DENVER, Colorado, U.S. (AP) – Colorado’s attorney general reported Wednesday that a civil rights investigation launched into outrage over Elijah McClain’s death found that the Aurora city police department has a pattern. of racial prejudice.
Attorney General Phil Weiser added that the investigation found that the department has long had a culture where officers treat people of color, especially blacks, differently than whites.
He said the agency also has a pattern of abuse of force, frequently escalating encounters with civilians, and not adequately documenting police interactions with residents.
“These actions are unacceptable. They injure people who have been entrusted with law enforcement, ”he stated.
Weiser urged the police department to commit to the recommended reforms in officer training, its policies on the use of force, and strengthened standards for police stops and detentions.
He promised that if the department does not do so, his office will seek a court order compelling him. However, he stressed that the department fully cooperated in the investigation.
The investigation, announced in August 2020, was the first of its kind, launched under a broad police accountability law passed in Colorado the previous month amid protests over George Floyd’s death. The investigation had started several weeks earlier, but was not revealed until the day McClain’s parents filed a lawsuit against the Aurora mayor’s office. The lawsuit alleges that the police treatment of McClain, a 23-year-old masseur, was part of a pattern of racially-prejudiced police behavior that has involved assault and violence against black people.
An accountability law prohibited police officers or other government agency employees from depriving people of their constitutional rights and gave the attorney general the power to enforce them.
Under the law, if an agency is found to have “a pattern or practice” of violating people’s rights, the attorney general must notify the agency of the reasons for that belief and give it 60 days to make changes. If the agency doesn’t do them, the attorney general can file a lawsuit to compel them.