Agreement between Denver and Aurora allows departments to investigate their own police killings

Posted at 10:37 AM, Feb 28, 2021

Aurora police followed departmental protocol after Elijah McClain died in their custody in August 2019. The chief promised transparency and called in the team of Denver and Aurora detectives normally used to investigate police shootings. The detectives conducted an investigation and turned it over to the district attorney.

“There were more than just the Aurora Police Department’s eyes on this investigation,” Aurora police Chief Vanessa Wilson said last week.

Yet the initial criminal investigation led by Aurora police detectives into how police officers treated McClain was deeply flawed and “stretched the record to exonerate the officers,” an external review of the case found.

The report’s findings, released last week, have prompted questions about whether the system used by Colorado law enforcement to investigate police shootings and other killings by officers effectively prevents bias and corruption.

Unlike many other agencies on the Front Range, Denver and Aurora police are able to investigate serious injuries and killings by their own officers. Their arrangement, which was used to investigate McClain’s death, is unusual in a state where statute mandates that investigations be completed by multijurisdictional teams.

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