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Exclusive interview: Former Colorado police officers talk about changes to policing after protests

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Posted at 10:29 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 01:37:36-04

DENVER — The American people have spoken and law enforcement across the country have no choice but to operate differently, the former Aurora police chief said in an exclusive interview with Denver7.

Former Chief Nick Metz retired from the Aurora Police Department in 2019. He says it's much different to follow stories of police brutality as a citizen, rather than a member of law enforcement.

"I think it provides an opportunity to really try to see the other perspectives a little bit more in depth," Metz said. "It's a different world when you're in the middle of everything."

Metz watched the video of George Floyd's death, knowing it happened two blocks from where he grew up in Minneapolis.

"That was an incredibly disturbing thing for me to watch," he said. "Watching it and knowing that those officers should have done something different. They should have heard him. There were so many opportunities there to have made that situation right."

Floyd's death, followed by nationwide protests, lead to sweeping changes within law enforcement. In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis recently signed a police reform bill into law.

"The people have spoken. The people have really spoken," Metz said. "Law enforcement agencies are going to have to do things differently. They have no choice."

Metz went on to say the changes have to happen while being sensitive to officer morale.

"There are some really great officers out there. I mean, some really great officers," Metz said. "It's incredibly difficult to see the hurt that they're feeling. People are spitting on them, they're being called names."

Two former officers also sat down exclusively with Denver7. Both thought it was important to speak up during these times but requested to remain anonymous.

One officer, a black female, talked about racism within police departments.

"I don't think racism runs rampant in law enforcement," she said.

The officer went on to say there is certainly a brotherhood though, and a strong one at that.

"I felt like the thin blue line — the code we share as officers — was important," she said. "It was important to me so I could trust officers and they could trust me and I didn’t want to be perceived as an angry black woman."

The second officer also talked about racism in and out of the law enforcement realm.

"Is it there? Is it alive in this country? Of course it is," he explained. "But all I know is my fellow officers took an oath like I took an oath. I know that my brothers and sisters that served with me protected the freedoms of everyone. We fought for justice and most importantly, we protected life."

Both officers said they believe education is key to better days of policing.

"The average police officer spends countless hours in post-certified training, driving a car, shooting a gun," said the female officer. "Why can't we have 40 hours devoted to social and emotional (classes)? How about cultural diversity or a social studies class?"

The other officer said he believes there could be better education for the citizen as well.

"There’s no schooling for the average citizen on how to react when an officer confronts them," he said. "We don’t teach that in our society."

These two officers, plus Metz, served a combined 60-plus years in policing.