AURORA, Colorado (KKTV) – The city of Aurora released its 2019 results on the death of an unarmed black man.
Elijah McClain died on August 24, 2019 while meeting city police officers on his way back from a supermarket. The officers responded to an emergency call about a “suspect” in the area of the store and stopped McClain. Body camera recordings recorded the encounter; A partial protocol can be read here. Although he insisted not to do anything wrong, he was eventually put in a stranglehold by the police and sedated by paramedics after confronting police officers. He stopped breathing on the way to the hospital.
The death sparked outrage across the country and was the focus of several protests in Colorado last summer. Amid renewed focus on the case, Governor Jared Polis ordered an investigation into whether or not there was criminal misconduct, and the City of Aurora began investigating the actions of officers and paramedics and looking into whether policies needed to be changed.
Aurora City Council hired an independent investigation team in July 2020. The results of this investigation were published on the city’s website on Monday. The full 157-page report can be viewed here.
Investigators were tasked with investigating the incident and making policy recommendations so as not to assess whether there had been any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, the panel sharply criticized the police department for its weak accountability system and the officers’ accounts, which did not match what was reported by the body camera.
The panel’s conclusion is in part:
“The events leading up to Elijah McClain’s death quickly developed on the streets of Aurora, Colorado on August 24, 2019. He was brought to the police’s attention after an emergency call reported that he was wearing a ski mask on a summer evening, waving his arms and gesturing. Neither the caller nor any of the officers involved identified a crime of which Mr. McClain was suspected at the time it was first brought to the attention of the officers. Within seconds of leaving their cars, officers used violence against Mr. McClain for an extended period of time, including two attempted carotid fists. EMS waited almost seven minutes after arriving to interact with Mr. McClain, and their first contact was to administer the sedative ketamine. The investigation after the event was flawed and could not produce a meaningful record. These facts worry the panel. However, it was not our job to judge whether wrongdoing has occurred. Rather, our job was simply to report what we could learn from the records and make policy recommendations.
“The political recommendations of the panel can primarily be divided into three categories that urge the city to:
– Review of policies, training and oversight regarding the use of force and arrest practices
– Improvement of accountability systems, including more effective criminal offenses screening and mandatory internal affairs screening
– Clarify and strengthen a person’s transition from suspect to patient when EMS is called
Additionally, the panel noted that the city needs to review its policies, practices, education and culture for implicit bias, reform its crisis intervention system, maintain the independence of the EMS and consider the impact of options other than ketamine.
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