Just a few weeks after an independent report determined that past Aurora Police Department leadership badly mishandled a situation involving an officer who passed out drunk on the job, the APD's interim chief has fired a rookie cop who was allegedly involved in his own drunk-driving incident last month.
"Since taking over as Aurora’s Interim Police Chief, I promised that I would not stand for or allow behavior like this in our agency," says Vanessa Wilson in a statement about the firing. "Our officers continue to be out in our community, every single day, during this unprecedented time. Their hard work and dedication should not be overshadowed with this one officer's decisions he made while off-duty."
The officer, Jaired Dozier, was allegedly involved in "an off-duty crash where alcohol was involved in Colorado Springs" on March 17, a release from the department notes. Dozier had been on restricted duty since the crash; in the meantime, the department's internal affairs unit had been looking into the incident.
Today, April 6, Wilson decided to fire Dozier, who had been with the APD since February 2019. Dozier had graduated from the police academy in August 2019 and, owing to his short tenure as an officer, was a probationary employee, which means that Wilson's decision "is final and cannot be appealed," according to the release. The internal affairs investigation will continue, the department says.
Dozier's firing comes as the department tries to raise its reputation with the public after hitting a low point last year.
In March 2019, Nathan Meier, an APD officer, was found passed out behind the wheel of his running police car with his foot on the brake. Paul O'Keefe, then deputy chief, decided against launching a DUI investigation of Meier and pursued the notion that he might have been suffering from a freak health episode. Meier later admitted to having been drinking vodka before getting in his police cruiser while wearing his uniform.
Nick Metz, the APD chief at the time, decided against firing Meier, opting instead for a suspension and rank reduction. Metz had plans to retire at the end of 2019, and O'Keefe was set to replace him as interim chief; after the Meier incident and the department's handling of the situation became public, O'Keefe announced that he'd be stepping down, too.
An independent investigation by John Walsh, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, determined that Metz and especially O'Keefe had severely mishandled the Meier incident. Walsh stopped short of saying that O'Keefe had engaged in a deliberate coverup, instead suggesting that O'Keefe had genuinely struggled over deciding whether to pursue an investigation.
Walsh also recommended a series of policy fixes that the department could implement in order to ensure that a similar fiasco never happens again. According to Wilson, and judging from her actions today, the department has already begun to implement some of those changes.
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