A long-standing agreement between Aurora and Denver could be in its final weeks. The cities of Aurora and Denver have a mutual aid agreement, stating that they may call upon each other for additional law enforcement resources when needed. Aurora City Council will vote to end the partnership after claims that Denver didn't hold up its end of the deal following protests in 2020.
Denver requested Aurora police officers for assistance during protests following the murder of George Floyd in the Summer of 2020.
Several people have since filed civil rights lawsuits against both cities and law enforcement officers in connection with injuries they allegedly suffered. Aurora claims it's spent a substantial amount of money defending itself and individual officers.
Aurora claims it has repeatedly asked Denver to confirm that it assumes responsibility for these claims as required by the state, but Denver refused.
Aurora filed a lawsuit in May, suing Denver over costs incurred by these lawsuits.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman says it's Denver's responsibility under the mutual aid agreement.
"It was our understanding that they would be indemnified. That they would be defended along with their own officers," said Coffman. "It's simply wrong to put to leave our officers out and not defend our officers along with our officers in these lawsuits."
According to the lawsuit:
"Part of this longstanding practice and course of conduct included an agreement and understanding that the requesting municipality would indemnify or otherwise assume responsibility for all claims arising out of the request for aid."
The lawsuit also claims:
"…The Aurora law enforcement officers who answered the call to aid performed their duties "subject to the direction and control" of the Denver chief of police."
Coffman says he and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock agree to disagree on this issue.
In a statement to CBS News Colorado, director of communications for Mayor Hancock, Mike Strott wrote:
"Mayor Hancock and Mayor Coffman spoke recently, and while the Mayor respects Mayor Coffman's position and is appreciative of the long-standing partnership between Denver and Aurora, there is a fundamental disagreement on this issue. We believe Aurora is taking an overly broad interpretation of the indemnity provisions in the mutual aid statute. Our legal teams have been in close contact on this question for months and agreed that asking the court – a neutral party – to decide the scope of indemnification was the best approach."
On July 17, Coffman will bring forward a proposal to be voted on by city council that will end Aurora's mutual aid agreement with Denver until they identify Aurora and APD officers who came to the aid of Denver in 2020.
Coffman also wants a signed statement by Denver Mayor-elect Mike Johnston, that spells out Denver's obligation to always indemnify APD officers when they call on us for assistance.
"Nobody ever thought that Denver would not honor what we believe was their commitment under a mutual aid agreement," said Coffman. "There's no question that we've lost trust in them, to where I'm requiring an agreement in writing signed by the mayor."
In a statement to CBS Colorado, Johnston's team wrote:
"We are aware that Aurora and Denver had a disagreement and decided that the best path to resolve this question was to ask the court for a decision on the appropriate terms of liability. As we await the court's decision, I look forward to working with Mayor Coffman and the City of Aurora to help ensure a safe and vibrant metro area."
Coffman says it's tragic this has made its way to court and he doesn't want the city to go through this again. He hopes to get assurance that Aurora officers would be supported in the next administration.
"I certainly hope that the new mayor and his administration act appropriately and say that we'll never do this again, that we will that we will honor what we believe is our moral obligation to any city that comes in at our request, under a mutual aid agreement to help protect our residents," said Coffman.
If his proposal passes and the mutual aid agreement with Denver ends, Coffman says Aurora has agreements with other cities that could step in if needed.
Coffman says since criminals don't respect city lines, APD and DPD will still work together and support each other on regular calls that don't require mass amounts of additional resources.
"We need to cooperate at that level. There's no question about that. But in terms of if Denver were to have problems again, like they did before when they called upon our officers, we won't be there."
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