Colorado officer found drunk in patrol car while on duty will not be charged

A Colorado police officer who was found drunk in his patrol car while on duty will not be charged with a crime because of insufficient evidence, a prosecutor said.

"I am incredibly frustrated with an agency that I put a great deal of trust in," 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler told KDVR. "I think that they are an incredible law enforcement agency. I think it's embarrassing for the 99.9% of men and women there that they have to go through the community with this kind of thing hanging over their head."

Brauchler learned about the incident 257 days after it happened when it was published in news reports, KUSA reported.

Aurora police Officer Nate Meier was found passed out inside a running patrol car while on duty March 29, 2019, KDVR reported.

Responding officers decided not to pursue an investigation because they could not rule out Meier's actions were caused by a medical episode. He was taken to a hospital where blood was drawn for medical purposes, not as evidence, KDVR reported.

Later, Meier admitted to the department's internal affairs investigators that he went home while on duty and drank from a bottle of vodka, KDVR reported.

However, officers are protected from sharing incriminating information from an internal affairs investigation under a court ruling in Garrity v. New Jersey, KDVR reported.

"I think this became an 'ignorance is bliss' moment," Brauchler told KDVR. "This became a, 'We don't want to know, we don't want evidence that might show what we suspect' (case). I don't think that's a cover-up, but it's a couple blocks from it."

Current interim Aurora police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who did not oversee the department at the time of the incident, does not agree with how it was investigated.

“We did this wrong, and for whatever reason the decisions were made that day, they were made, and the case was affected by those decisions,” Wilson told KDVR. “I can’t sit here and defend those decisions because it did mess up the ability to hold (Meier) accountable as we would hold any other citizen accountable or any person in our community.”

Wilson said she is planning changes to make officers more accountable.

Four of the responding officers were disciplined, KUSA reported. Wilson also announced plans for an investigation into Deputy Chief Paul O'Keefe, one of the first officers who arrived to find Meier and made the decision not to pursue a driving under the influence investigation.

"There was a decision made," Wilson told KDVR. "There was a high-ranking official on scene, and like any military organization… there is a chain of command, and officers follow the lead – if you will – of whoever is running that investigation."

O'Keefe said in December that he would retire in March, KDVR reported. On Thursday he said he would retire on Friday.

Meier, 48, is still with the department. He was placed on an unpaid suspension and demoted from agent to officer, KUSA reported.

About the Author