Aurora Black leaders call for an audit of APD after intelligence operation was unveiled

Listen Now
14min 38sec
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Adams County Justice Center in Brighton, Colorado, on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, site of the trial of Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema, who were among the Aurora police officers charged in the death of Elijah McClain.

Black leaders from the NAACP of Aurora and the Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance are calling for an outside audit into the Aurora Police Department’s intelligence unit after revelations the agency sent an officer to the courthouse during jury selection in the first trial of officers charged in the death of Elijah McClain.

“Everyone I’ve talked to about this is like, is this real? This can’t be real,” said Omar Montgomery, the head of the NAACP of Aurora. 

CPR News reported earlier this week that an APD plainclothes officer was milling around the courthouse during jury selection of the first trial of officers, listening to the voir dire of potential jurors. The officer also overheard a potential juror speaking on a cell phone to his mother in Honduras during a court break and told the judge that he said he hated police.

That juror, who was going to be on the panel during the first trial of the officers charged in McClain’s death, was ultimately kicked off the jury by the judge, hours before opening statements.

Former officers Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt were tried together last September for McClain’s death. Roedema was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and assault, and sentenced to 14 months in jail and four years of probation. Rosenblatt was acquitted of all charges. The jury in that trial appeared mostly white.

Aurora city officials acknowledged the police department sent the intelligence officer to the courthouse to determine whether there was any plot during jury selection to attack the Aurora Police headquarters, about 25 miles away. In July 2020, protesters surrounded the building and officers were stuck inside for about seven hours. No one was injured.

Montgomery said the news APD officers were at the courthouse, outside of their jurisdiction while their own officers were defendants, and monitoring potential jurors was unsettling. He would like an independent person to look at the decision.

“We need to make sure there is no witness intimidation, to make sure there is no jury tampering, and last but not least, we need to make sure that people’s First Amendment rights are not being violated through surveillance practices,” he said. 

Montgomery also noted that Sheneen McClain, Elijah McClain’s mother who attended many days of trials over four months, should feel comfortable at the courthouse and not like any undercover officers are there eavesdropping on conversations, he said.

In terms of courthouse security, Montgomery said, “There is court staff there for that, there are sheriff’s deputies there for that.” 

“That is not the job of the police department with their own officers on trial,” he said.

APD is under a consent decree imposed by the state attorney general’s office and is being forced to improve on various measures. 

Jeff Schlanger is the consent decree’s chief independent monitor and he said he couldn’t decide to capriciously look into something that doesn’t fall within the parameters of his authority. That includes the police department’s intelligence operations.

“I don’t want to prejudge the situation. There could be good reasons they were there or bad reasons they are there. Let’s assume they were there with good intentions and what happened happened,” he said. “It seems to me the duty of the officer was to report it, and I understand she tried to do that.”

Schlanger said he would need to be asked by the city to conduct an audit of this operation.

Aurora city officials and the police department didn’t respond to questions on this story.