Aurora to hire independent monitor to oversee police accountability in wake of Elijah McClain report

McClain family

Elijah McClain

Aurora leaders will hire an independent monitor to oversee discipline and accountability in the city’s police department, the city manager announced one day after the release of a damning report into the death of Elijah McClain in police custody.

“I will be pursuing with mayor and council the establishment of an independent monitor to help us enhance the accountability and transparency of the police department and to gain the trust of the public,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said during a news conference Tuesday.

The announcement follows the release Monday of an independent investigation into McClain’s 2019 death after a violent arrest by Aurora police and an injection of the sedative ketamine by city paramedics. The review found the department’s internal investigation to be deeply flawed and that the detectives who ran the investigation stretched the truth to exonerate the officers.

Twombly said the report exposed “a failure of a system of accountability.”

Discussions about civilian oversight of the Aurora Police Department have been ongoing since 2019, when a series of high-profile injuries and killings by police prompted outcry in the city. A task force of community members has been working for more than a year to clarify what they want the oversight to look like and are expected to present their recommendations soon.

Aurora police Chief Vanessa Wilson said during the news conference that she supported the hiring of an independent monitor. If Aurora creates the position, it will be the third Colorado city to do so. Denver established an Office of the Independent Monitor in 2005 and Boulder hired a monitor in July.

“I believe Chief Wilson has made great strides in holding officers accountable and putting into effect policies and training to improve the department,” Twombly said. “However, a system of accountability should not be dependent on who sits in the chief’s chair. It needs to be put into place so that it functions and represents the community’s desire for constitutional, unbiased and respectful policing that holds officers accountable. I believe an independent monitor can help us achieve that.”

But details around the new position and its role are not clear. City spokesman Ryan Luby said in response to questions from The Denver Post that it was too early in the process to say what the timeline for hiring an independent monitor will be, what the parameters of the role will be and who in the city the monitor would report to.

Last year, the city hired an internal auditor to review police policy and procedures. The auditor, who started Jan.1, joins the team of auditors that routinely evaluate a swath of city policies and reports to Twombly.