A new level of ‘community policing’ in Aurora

Metz announced last week a new Community Advisory Team made up of people not just from different cultures, ethnicities and religious backgrounds, but also from varying parts of the education and business community

AURORA | As he goes about making changes to Aurora police policies, Chief Nick Metz is going to be hearing from a diverse cross-section of the community.

Metz announced last week a new Community Advisory Team made up of people not just from different cultures, ethnicities and religious backgrounds, but also from varying parts of the education and business community.

20161201-Immigrant Forum-Aurora, Colorado

Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz speaks on a panel concerning immigrant policies, rights and mental health on Thursday Dec. 01, 2016 at Aurora Central High School. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

The goal, Metz said, is for a large swath of the community to have input on the direction of the department. That’s crucial, he said, because when the department makes adjustments going forward, community members will feel like they had a say in how the department changes.

“When we adopt certain protocols or strategies, whatever it is, we can say the community had input into it,” he said.

The group has 18 members now — including representatives from the NAACP, schools, Children’s Hospital Colorado, the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and others. The group likely won’t grow, Metz said, because the smaller group affords him a chance for closer bonds with various members.

“We will really be able to have some good, solid dialogue about the direction of the department,” he said.

The group, which will meet monthly, also gives Metz an avenue to communicate direclty with various groups which, he said, could be crucial if there is a controversy.

The city has for decades had the Key Community Response Team, another diverse group that  meets regularly with the chief. Metz said KCRT is still active and important to the department but this new group is different.

Where KCRT was designed to respond to controversies or other incidents, the new group is more forward looking and aimed at helping craft plans for the department’s future, he said.

Tamara Mohamed, director of community relations at the Aurora Chamber and one of the group’s members, said the group is a good way for police to communicate with segments of the community that might be underserved. That’s especially true for the pastors and other members who can serve as a direct line from the department to their particular community.

“They are able to relay messages back to their community and also address concerns from the people they are working with,” she said.