever they encounter individuals they believe are experiencing “excited delirium.”
  • APD’s general use of force policy and its current specific firearms policy should better address issues involving exhibiting and pointing firearms.
  • APD’s general use of force policy and its current specific firearms policy should include provisions that better ensure the safety of other officers and bystanders when officers use firearms.
  • APD should more clearly require that all officers carry, and be trained on, less-lethal instruments.
  • APD policy should provide expanded, more specific direction on the use of various, authorized less-lethal instruments.
  • APD should more concretely articulate a requirement that officers have an affirmative duty to render and/or request medical assistance whenever necessary after force is used.
  • APD’s duty to intervene should apply whenever an officer witnesses another officer engaging in conduct or behavior that runs a reasonable risk of violating APD policy or applicable law.

Recommendation 2. APD should ensure that it provides regular training to all personnel on force decision-making and de-escalation strategies. As with APD’s training overall, this training should include dynamic, integrated, skills-focused, and scenario-based training grounded in adult learning techniques.

Recommendation 3. APD policy should better outline what officers must describe and articulate in narratives regarding the use of force.

Recommendation 4. APD should ensure that use of force reporting is standardized and uniform with respect to aggregate data

Recommendation 5. APD policy should outline more specific procedures and guidelines for the conduct of post-force investigation and review.

Recommendation 6. APD should update its policies and procedures for its Force Review Board to ensure objective, fair, timely, and comprehensive review and adjudication of use of force incidents.

Recommendation 7. APD should substantially revise and expand its current policy Directives Manual to address, in detail, the conduct of stops, detentions, searches, and arrests.

Recommendation 8. APD should provide personnel with detailed, dynamic, and scenario-based training on consensual interactions and non-consensual encounters between police and members of the public – including stops, detentions, searches, and arrests.

Recommendation 9. APD should require officers to document, and provide specific information about, all interactions with the public that are not voluntary.

Recommendation 10. To enhance officer safety, expand the quality of supervision, and provide meaningful opportunities for the department to understand its overall performance, APD policy should articulate clear requirements for supervisory review and aggregate analysis of overall trends regarding stops, searches, and arrests.

Recommendation 11. APD should revise its current policy on bias (Directive 08.32, “Biased Based Policing”) to provide more specific and detailed guidance to officers.

Recommendation 12. APD should provide training to officers about revisions to its policies relating to bias, the histories and experiences of Aurora’s diverse communities, and cross-cultural communication.

Recommendation 13. APD policy should require the regular, independent analysis of data on officer and aggregate departmental performance to determine if any of its activities, programs, or enforcement approaches are having a disproportionate impact on specific groups, communities, or types of individuals.

Recommendation 14. 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.

Recommendation 15. APD and the City of Aurora should either recommit to the full implementation of its current CIT model or consider implementing alternative response mechanisms to individuals experiencing mental health and behavioral crisis.

  • APD and the City should update its policies to ensure more streamlined, comprehensive treatment of crisis intervention issues and operational response details.
  • The Aurora Police Department should establish a practice of dispatching CRT and CIT officers on calls they on calls that utilize their specialized training..
  • APD should provide training to dispatchers so they may be better able to identify calls for service that may require or benefit from a CRT or CIT officer response.
  • APD should establish and use a tracking system which identifies calls for services requiring the CRT Team/CIT officer, the response of crisis resources, and the outcomes of the call.
  • APD should conduct a review of the number of current CIT officers, their current assignments, and the recency of their training. Based on this information, APD should determine:
    • How to best ensure geographic and temporal distribution of CIT assigned to patrol;
    • And a specific training plan for ensuring that CIT officers have sufficient support and training both in the short-term and throughout their careers.
  • APD should craft updated, more specific policy guidance on the Crisis Response Team. The directive should contain information about the composition, roles, and responsibilities of the Team, as well as procedures for requesting, dispatching, tracking, and reporting on the use and outcomes of CRT.

Recommendation 16. Aurora should ensure that the Community Policing Task Force, or the like, serves as a permanent, standing body going forward that leads the City in creating a new, shared vision of public safety in Aurora. Among other primary tasks, it should be responsible for helping to facilitate, with input from Aurora’s diverse stakeholders and communities:

  • A definition of public safety in Aurora that defines the roles and responsibilities of the Police Department and the roles and responsibilities of other government and City stakeholders with respect to community safety and well-being;
  • The creation and maintenance of a Community Safety Plan geared toward translating Aurora’s vision of public safety into operational milestones, deliverables, and deadlines;
    • Convene regular listening sessions that incorporate relevant subject- matter expert testimony, as appropriate, to assist in the collaborative planning necessary to establish a Community Safety Plan; and
    • Coordinate across Aurora’s many government and institutional stakeholders on issues relating to public safety.

Recommendation 17. To the extent that the Police Area Representatives (“PAR”) Unit and Community Relations Section remain core elements of its community engagement strategy, APD should endeavor to enhance the quality and impact of the Units.

  • APD should ensure alignment between current PAR officer roles, the values and mission of the PAR Unit as set forth in APD policy, and the expectations and needs of the Aurora community.
  • APD should consider mechanisms for PAR officers to engage in alternatives to motorized patrol.
  • APD should provide PAR officers with annual trainings on key community problem-solving topics to ensure that all Unit officers develop in-depth skills relating to:
    • Best practices in community-centered and problem-solving policing approaches including but not limited to procedural justice, bias-free policing, least-intrusive response approaches, and strategic and cross-cultural communication skills.
  • APD should provide formalized, regular mechanisms for PAR officers and the Community Relations Section to share their expertise, experience, and community relationships with the broader Department, including in the contexts of roll call and in-service trainings.

Recommendation 18. The City of Aurora should undertake a study on homelessness to gauge the current impact of various outreach mechanisms across all relevant city agencies and stakeholders and explore innovative problem-solving regarding individuals experiencing housing instability.

Recommendation 19. The APD should ensure that its directives reflect the recent changes in the organization structure that became effective in 2020 and 2021.

Recommendation 20. The crime analysis function should have a lead or supervisory analyst to provide supervision to analysts and coordinate efforts, training and quality control.

Recommendation 21. APD should consider hiring a fulltime video specialist for the Chief’s office and another for the Training Academy to meet the coming demands of SB217 and the necessity of the Training Academy to have a more readily accessible video specialist.

Recommendation 22. APD should create, in partnership with other relevant City stakeholders and the Aurora community, a Deployment and Staffing Plan that might enhance APD’s responsiveness to community needs.

  • APD should systematically inventory previous recommendations and consider, in collaboration with other City stakeholders and community members, potential new changes to improve the call response that can promote better, more effective, more efficient, and more equitable responses to calls not relating to violent crime.
  • APD should collaborate with City stakeholders and the Aurora community to identify and implement outstanding recommendations in the Redistricting Study285 and Staffing Study.
  • APD should conduct a comprehensive organizational review which examines each unit and assignment, its purpose, workload and outcome to ensure that the patrol function is adequately staffed to respond to calls for service and work with the community.
  • APD should continue to ensure that a lieutenant is working on every patrol shift and working the same shift schedule as other patrol personnel.

Recommendation 23. APD should consider non-sworn and external applicants to fill command staff vacancies.

Recommendation 24. APD should develop, and codify in policy, a more formal process for selecting Commanders and Division Chiefs. The process should consider including external interview panels (police executives and community members).

Recommendation 25. The APD should implement a leadership and professional development program for command staff.

Recommendation 26. APD command staff should develop and implement a plan to increase their level of visibility throughout the department. This should include an internal communications plan aimed at ensuring that department employees are kept informed on important issues.

Recommendation 27. APD and the City of Aurora must commit to expanding the diversity of APD so that it reflects the backgrounds and lived experiences of Aurora’s various communities.

  • Targeted recruiting materials and efforts should be funded, developed, and used to attract a diverse range of candidates. The effectiveness of these marketing efforts should be routinely assessed.

Recommendation 28. The City and APD should invest more of its resources on recruitment efforts.

  • The City should evaluate whether APD’s recruitment initiatives are appropriately resourced to meet community needs and the Department’s overall role and mission.
  • APD’s recruiting unit should consider increasing its focus on online recruiting opportunities.

Recommendation 29. The Civil Service Commission (“CSC”) should conduct a review of current hiring criteria to determine their impact in terms of attracting and hiring candidates of varying races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, socio-economic backgrounds, experiences, and characteristics. The Commission should identify what changes might be made to enhance APD’s diversity.

  • The CSC may want to move the physical fitness test further into the hiring process to allow candidates to get into shape and work toward the fitness standards. Additionally, APD should open up academy facilities to interested applicants in regular weekly intervals to begin preparing for the physical fitness test.
  • The CSC should closely review how the suitability interview, polygraph, and full background impacts the consideration of a candidate’s overall depth of life experience.
  • The CSC should explore using preference points to attract candidates who are city residents.

Recommendation 30. APD should consider leveraging its lateral hiring program and civilianization efforts to enrich the diversity in the department.

Recommendation 31. APD should ensure that all members work together toward increasing the diversity of the department.

Recommendation 32. APD should overhaul its general approach to training and professional development to focus on integrated, scenario-based training that uses adult learning techniques and focuses on providing opportunities for officers to practice and cultivate real-world skills.

Recommendation 33. APD and the City should ensure that APD’s training function has sufficient access to training management platforms and training resources that can promote effective, ongoing officer training and professional development.

Recommendation 34. APD needs to establish a comprehensive professional development program for both officers and civilian staff that takes full advantage of both in-house and external resources. Training priorities and needs should be identified in a Professional Development Program Plan that the Department updates regularly with specific objectives, training programs, milestones, and deadlines.

Recommendation 35. APD should take steps to ensure FTOs are representative of the diversity of the department and community.

Recommendation 36. The Field Training Standard Operating Procedure should be updated to reflect changes made in 2020 to the FTO selection process and enhanced to provide more specific guidance on the overall program, the process by which APD members qualify and are selected to be FTOs, how the program proceeds, and how FTOs are evaluated.

Recommendation 37. The APD should re-evaluate its FTO evaluation process to ensure consistency and effectiveness.

Recommendation 38. The Peer Support Team should consist of officers who reflect diverse backgrounds.

Recommendation 39. The APD should evaluate and analyze its current threshold-based, risk analysis early intervention system (“EIS”) and make changes to enhance its effectiveness. APD should make changes in policy, procedure, practice, and technology infrastructure to permit the implementation of an enhanced EIS.

Recommendation 40. APD should work in collaboration with community, city administration (including City Human Resources), police officer organizations, and the Civil Service Commission to re-align the entire system of handling complaints, investigations, and disciplinary decisions to comport with the principles of procedural justice and to ensure the fair, objective, thorough, and timely investigation of all allegations of potential officer misconduct. Consistent with these objectives and as part of this process, APD should re-draft and replace its current directives, and/or related policy and manual guidance, on administrative investigations, complaint investigations, Internal Affairs investigations, and any other investigations relating to officer misconduct.

  • 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.
  • APD’s policy should clearly identify types of allegations to be investigated by first-line supervisors (typically lower-level misconduct) and the types of allegations that will be investigated by Internal Affairs (typically serious misconduct). Wherever a first-line supervisor conducts an investigation, the allegation of misconduct should be reported to the complaints management system, as it is done currently and the Internal Affairs to ensure centralized supervision and administration of all misconduct complaints, allegations, and investigations. Internal Affairs should become the administrative hub of all inquiries into allegations relating to officer performance.
  • The investigation and disciplinary process directive should include reasonable timelines for the conclusion of the investigation and the adjudication of findings.
  • The current IRB and CRB structures should be evaluated and either modified to ensure that they contribute value toward ensuring objective, fair, thorough, and timely investigations or be replaced with a streamlined process that does.
  • Officers, supervisors, and administrators should receive internal procedural justice training.
  • The Department should create a detailed Internal Affairs Manual that provides specific procedures and protocols for all aspects of misconduct investigations.
  • All officers, including supervisors, assigned to IA should receive formal Internal Affairs investigation training.

Recommendation 41. The City of Aurora should examine its Civil Service Commission to ensure hiring and disciplinary decisions that are fair, efficient, timely, equitable, and consistent with the mission and goals of the City, APD, and community.

  • The Civil Service Commission appeal process should be modified and expedited to ensure it takes no more than 30 days from the date the discipline is issued by the Chief.

Recommendation 42. APD, in consultation with the community it serves, should develop processes and protocols – with standard timelines – by which information and details related to critical incidents are released in a timely and transparent manner.

Recommendation 43. APD should collaborate actively with the community in the development and revision of its policies, procedures, and training.

Recommendation 44. The City of Aurora should move expeditiously to select an individual responsible for independently monitoring and auditing APD’s adherence to, and the efficacy of, the Department’s policies, disciplinary processes, and performance appraisal outcomes.

Recommendation 45. APD should develop a three-to-five-year Technology Plan that identifies technology-related priorities; provides clear deadlines, milestones, and deliverables relating to technology implementation; and identifies structural and process changes for the selection, implementation, maintenance, and oversight of technological systems and tools.

  • In the development of the Technology Plan, APD should establish a Technology Working Group that includes the City IT public safety team, representatives from all areas of APD, and community members.
  • APD should work to streamline technology roles and responsibilities.
  • APD should explore the civilianization of IT and technology-related responsibilities.

Recommendation 46. APD should purchase, issue, and maintain all firearms. An assessment should be conducted to determine if there are other less-lethal devices that should be purchased as well.

Recommendation 47. The City should conduct a facilities and equipment review to ensure that APD officers continue to have the tools that they need to address community needs and problems.

The outside consulting firm which conducted this report is made up of public safety leaders, civil rights activists and attorneys from across the nation.

On Friday night, a spokesman for the City of Aurora provided the following statement to Denver7:

We appreciate your interest in the report from 21CP Solutions, and we look forward to the presentation their team of experts will provide at the City Council Study Session on Monday, Aug. 16 at 6:30 p.m. This presentation will provide an overview of their observations and the key recommendations they are making at the city’s request. We do not want to get ahead of that.

We requested the review because we wanted to know what blind spots might exist and welcome guidance on best practices. As we move forward in creating a new vision of public safety, we intend to keep our community at the center of these conversations. The 21CP recommendations will be incorporated into other recommendations made by the Community Policing Task Force and the Independent Review Panel that was led by Jonathan Smith and his team.

We encourage you to attend Monday’s public meeting. You can view it on AuroraTV. We will be available to answer questions on Tuesday. In the meantime, we are posting regular status updates on the city’s public safety reform efforts on the ‘New Way’ progress webpage.

The findings will be presented to Aurora City Council Monday night.