The Aurora Police Department (APD) is taking innovative steps to address a staffing shortage while prioritizing diversity and community representation in line with a consent decree issued by the Colorado attorney general.
At the city’s recent Global Fest celebration, APD recruiters engaged with attendees to explain the department’s commitment to representing the wider community.
Officer Abdul Syidi, an APD recruiter, highlighted the need for a diverse pool of qualified candidates.
“We’re looking for good, qualified folks that are here and find them from the diverse pool of residents we have in the metro area who could be good police officers.”
This effort is in line with a comprehensive 80-page recruiting plan mandated by a consent decree issued following the tragic death of Elijah McClain in 2019.
The decree seeks to overhaul how the Aurora Police force interacts with individuals of color and employs force.
Jeff Schlanger, an independent monitor overseeing the consent decree’s implementation, stressed the importance of continuous improvement.
“The consent decree is really all about instilling a culture about continuous improvement,” he said.
Over the past year and a half, Schlanger said his team has collaborated with the police department to draft new policies in areas like biased policing and use of force, with an eye toward creating a more diverse and effective force.
With the consent decree influencing change, APD is actively working to increase the number of incoming officers.
“We expect a class size coming in September far greater than those that have preceded it,” Schlanger stated, projecting a class size of at least 40 for the next recruitment cycle.
Officer Syidi also touted the benefits of a representative police force.
“I think it breaks barriers. It’s a lot easier to talk to a human being directly in front of you trying to listen to you, sympathize and empathize with what’s going on compared to maybe handing a phone to someone saying, ‘Can you talk to this stranger? They want to know what happened to you.’”
Despite initial changes and efforts, scepticism remains about the lasting impact of the consent decree. Reid Hettich, lead pastor of Mosaic Church of Aurora and a co-chair of the consent-decree monitor’s Community Advisory Council, acknowledged the challenges of achieving tangible change.
It’s paper change more than anything at the moment … You don’t get that payoff for a couple more years.”
The consent decree, a result of a collaboration between the city of Aurora and the Colorado attorney general, encompasses a wide range of reforms, including changes in policy, training, hiring practices, use-of-force protocols, accountability and transparency for both the police and fire departments.
While striving to complete the consent decree’s requirements, the APD has undergone further policy updates and changes, such as annual training to prevent biased policing, a constitutional policing policy that aligns actions with evidence and a new use-of-force policy developed in collaboration with external experts.
Schlanger also commended the department’s progress and noted the change in leadership philosophy under interim Chief Acevedo’s guidance.
“It really was a failure of leadership,” Schlanger said of the department prior to its policy overhaul. “The failure is in not having the right policies, not having the right training, not having methods by which the operational integrity of the men and women of the department are checked appropriately, a lack of appropriate supervision. Those aren’t really the fault of those being supervised, those are the fault of those in charge of the department.”
While consent decrees are recognized as effective tools for reform, they are not standalone solutions. Dr. Alex del Carmen, a criminology professor, argues that consent decrees should serve as a foundation for community-driven change.
“It will not fix all problems, but it is a remedy that the community can build upon,” del Carmen explained.
In Aurora, community leaders like Omar Montgomery, president of the Aurora Branch of the NAACP, recognized the ongoing challenges and varying perspectives regarding the decree’s impact, but remains optimistic about future progress.