Aurora won’t deploy officers to Denver during protests until Denver agrees to protect them from all liability

An agreement between Denver and Aurora that allowed the two cities to deploy their police officers to help each other during protests has been suspended after an Aurora City Council vote on Monday night.

Aurora won’t be sending its officers to Denver, as it did during the 2020 racial justice protests after the killing of George Floyd, until Denver agrees to fully indemnify — or take on full legal responsibility — for Aurora officers’ actions during such events.

The Aurora City Council voted in favor of the resolution, 5-4, with Councilmembers Ruben Medina, Alison Coombs, Juan Marcano and Curtis Gardner voting against it.

While several of the members who opposed it said they believed Denver should indemnify Aurora’s officers after such events, a new Denver mayor was sworn in just hours before the meeting. Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman could not come to an agreement with then-Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, but he should try to come to one with Mayor Mike Johnston, they said.

“This document is a big giant middle finger to Denver,” Gardner said.

The resolution states that it would not apply to day-to-day police operations between the two agencies, but Gardner said he worried that unofficially it would make it more difficult for Aurora’s officers who try to work with Denver to solve crimes.

But Coffman said the resolution gives him leverage to negotiate with the new Denver mayor.

“Fourteen million dollars — that was the payout so far from Denver (for lawsuit settlements to protesters) on behalf of their officers,” Coffman said. “This is not a small matter.”

Police repeatedly used excessive force against demonstrators, according to a report from Denver’s police watchdog, but a lack of accurate recordkeeping made it difficult to determine which officers or agencies were responsible for the violence.

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against Denver and its officers related to the use of excessive force during the protests, and Aurora and its officers have also been named in several lawsuits.

The city of Aurora is also waiting for an order from a judge after suing Denver over the same issue — Denver disagrees that the city should cover legal costs for Aurora’s officers over civil rights violations, saying Aurora’s interpretation is overly broad. But unlike Denver, Coffman said he doesn’t want to wait for the courts to make a decision before protecting Aurora’s officers.

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