DENVER, CO – Lawmakers representing Aurora today released the following joint statement after Attorney General Phil Weiser announced an ongoing patterns and practices review of the Aurora Police Department, as authorized under Section 13 of SB20-217:
“Today’s announcement that the Attorney General’s Office has an ongoing patterns and practices investigation into the Aurora Police Department after several high-profile cases involving community members of color, represents a monumental shift in the future of policing in Colorado.
“The inclusion of pattern and practice investigative authority was one of the most crucial provisions in SB20-217, the police accountability bill we passed earlier this year. Rather than focusing only on individual issues, this review will examine the behavior of the police department as a whole, potentially going back several years. To achieve full accountability and to eliminate structural and systemic problems in an organization, it is necessary to look broadly and deeply, and this is exactly what we expect this investigation to do.
“We also fully support the reforms that Chief Vanessa Wilson is seeking to make, and we will work to ensure that the department cooperates with the Attorney General’s investigation. Aurora is hurting, and we believe that this investigation and the cultural changes we hope it will bring can heal the deep wounds that divide our beloved community.”
The Aurora delegation includes Reps. Janet Buckner, Dominique Jackson, Mike Weissman, Jovan Melton, and Dafna Michaelson Jenet; and Sens. Nancy Todd, Rhonda Fields, and Jeff Bridges. In recent days, the lawmakers have worked with the Attorney General’s office to explore possible grounds for a patterns and practices investigation based on the department’s extensive record of unchecked, systemic racism.
Section 13 of SB20-217 makes it unlawful in Colorado for any government authority, including law enforcement departments, to “engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by peace officers… that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution of the United States or the State of Colorado.” The provision grants the Attorney General the authority, when there is reasonable cause, to file a civil action to eliminate the pattern or practice.