City Leaders Guiding Changes to Policing

City Leaders Guiding Changes to Policing
Posted on 09/24/2020

Actions Underway to Review and Change Policy
To all who have reached out to us with their vital and valid concerns, we want you to know that our city leaders hear you. We know that changes are necessary, and those changes must involve the voices of our community. To make that happen, a number of initiatives are underway.

City Undertakes Comprehensive Review of Police Operations 
City Manager Jim Twombly and Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson announced Aug. 11 that they will be undertaking a comprehensive review of the Aurora Police Department. 21CP Solutions, a global firm of experts in the areas of civil rights and public safety, will join the city in pursuit of the common goal of a new vision of public safety that works for everyone.

The scope of this work will include the department’s leadership structure; elevating the role of community policing and engagement; assessing current policies and practices with respect to use of force, discriminatory policing and bias-free policing practices; officer misconduct and accountability; stops, searches and arrests; recruitment, hiring and retention; interaction with vulnerable populations; and crisis intervention and interactions with individuals experiencing behavioral health challenges.

Twombly emphasized, “We must serve the Aurora community in a way that recognizes and honors our diversity. That requires us taking a hard look at how we do things in order to build an agency that the community trusts. These changes are of the utmost urgency to the city, and most importantly, the community.”

Wilson said, “We embrace this opportunity for change and are committed to evolve for the betterment of our profession, our community and the residents we serve. Law enforcement is being evaluated across the nation and we want to ensure that our entire community feels that APD is an agency that shows dignity and respect and can be a role model for 21st Century policing. We will strive daily to regain the trust in our community. I believe this review, along with actionable policy and training changes, is a good first step.”

Independent Review of Elijah McClain Case
Prompted by the members of the city's Public Safety, Courts & Civil Service Policy Committee—Council Members Allison Hiltz, Curtis Gardner and Angela Lawson—the City Manager is working with members of the Aurora City Council and Mayor Mike Coffman to initiate a new independent, external investigation of the actions of our police, firefighters and paramedics in the Elijah McClain case.

The Aurora City Council unanimously approved a resolution July 20 to open this independent investigation. The city is working on completing a contract with the lead consultant, Jonathan Smith, who is executive director of the Washington Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. Prior to his government services, Smith was the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, the Public Justice Center in Baltimore and the D.C. Prisoners' Legal Services Project.

Additional use of force and medical experts have been identified to round out the review panel, and recommendations will be reviewed by and voted on by the City Council soon. This process also will connect Smith with the State Attorney General to help finalize the scope of Smith's work for Aurora and ensure the Aurora independent investigation is complementary to and not duplicative of the Attorney General's work.

The external investigation will thoroughly examine the actions of Aurora police, firefighters and paramedics in the case, with both local and national input from people with backgrounds including civil rights, the criminal justice system and emergency medical assistance. The report will evaluate all actions against applicable laws, best practices, national policing and emergency response standards, making any recommendations they deem fit. 

Together we all want to achieve meaningful improvements, eliminate racial inequity and make lives better in our community. This review–and ultimately its findings—is a critical step toward these goals.

Background on the Elijah McClain Case

Visit this link to view the complete press packet from the Aurora Police Department, including Aurora Fire Rescue Ketamine Protocol and Combative Patient Protocol, the Adams County Coroner's Report and the 17th Judicial Investigation Report.

Visit this link to view additional information from Aurora Fire Rescue on the case.

Community Police Task Force

Mayor Pro Tem Nicole Johnston, with the full support of the mayor and City Council, led the effort to create a Community Police Task Force. The mayor called a June 15 special meeting of the Aurora City Council to approve the members of the Community Police Task Force. The Community Police Task Force will review current police operations and procedures and make recommendations about changes and potential community input on critical incidents. The task force includes leaders and advocates from the community of faith, NAACP, criminal justice reform organizations, educators and Aurora Key Community Response Team, as well as other individuals from the community.

Changes to Police Directives

The city of Aurora and Aurora Police Department have recently re-examined the police department’s use of force policies. On June 9, the city held a press conference and announced changes to Aurora Police Department’s directives. All directives can be found at AuroraGov.org/PoliceDirectives. The updated/added directives include:

  • 5.1 Authorized Firing of a Weapon – This directive is being clarified to include the requirement to provide a warning before shooting. This has been the department’s practice and training, which the policy is being updated to reflect.
  • 5.8.3 Carotid Control – The carotid hold is no longer authorized.
  • 5.9 Duty to Intervene – A new directive requires any sworn member who witnesses another member (regardless of rank) using force in the line of duty that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable, and lawful, shall, when in a position to do so, safely and immediately intervene to prevent and/or discontinue the use of force.
  • 5.10 Officer Relief – This new directive applies in cases involving a significant physical altercation. The first arriving officers who are not immediately necessary to go “hands-on” to control the subject shall relieve the officers who were involved in the altercation. This should help in de-escalating the situation and preventing the potential for excessive force.
  • 8.48 Suspicious Calls – This new directive provides that responding officers will, when responding to a suspicious person call, first observe the party and make their own determination whether the person is acting suspiciously and whether the person is engaging in criminal activity.

The mayor and City Council are committed to continued conversations with the Police Department about their concerns and the community’s concerns. A recording of the special council meeting to discuss the police response to protests can be found at AuroraTV.org.

City Council Unanimously Approve a Moratorium on the Use of Ketamine

On Sept. 14, the City Council voted unanimously on a proposal sponsored by Council Member Curtis Gardner to enact a moratorium on the use of ketamine by Aurora Fire Rescue and the ambulance transport provider Falck Rocky Mountain. The moratorium will continue at a minimum until 30 days after the city receives the results of an independent investigation into the August 2019 death of Elijah McClain. Aurora Fire Rescue has removed ketamine from service units and paramedics will continue to contact medical control for guidance if they encounter a situation that is unique or challenging while treating a patient. The department follows the Denver Metro Prehospital Protocols that are written and evaluated by physicians with emergency medical expertise. The protocols can be found on the AFR department website at AuroraGov.org/Fire


The following statement was issued June 5 by the Mayor, City Council Members and City Manager in response to the killing of George Floyd:

As our country faces uncertainty, discord and deep pain, we know it is having a significant impact in our community and rightfully leading to an examination of our own past, our current practices and the changes we have made and must continue to make for our future.

The killing of George Floyd was wrong. Many people have courageously exercised their right to be heard through peaceful protests and meaningful conversations. At the same time, recent days have seen destruction, violence and disregard for fellow human beings, and we can’t lose sight of the fact that what precipitates these events are the repeated images, over the years, of people of color losing their lives unjustly. But it’s also more than that: it’s years of institutionalized and government sanctioned racism that has robbed generation after generation of African Americans of their human and civil rights.

As a government entity we represent a force guilty of past oppression. Over the years, local governments have enforced restrictive zoning and covenants, segregation, curfews, made infrastructure decisions to isolate people of color, and permitted disparate enforcement of laws, just to name several practices used. As a local government we must take a leadership role in being an agent for change and be a part of the solution.

A first step for Aurora was the creation early this year of our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. As this effort moves forward, its work will help us learn and give us the tools to be change agents.

It is vital that in addition to raising our voices in support of what is right and calling out what is wrong, we also listen and seek to learn from each other. From these lessons, we will grow and make critical changes. City leaders are eager to hear, learn and act.

Aurora is made stronger by the many voices and backgrounds of those who call it home. We welcome coming together with our community for the shared purpose of eliminating racial inequity and lifting up outcomes for all.


Mike Coffman, Mayor Jim Twombly, City Manager
Nicole Johnston, Mayor Pro Tem, Council Member, Ward II
Crystal Murillo, Council Member, Ward I
Marsha Berzins, Council Member, Ward III
Juan Marcano, Council Member, Ward IV
Alison Coombs, Council Member, Ward V
Françoise Bergan, Council Member, Ward VI
Curtis Gardner, Council Member, At Large
Dave Gruber, Council Member, At Large
Allison Hiltz, Council Member, At LargeAngela Lawson, Council Member, At Large

Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The city manager early this year created an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that not only will be looking at the diversity of our city workforce, but also recommending training for employees in areas like implicit bias. The office also is home to our Community Relations Division, which facilitates several community groups like the Aurora Community of Faith and the Aurora Key Community Response Team, which has since 1991 brought together community leaders and activists to regularly meet with public safety officials to build trust and communication between the city and various communities.


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