Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz in September announced his retirement after four years with the department in a letter posted to the Aurora Police Department's (APD) Facebook page.
Metz wrote that he plans to stick around until the end of the year to work with city management and APD command staff during the transition of leadership.
In recent weeks, Metz has responded to protests at the ICE facility— including one where protesters took down flags.
He's overseen several high-profile investigations, including the shooting of Richard Gary Black at the man's home last year.
Metz worked in Seattle for more than 30 years before coming to Aurora.
9NEWS sat down with Metz to chat about his 36-year career in law enforcement and what's next.
(Editor's note: Responses have been edited for context and clarity.)
9NEWS: Highlight of your career over the 36 years in law enforcement and as Aurora Chief?
Metz: Knowing I’ve been accessible to the community and that I care about the community, and that I care about our cops. It could be difficult to walk that tight rope between the community and the internal.
You’re never going to make everybody happy, but you certainly do your best to walk that fine line in making sure that the concerns of the community and the concerns of the department are always in consideration with whatever decision you make.
Both in Seattle and here is my work with Behind the Badge and Colorado Fallen, two foundations that provide assistance to police agencies and families when there’s a line-of-duty death of an officer.
What's the most difficult decision you’ve had to make?
I don’t know if I can think of one particular decision. The ones I agonize over are when I have to make a decision about somebody’s career, when I have to...make the decision whether or not to fire somebody. That is one I don’t take lightly because you recognize what the impacts are going to be on that individual and their family.
Probably my biggest regret here is that we have not solved the case and have not found Lashaya Stine' young girl, 16, that went missing about three years ago.
It was a full department deployment trying to find her in those first days. We still put messages out about her hoping to get information, but we haven’t found her.
My heart absolutely breaks for that family because they just don’t know. They don’t know where she is, they don’t know how she’s doing, and I cannot imagine the anguish they’re going through. Especially having two daughters, it really makes it difficult.
What’s one thing you wish you would have been able to change that you didn’t get to?
When I got here, one of my first priorities was that I wanted to create an investigative unit that was focused on investigating domestic violence. We were one of the few major cities in the country that didn’t have a dedicated unit.
But because of budget issues and other staffing priorities and things like that, we weren’t able to accomplish that goal until this year, and actually it hasn’t been fully approved yet. I’m optimistic it will be, especially now after they see this on TV.
Most pressing issue facing Aurora?
We have a lot of pressing issues, but domestic violence is a major factor in our communities. I think people think of domestic violence as a crime that only occurs in the poorer neighborhoods.
It crosses every gamut. It doesn’t matter whether you’re white black, whether you’re rich, poor – it’s prevalent. The biggest concern I have with domestic violence is the non-reporting of it, that people are worried that if they report, what kind of retaliation will they face, are they going to be supported by law enforcement through that process.
We want to make sure people reporting to domestic violence know that there will be a process within the agency that will specialize on how to work through these kinds of things.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen?
When I came on, we didn’t have tasers. We didn’t have body worn cameras. Most cops carried revolvers instead of semi-automatics… The cars were very different; we didn’t have computers in the cars.
I’m really happy and pleased to see over the last few years where officer wellness has now become a very important topic. It was pretty disheartening for a while for those of us who were really trying to push that narrative that some of those who have been in the profession for a long time kind of had the attitude, 'You just have to suck it up.'
So, we’re finally starting to make that topic and discussion a much more frequent narrative.
Well I’m going to go work for my wife, so a few people are thinking I’m nuts. But my wife is a public safety psychologist, and she does a lot of work with first responders.
It’s kind of been a dream of ours to combine resources. Her coming from the psychologist area and me coming from law enforcement and being able to bring those together and say, 'Here are my experiences and these are the challenges I’ve had'...and begin to give back and take care of our folks. I plan to go back to school and finish my master’s in counseling and focus that counseling on first responders and maybe even military.
Message to your officers as you leave?
I can’t thank them enough. I … this is where it gets hard… for those who chose this career there’s not a more noble profession. ... To know that every time you put this badge on and to know that … you put yourself in harm's way and that your family supports you doing that job knowing that you may not come home at the end of shift, and you go out there and give the community your very best .. I’m in awe of that every day.
... This is not a job for them; it’s a calling. And you can't do this job effectively unless you look at it as a calling.
My parting comments to my folks and every cop who sees this is my number one priority for you is you go home after [your] shift physically and emotionally healthy, and that’s a direct order.
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