AURORA | Aurora police have softened their rules surrounding officers shooting at moving vehicles, tweaking a rule that has long been unpopular with officers.
Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz issued the altered directive March 1, saying that an officer shooting at a vehicle — while still something they should avoid if at all possible — will no longer be a mandatory violation.
Under the department’s old rules, officers still faced departmental discipline for shooting at a vehicle, even if an officer was cleared by prosecutors of criminal wrongdoing, and even if prosecutors said the officer’s life was at risk.
In a memo released March 8, Metz said those cases will still be investigated internally, but officers might not face discipline in every case.
“The Department agrees that shooting at a moving vehicle can be incredibly dangerous, and should be avoided if at all possible,” Metz wrote. “However, we recognize that there may be those situations in which shooting at a moving vehicle would be a last resort action to save the life of another or themselves.”
Former Chief Dan Oates instituted the directive barring officers from shooting at vehicles not long after he took over in 2005.
The policy irked the police officers’ union and union leaders have said it was unfair because officers sometimes need to fire at a moving vehicle to defend themselves.
The policy made headlines in 2011, when the city paid close to $400,000 in a settlement after police shot at a truck driven by several auto part thieves.
Prosecutors cleared the officers of wrongdoing, but citing the fact that the officers violated the directive, the city attorney’s office settled with one man who was wounded and the family of one who was killed.
In December, Aurora police officers shot and killed a man who rammed a Jeep into a Denver 7-Eleven. That case is still under investigation.