A town hall was held Aug. 9 after the first report was released involving the oversight of public safety changes in Aurora.
The study was aimed at monitoring progress in the city, including items involving racially biased policing practices, which were found after an investigation by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. A consent decree to address the issues was entered between the City of Aurora and the AG in November 2021. That decree involved contracting with a third-party monitor who provides updates on the city’s progress.
IntegrAssure, based out of Florida, was hired to watch over the changes. The team overseeing the process includes former police officers and legal experts working with IntegrAssure. There is also a Community Advisory Council that has many community leaders serving on it.
Although multiple issues led to the AG’s investigation, a major one was the death of Elijah McClain. McClain was restrained by police in 2019 while the Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics sedated him with an unusually high dose of ketamine, according to an investigation. McClain later died after going into cardiac arrest. Multiple indictments against the first responders involved followed.
The latest report was released in July and looked at 36 of the 70 consent decree mandates. IntegrAssure found the city was in major compliance with nine mandates and in different states of compliance for others. One of the mandates found in substantial compliance included AFR’s use of chemical sedatives. Since April 2021, AFR agreed to not use ketamine as a chemical restraint and prohibited its use.
According to an agenda from the Aurora Public Safety, Courts and Civil Service Policy Committee, plans are in the works to use a new sedative, droperidol.
“At the direction of Dr. Eric Hill, AFR will be adding a new sedative to our EMS protocol,” the agenda item said. “The new sedative is droperidol and will be used on patients who pose a risk of physical harm to themselves, others or EMS providers if they become violent and/or agitated. This sedative will help the EMS provider to safely evaluate and care for a patient with a potentially serious medical condition.”
The agenda continued, saying the substance is safe and effective for sedation. A meeting on multiple items, including that substance, will be held Aug. 11 at 8:30 a.m. It can be viewed online.
At the town hall at Beck Recreation Center in Aurora, exchanges were heated at times with some applause.
“There’s a reason why we’re here today,” said Jeanette Rodriguez, a Community Advisory Council co-chair. “There were problems in the city, there were problems with the way that business was being conducted in the city.”
Multiple questions were asked by the public. One of the key focuses was how the public can be assured authorities won’t go back to their old ways.
“I can’t give assurances about things that I have no direct control over,” said Jeff Schlanger, the founder of IntegrAssure. “I can tell you that we will be working with them to make sure that doesn’t happen. We will be working with them and watching them to make sure that doesn’t happen. We will be reporting to you to make sure that you understand that it isn’t happening.”
Another question came from a nine-year-old who asked why police can be so scary. Interim Police Chief Daniel Oates came to the front to answer the question. Oates replaced former Chief Vanessa Wilson, who was fired April 6.
“It’s not our intent to be scary and maybe one of the things we’ll learn through this five-year journey [of the] consent decree, is how to not portray that image,” Oates said. “We’re in this together.”
Other questions popped up including issues with use of force and community engagement. Another audience member asked what happens if authorities don’t follow the decree.
“Ultimately it is the court, this consent decree is filed with the court,” Schlanger said. “The court has the power to invoke sanctions, but the court and the parties also recognize that this is a process. Perhaps the greatest sanction is the failure to reach substantial compliance and to have me and the monitoring team in the hair of the police department, AFR, the city, for longer than the prescribed term of five years.”
Leaders at the town hall collected additional questions from the audience and said answers will be posted to the monitor website in the next week. The next meeting is expected to happen in about three months.
CORRECTION NOTE: This article was updated with an attribution June 23, 2023.