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Independent Report Released in Elijah McClain Case

Independent Report Released in Elijah McClain Case
Posted on 03/16/2021
Image of cover of investigative report

Independent investigators tasked with reviewing the 2019 death of Elijah McClain released the results of their review to the city Feb. 22 in advance of their presentation to Aurora City Council at 5 p.m. Feb. 22. In the interest of transparency, city management is publicly disclosing the findings immediately so members of the public can prepare to view the presentation.

“We felt it was important for the public to see the results of the investigation at the same time we received them,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said. “We welcomed how comprehensive and thorough the investigators were over the last six months. We are currently reviewing their report and look forward to hearing additional context during their presentation before we comment further. City management will work with the Mayor and City Council in coming days and weeks to assure the appropriate next steps are taken.”

The City Council commissioned the independent investigation team in July 2020 after council members expressed concern that an outside investigator previously hired by the city to review the incident did not meet the standard of neutrality. The new team, led by Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, was tasked to:

  • Investigate the actions of Aurora Police (APD) in response to the 911 call, on scene, and during the subsequent criminal investigation and internal force review
  • Investigate the actions of Aurora Fire Rescue (AFR) on scene and its administration of ketamine
  • Create a timeline of the events
  • Review all facts from the beginning to the end of APD’s and AFR’s contact with Mr. McClain
  • Review all relevant policies, procedures, and practices related to calls for service, police contact with individuals, use of force, calls for medical assistance, ketamine use, and administrative incident reviews
  • Create a written report that includes recommendations for the city to address the situation that occurred, and recommendations based on best practices that should guide the city in the future

This independent investigation is one of multiple ongoing investigations and reviews being conducted in response to the death of Mr. McClain. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice and FBI are conducting a federal civil rights investigation. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is conducting a licensure investigation into the use of ketamine.

Previously, the District Attorney for the 17th Judicial District declined to pursue criminal charges against any public safety personnel involved in the case, and the Adams County coroner ruled the cause of death inconclusive. Aurora does not have authority or control over either office.

More broadly, 21CP Solutions, a global firm of experts in the areas of civil rights and public safety, are conducting a comprehensive review of APD’s practices, policies and procedures at the request of City Manager Twombly and Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson. The scope of this work includes 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. The results of this review will be presented to the public and to the City Council in spring 2021.

Additionally, Aurora’s Community Police Task Force, commissioned by the City Council, is reviewing current police operations and procedures and making recommendations about community engagement and potentially community input on critical incidents, such as civilian oversight. 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.

In the meantime, Aurora remains committed to ongoing reviews of the practices and procedures of the Aurora Police Department (APD). City leadership and APD command staff have undertaken a plan to restore public trust in the department, called “A New Way.” The plan encourages residents to continue to provide feedback. As such, it is a living document and will be updated periodically.

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