It could take weeks for the Aurora Police Department to publish its investigation into officers who posed for photos near where the same department violently arrested Elijah McClain last year, leading to his death.
Acting Police Chief Vanessa Wilson promised Monday night that she would release the entire investigation once it was completed. The investigation was completed Monday night, but the department is waiting until the entire disciplinary process is over before releasing more information.
If any of the officers involved decides to appeal the decision, it could be weeks or months before the police share the information with the public.
“Nothing is final yet, and that is why we have not released anything,” said Detective Faith Goodrich, an Aurora police spokeswoman.
Wilson met Tuesday morning with the department’s internal Behavior Review Board, which recommends what discipline should be taken. Goodrich did not say what discipline was recommended or if Wilson had made a final decision. After officers are informed of the discipline, they have time to choose whether to accept or appeal it.
Goodrich said the earliest the information will be released is later this week. She did not know what information, if any, the department would disclose if officers appealed the discipline. In a previous case, the department withheld all information, except for the disciplinary decision and the name of the officer awaiting the appeal process.
The department opened an investigation Thursday into the photos, which CBS4 shows show that officers are pretending to use carotid strangles on each other. Aurora police used the same choke on McClain, 23, while detaining him on August 24 before a paramedic injected him with the heavy sedative ketamine. McClain, accused of having committed no crime, died at a local hospital several days later after being declared brain dead.
Goodrich said the photos were reported by another Aurora police officer.
McClain’s death has attracted international attention in the past two weeks after weeks of protests around the world against police brutality and police killings of black people. Hundreds of people gathered in Aurora on Saturday to protest McClain’s death and honor his life, although many of the largely peaceful protesters were driven from the municipal center lawn by Aurora police.
“It’s not that we don’t want to disclose that information, but if it interferes with civil service appeals, the decision could be reversed,” Goodrich said.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said Tuesday he was “deeply concerned” about the investigation, but will not comment until the internal review is complete.
The investigation has ended, though police say they will not release the photos or other information about the case because doing so could jeopardize the appeal process.
The public still doesn’t know what caused Wilson to fire Officer Levi Huffine in February. The department said Huffine was guilty of “severe misconduct”, but declined to say what he did, where the incident occurred, or when it occurred, citing an ongoing appeal by Huffine.
Huffine’s appeal is scheduled for the end of September, more than seven months after his dismissal.
The department’s practice of withholding records until the appeal process is complete differs from that used by the Denver Police Department. The Denver Department of Public Safety regularly publishes case information once a disciplinary decision has been made, regardless of whether the officer appeals that decision.
A state law passed in 2019 aimed at increasing transparency in police discipline does not require agencies to publish internal affairs documents until the appeals process is complete.
The Aurora police leadership is slated to appear before the City Council at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to explain their response to Saturday’s protests, although the discussion now will likely also include the internal affairs case.