Briefline

Cost of state investigation into Aurora Police Department is $2.3M

By: - September 23, 2021 5:28 pm
Aurora protest

Protesters participate in the March Against Racism & Police Violence from Aurora to Denver on Aug. 30, 2020. Several hundred protesters marched 5 miles from Aurora to Denver on East Colfax Avenue in a demonstration against police brutality and in support of Black lives. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

A state investigation into the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue had a total price tag of nearly $2.3 million, according to a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office. The majority of the cost was covered by outside organizations and law enforcement experts who donated their time instead of billing the state.

The attorney general’s report, released Sept. 15, found that Aurora police showed a pattern and practice of racially biased policing, excessive use of force and “failing to record required information.” The investigators, who were under the direction of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, also found that Aurora Fire Rescue had a pattern and practice of illegally administering ketamine, a powerful sedative.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Colorado Senate Bill 20-217 — signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in June 2020 — authorized the state attorney general to conduct “pattern or practice” investigations into agencies accused of frequent illegal behavior. This authority has long been available to the U.S. Department of Justice, but only a few states give the same power to their top prosecutors.

The Aurora investigation took more than 6,000 hours of staff-performed, contracted and donated work, according to Lawrence Pacheco, communications director for Weiser’s office.

A team of 12 professionals at the department spent 4,210 hours on the pattern or practice investigation, Pacheco said, for a total internal cost of $465,000.

Former Arlington, Texas, police chief Theron Bowman was paid $19,950 by the Colorado Department of Law for 114 hours of contracted work on the investigation. Bowman donated an additional 172 hours of his time, Pacheco said.

Pacheco said a total of 2,000 work hours — equal to $1.8 million — were donated by Bowman, the law firms Bartlit Beck and Stoel Rives; the economic consulting firm Compass Lexecon; and data analysts Samantha Kappagoda and Dr. David Mordecai.

The $484,950 in employee time and contracted work, plus $1.8 million of donated time, adds up to a total cost of $2.28 million.

For comparison, the Department of Law’s budget request for the current fiscal year totaled $91.5 million, plus 525  full-time equivalent state positions.

Following the release of the report, city officials said they planned to cooperate with the attorney general’s office on next steps. Under new leadership, the department had already begun implementing some changes following public outcry over several high-profile incidents involving officers.

“I am proud to say the Aurora Police Department began the implementation of many changes over the last 21 months, while this and other investigations were ongoing,” Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in a Sept. 15 statement. “Those changes have improved overall policing, de-escalation training, community outreach and engagement.”

Following the release of the pattern-and-practice report, Weiser said he recommended and urged the city of Aurora to enter into a consent decree with his office. Such an agreement would dictate specific changes required of the police and fire departments to correct problems, along with ongoing independent oversight.

“How Aurora will enter a consent decree with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office will be determined in forthcoming meetings between city management and the AG’s team,” city spokesperson Ryan Luby told Newsline in a recent email.

Last legislative session, the department asked for and received the equivalent of two full-time, year-round positions to conduct pattern or practice investigations. The Department of Law doesn’t plan on asking state lawmakers for additional money to cover the costs of the Aurora investigation, Pacheco said in an email.

Rep. Leslie Herod, a Democrat from Denver who was a sponsor of SB-217, told reporters following the report’s release that she’d like to see additional investigations of other agencies as necessary.

“This comes down, quite frankly … to the resources that we give the attorney general,” said Herod, who serves on the Legislature’s budget committee.

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

MORE FROM AUTHOR