Aurora, CO

Aurora vows to continue police reforms, asks public to report misconduct

David Heitz

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IntegrAssure CEO Jeff Schlanger is flanked by Reid Hettich and Omar Montgomery, who will lead a community advisory council..AuroraTV

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Aurora's independent monitor asked residents to notify him about police misconduct during a town hall meeting.

In addition to serving as an independent monitor for Aurora, Jeff Schlanger is chief executive officer of IntegrAssure, the firm Aurora hired to ensure it carries out a court-ordered consent decree.

"We always will call things as we see them and hold the city's feet to the fire," Schlanger said. But he said the firm also would offer advice.

After Elijah McClain died in police custody, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser opened an investigation into the Aurora Police Department. That led to a consent decree, or an agreement to bring substantive change to the department by enacting reforms.

Less than 30 people attended the town hall, held at the Aurora Municipal Building and on AuroraTV. Most were people of color. The discussion proved civil compared to public comment at City Council meetings.

Aurora demonstrates 'exemplary cooperation'

So far, Schlanger said Aurora has shown "exemplary cooperation" with IntegrAssure. One woman said she worried the City Council might undo any good from the consent decree.

Aurora's City Council is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Debate at meetings can be volatile, with the Republican mayor casting the tie-breaking vote.

When the conservative council came into power last fall, the chief came under attack. The city manager fired her two weeks ago, citing a lack of leadership.

Schlanger said he couldn't control the City Council. But he said acting police chief Chris Juul is as committed to enacting reforms as former Police Chief Vanessa Wilson.

Hettich, Montgomery to lead Community Advisory Council

Schlanger announced a Community Advisory Council would collect information from the public soon. Its task is to determine whether the community believes the department is enacting true reform. The Rev. Reid Hettich of Mosaic Church of Aurora and Omar Montgomery, president of the Aurora chapter of the NAACP, will co-chair the group.

"We have seen that consent decrees can bring about tremendous change to a community," Schlanger said. He said that regulating the community's trust will make police work safer and reduce crime.

Alleged police brutality victim speaks

One man at the town hall said Aurora police continue to use excessive force. He brought a man who said an officer put him in a karate hold, then shocked him and knocked him to the ground before standing on him. The officer still has his job.

Juul and Schlanger assured the men they would investigate the incident. "We'll investigate all incidents," Juul said, repeatedly vowing to follow all reforms.

Are cops mentally healthy?

A woman expressed concern about the mental health of police officers. After all, they experience trauma every day, she said.

Juul said the department has safeguards to make sure officers remain mentally healthy. "We know the better state of mind we're in, the better for the community," Juul said.

Task force's work not in vain

Several people who spoke want to make sure work from a previous task force charged with brainstorming police reforms continues. City Manager Jim Twombly said the city will include those recommendations as "pieces of a matrix that we need to knit together."

Residents need to know the city will continue to be held accountable.

Under the consent decree, Aurora must make reforms to reduce racial bias and train police to reduce the use of force.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career at local newspapers. Today, I report on Denver and Aurora city halls for NewsBreak. Prior to joining NewsBreak, I worked several years as a health reporter and branded content writer in the healthcare space. I also worked many years as a news editor and city editor. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver.

Denver, CO
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