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Expert says Aurora PD consent decree could take years to complete

Danny Murphy oversaw consent decrees in Baltimore and New Orleans.

DENVER — Danny Murphy is regarded as one of the country's leading voices on police consent decrees. Until recently, he was in charge of implementing the consent decree at the Baltimore Police Department and, before that, at New Orleans Police. 

He now consults with law enforcement agencies across the country to implement reforms.

Murphy said before the consent decree is signed between the Colorado Attorney General and the Aurora Police Department, the two organizations have to agree on specific goals and reforms, typically in areas like use of force, biased policing, and stops, searches and arrests.  

“The length of the negotiation process in federal consent decrees can vary somewhat significantly,” Murphy said. “I think it's in everyone's best interest to come to an agreeable set of meaningful reforms as soon as possible.”

In a written statement, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said, “In the coming weeks, we will work with the Attorney General’s Office to determine how to implement necessary and sustainable changes.” 

Assuming an agreement is reached, Murphy said the real work will then begin: Re-writing department policies, changing the way the department trains officers, and making sure reforms are happening according to a specific timeline.

“Consent decrees aren't just about policy and training, they're all about performance, and performing in line with community expectations, and the department is going to have to prove at the end of the day that they're performing in line with the new reforms,” Murphy said.

And if they don't perform, Murphy said there will be serious consequences.

“There will be baked into this consent decree process real accountability measures to ensure that the reforms are enacted at the end of the day,” Murphy said. “In various decrees, there have been receiverships, where the agency is effectively taken over by someone outside the agency.”

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