Fired Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo takes the job in Colorado

DENVER (AP) — Fired Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo will become the youngest interim police chief in a Colorado city where officers and paramedics are facing criminal charges in the 2019 death of a black man.

Aurora, a sprawling, diverse city east of Denver, said Tuesday that Acevedo has reached out to local officials and offered to serve as the city’s second interim police chief while the search for a permanent police chief drags on.

After heading departments in Austin and Houston, Acevedo was hired as Miami’s police chief last year. The city’s mayor hailed him as Michael Jordan and Tom Brady among the police chiefs. However, Acevedo caused controversy by taking over the internal affairs unit, which investigates police misconduct, and making significant changes to its command staff.

He was fired after six months on the job.

Acevedo later sued, saying his firing was in retaliation for speaking out against corruption and reporting abuses of power by elected officials.

In April, Aurora fired his hired police chief while he was being investigated for the killing of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, who was placed in a chokehold by an officer and injected with a powerful sedative. The fatal encounter sparked a national outcry during protests against racial injustice in 2020.

In an Aurora press release announcing his hiring, Acevedo said the city reminded him of Houston because both are diverse and culturally rich.

“As a bilingual Cuban-American born in Cuba and raised in the United States, I am intimately familiar with the challenges faced by diverse communities like Aurora, and I applaud the city’s simultaneous efforts to combat crime and changes in the community implement public safety to better reflect the people it serves,” he said.

Former police chief Vanessa Wilson was hired in 2020. She attempted to introduce reforms into the Aurora Police Department, and her attorneys claimed she was the victim of a conspiracy by the city and council members who blamed her for long-standing problems at the department.

Last year, Aurora signed an agreement with Attorney General Phil Weiser to make changes aimed at ending a pattern of racially biased policing and excessive violence. Previously, Wilson also acted quickly to discipline and fire officers accused of misconduct, including officers who took and shared photos to mock McClain’s death.

After Wilson’s fall, Aurora’s former police chief, Dan Oates, came out of retirement to serve as interim chief. However, Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said the city knew his time with the department would be short and that Oates would return to his Florida home and family after transitioning from Acevedo in early December. He thanked Oates for his service and praised Acevedo.

“Chief Acevedo has been a fixture in the national law enforcement community for years and has been vocal in calling for needed and measured improvements in policing and public safety across the country. We are honored that he has reached out to us to assist with the ongoing public safety changes we are implementing,” Twombly said in the announcement.