Aurora Police: Not Accountable

Two stories in this week’s issue make the Aurora (Colo.) Police Dept. look very bad. Let’s start with the stories from the 12 January 2020 issue, and then explore why they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Friends Who Let Friends Drive Drunk

“He’s a little intoxicated,” said Eugene VanDyk as he found a colleague passed out drunk in the middle of a road. We know that because VanDyk was wearing a body camera: he’s a police officer in Aurora, Colo., and his colleague, Ofc. Nathan Meier, was on duty and in uniform at the wheel of his unmarked police car, which was running and in gear, but his foot was on the brake. Other officers at the scene noted Meier’s signs of intoxication, but none of them arrested him, started a DUI investigation, or even requested a blood alcohol test. “I unequivocally stand by my decision” to demote and suspend Meier, rather than fire him, said Chief Nick Metz in an internal memo to officers, “because I care about the human being who stepped up and owned his incredibly poor decision … and continues to courageously own it.” The memo, obtained by the media via an open records law request, also complains of the “inaccurate media spin” on the case, but that was before the department also was forced to give up the bodycam recordings for the same reason. On the other hand, the chief also told his officers, “I don’t want this to become a distraction from a message I want all of you to hear loud and clear, which is this: If you make a mistake, OWN YOUR S**T.” (RC/Denver Post) …(“Applies only to police officers. ‘OWN IT’ form must be filled out completely. Limit 2 per officer. Offer may be subject to other conditions or be withdrawn at any time.”)

and

Screw the Widows and Orphans

Roland Albert was sentenced to 18 months in prison, five years of probation, and ordered to pay restitution for the more than $65,000 he stole, plus interest. He also resigned from his job — as a police officer in Aurora, Colo. The victims in the case: Aurora Police Orphans Fund, and the Brotherhood for the Fallen Aurora; Albert had been the treasurer for both non-profits. Even Albert’s own son thought the lenient treatment for his dad was “embarrassing.” Caleb Albert is studying to be a police officer himself. Aurora Police Sgt. Tim Jeffery, one of the founders the Brotherhood for the Fallen Aurora, which funds travel expenses for officers to attend the funerals of officers killed on the job in other cities, said Albert “sullied the name of law enforcement across the country.” In a statement to the court, former Ofc. Albert said, “I’m now looked at as an embarrassment, a thief and a crook.” (RC/Denver Post) …That’s correct: just as you felt about the people you arrested for similar crimes.

Multiple Issues in the Department

The now-former Chief Metz.
(Photo: Aurora P.D.)

Two Citizens Called 911 for the unconscious police officer in Colorado, apparently knowing he was a police officer. Once the memo and video footage want public, Police Chief Metz refused all media interviews and requests for comment about what he wrote, or the decisions he made on the case. In a “surprise” twist, Metz announced his retirement after the two incidents, but before the thieving officer was sentenced, and before the drunk officer case went public.

The drunk officer incident didn’t come to light until long after it happened, on March 29, 2019. Metz’s deputy chief was the first one to arrive (and was named interim chief while the city goes through a hiring process to find a permanent replacement). Firefighters had to smash a window to get into the car, and immediately reported the alcohol-related odor. The district attorney is looking into the case, but noted that statements Meier made to Internal Affairs investigators can’t be used as evidence.

It’s patently obvious that a mere civilian would not be afforded such lenient treatment. “I don’t like double standards for law enforcement,” Aurora City Councilman Juan Marcano said. “If you were a civilian, that would have gotten you charged with multiple counts.”

Body camera image showing Ofc. Meier being removed from his patrol car, on duty but drunk to the point of unconsciousness. A window had to be smashed to get to him. (Click to see larger.)

Meier had several years of experience as an officer in other departments, and was hired despite admitting that he had been “investigated for improper conduct or illegal activities” at a previous job, and had been reprimanded. He also admitted that he had “engaged in undetected theft of goods or property” on his application. Clearly, he has been the beneficiary of a “second chance” on more than one occasion. We can hope that he not only “continues to courageously own it,” but learns from it and gets help for his obvious alcohol problem.

As for Ofc. Roland Albert, after he was charged with two counts of felony theft, he resigned and apparently disappeared. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and weeks later Albert was found and arrested …in Florida.

But Wait: There’s More

These are not the only embarrassing recent incidents for Aurora P.D. — by far. In August, Ruth Brassell, 60, an administrative assistant, and Alice Jackson, 67, the department’s volunteer and intern coordinator, were both charged with theft of gift cards contributed by department employees to help federal employees hurt by the government shutdown.

In November, Detective Craig Appel was confronted after billing $81,043.31 for 1,161 hours of overtime while he was assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Investigators found he was using much of that time not trying to thwart terrorists, but rather going to yoga classes, shopping, hunting, jogging, bike riding, and doing other personal tasks.

Duty, Honor, Integrity?
This badge is tarnished.

“Detective Appel said that he was only working 50% of the overtime hours he submitted and was paid for,” the investigative report noted. “Detective Appel said 50% of the time he was legitimately working.” He was not only not charged with any crime, he got to keep the $40,000+ in fraudulently billed overtime!

”We specifically wanted to confirm whether or not the FBI was intending to criminally charge our employee,” Chief Metz said after that investigation. “We were told that the monetary loss was not egregious enough to conduct a criminal investigation and/or request charges.” Thus, he allowed Appel to retire.

Det. Appel was previously disciplined after an Internal Affairs investigation in 2001 for “making a false/incomplete/untruthful declaration.” He was suspended without pay for a week in that case. Again, a second chance wasted.

These are just a few of the problems I found at Aurora P.D. with a quick Google search. I’m confident there are more.

In An Interview after he announced his retirement after serving less than five years as chief, Metz proudly noted that “This is not a department that needs to be fixed.”

I beg to differ.

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17 Comments on “Aurora Police: Not Accountable

  1. I live in an area (Tampa Bay) which obviously isn’t immune to the issues affecting policing, but from what I’ve seen, the local authorities in cities like Tampa and Clearwater seem to have figured out how to do a fair and honest job. It’s a shame that one of Denver’s more prominent suburbs doesn’t get it.

    And don’t talk to me about “one bad apple”. That’s an insult to apples.

    Reply
    • I just wish they’d use the full, original form when talking about apples. The most common that I see is “one bad apple spoils the bunch”. They need to get rid of the bad apples and block them from being able to move from department to department like Officer Meier:

      Meier had several years of experience as an officer in other departments, and was hired despite admitting that he had been “investigated for improper conduct or illegal activities” at a previous job, and had been reprimanded. He also admitted that he had “engaged in undetected theft of goods or property” on his application.

      He never should have been hired in the first place.

      Reply
  2. <sarcasm>It’s good to know that bad cops who get canned in other jurisdictions still have a place that will accept them with open arms.</sarcasm>

    Reply
  3. Randy, you’re right as rain. It’s an embarrassment to Aurora but to police everywhere. That the chief stepped down and did nothing was further proof that something smells and it’s not the fish. No sense of honor.

    Reply
  4. I actually agree with his statement, “This is not a department that needs fixed.” It sounds like it needs disbanding and once some leadership is engaged that has integrity and professionalism, then form and build a new department from the ground up.

    Reply
  5. I have a few issues with the police, but this is my biggest one: that thin blue line. They stick together. No matter what. I consider that wrong.

    Reply
  6. Sounds like our police here in Grant County NM.

    It the past few years, we’ve had one police Captain kill his girlfriend and himself after multiple reports of abuse were ignored by fellow cops, and another kill his ex-wife (that one was covered on “Dateline NBC”) again after fellow officers ignored reports of domestic violence.

    Another cop was arrested for domestic violence, child abuse, cocaine, and aggravated DUI. He cut off an ankle bracelet and came back to town to kill his wife, but the police stopped him and ended up shooting him in the neck (not mortally). That case is still pending, but he comes from a whole family of police officers, many of whom have also been charged with similar crimes. When one of his relatives was reported for domestic abuse, the dispatcher told officers “It’s an *last name*, so, you know what I mean, just so you know.”

    Another officer’s brother in law was killed by another cop under suspicious circumstances and no charges were filed and yet another officer was fired for domestic violence, only to get hired by a town just two miles away.

    Then we had a DA who was reported and recorded by a citizen as driving very erratically, nearly hitting several oncoming vehicles. When she was finally stopped, she had slurred speech and gave various accounts of the direction she had been coming from. She was described by a rookie as being “loaded” and was caught on body cam practicing the heel to toe walk, but she was not tested and allowed to leave after officers fixed a flat tire caused by her hitting a curb. She eventually pleaded guilty to minor traffic violations, but she has refused to resign.

    I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but Jon and Tom’s comments are spot on. A cop who ignores or excuses bad behavior by a fellow cop is also a bad cop. Helping a criminal get away with a crime is also a crime, or at least it is if you don’t have a badge.

    Pathetic and out of control. -rc

    Reply
  7. When I was assigned to a military police unit they had a saying, “cops are just borderline criminals”. We had at least one instance of the crew of MP’s who decided to steal stuff from a warehouse and resell it, and got caught.

    Reply
  8. Too many people seem to think that having a career in the service of the public means that, as a fellow member of the ‘public’, they get to be ‘serviced’ first and hang the consequences so long as they are happy. It’s called corruption for a reason. It stinks!

    Reply
  9. These small independent police departments seem to be unique to the United State. Other countries that I am familiar with have a State Police or National Police Force responsible for the entire county or state, there is no such thing as a small Police Department responsible for a single town.

    This does not eliminate inefficiency or corruption, which exists in every organization. But it does standardize law-enforcement so that you can’t have a single town with the ability to get away with this type of shenanigans without it becoming a National incident that the Government Minister responsible for the Police Force would have to take responsibility for.

    Reply
    • I’ve had two Irish brother’s in law and my sister currently resides in County Kerry, and it’s my understanding that in Ireland you cannot be a police officer in the County you grew up in. I wish more areas of the US would adopt this policy.

      Reply
      • in pennsylvania if you become a state police officer you can not serve in your area of state you were raised in, meaning if you were born in the northeast you had to serve a few years at the other end of the state.

        Reply
  10. What do you expect?

    Officers learn that they can violate the law and get away with it. It starts with the small things and goes from there. When an officer commits a traffic violation, other officers are unlikely to issue a citation, thereby obstructing justice. There should be no choice to not issue a citation and the officer who sees the violation should be charged with obstruction of justice if the officer doesn’t fully cooperate in enforcing the charges. This would help prevent officers from learning that the law doesn’t apply to them.

    Reply
  11. I wonder which is sadder: that there will undoubtedly be obliviots protest-unsubscribing for Randy’s “apparent ‘anti-police’ stance”; or that I’m looking forward to hearing about them? Because you just *know* that there are people out there who think those in authority are above reproach or criticism.

    I think all of those types unsubscribed long ago. Especially after my post, Don’t Talk to the Cops!

    Reply
  12. Owning it? For us ‘peasants’, that is known as a CONFESSION TO A CRIME! So why is it that a cop can confess to a crime to other cops and get away with it?

    Reply

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