Amid tough questions — and a few shouting matches — members of the Aurora community came out to a town hall Tuesday night following the first report from independent monitor, IntegrAssure, under the city’s consent decree following the death of Elijah McClain in 2019.
The report, released in July, found improvement with the city’s use of chemical sedatives, but cautioned more work is needed with training and use of force review.
“We have a very hurt community,” said Jeanette Rodriguez, an Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputy who co-chairs the Community Advisory Council. “The community is mourning, both the death of Elijah McClain and a lot of different situations that brought us to where we’re at today. And so, there is a lot of distrust.”
Aurora’s consent decree is designed to be a five year process, with 12 reports on 70 different targets of improvement ranging from use of force, to racial bias, to recruitment of diverse officers and more. Each report can issue grades of green, yellow, and red dots among the various targets, with green showing progress in the right track, red dots showing the wrong track, and yellow dots in between.
Most green dots, marking positive improvement, were given in the use of chemical sedatives — an important part of the consent decree given the role ketamine played in Elijah McClain’s death. No red dots showing a “wrong track” finding were given, though IntegrAssure’s CEO Jeff Schlanger said they may come in future reports.
“I was surprised that there were no red dots, to be honest with you,” said Rodriguez. “But I do know that the city has made a conscious effort to improve.”
Aurora Police Interim Chief Dan Oates answered one question personally before the audience. A 9-year-old girl in attendance wrote her question on a card to be read before the group. The question was, “When the police come, why are they scary?”
Her question touched both the interim chief and the audience, eliciting applause.
“I had the conversation with her beforehand, which was a wonderful conversation. And she had literally never spoken to a police officer before,” Oates said. “And what she said was, you know, my experience is simply police officers are in a good mood, and some police officers are in a bad mood. And when they're in a bad mood, they should just stay home. So I told her I totally agree with that.”
The next town hall will be in about three months following the release of the independent monitor’s second report.