A Colorado deputy police chief retired abruptly this week, thwarting an internal investigation after a state district attorney told a local news station he was “incredibly frustrated” by the case of another police officer found drunk in his patrol car while armed and in uniform last year.
On March 29 of last year, Aurora Police Department officer Nathan Meier was found parked in the middle of a local street with a blood alcohol content five times the legal limit, according to medical paperwork obtained by The Denver Post. He also admitted to driving drunk, and the officers who responded to the scene said they could faintly smell the alcohol on him.
But Meier will not face prosecution for driving under the influence because police officials in the Denver suburb decided to treat the incident as a medical situation. Meier remains employed with the department, although he was demoted.
Deputy Police Chief Paul O’Keefe was among the first on the scene and helped get Meier to a hospital. O’Keefe later said he wasn’t sure Meier was drunk.
Colorado Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler aired his grievances with the case in media interviews this week.
“At the end of the day, I think this guy beats the system and part of the system helped him do it,” Brauchler told CBS4 Denver on Wednesday.
“I think if, instead of a uniformed police officer in a marked patrol vehicle in the middle of the street, it had been Jane Q. Lunchpail, I think this thing is handled differently,” Brauchler said.
“I am incredibly frustrated,” he told ABC News.
Although O’Keefe had been in line to take over as the police department’s interim chief following the retirement of Chief Nick Metz, the controversy over the case scuttled those plans, according to The Denver Post. Instead, officer Vanessa Wilson was named interim chief.
O’Keefe decided to retire abruptly on Thursday, shortly after Wilson said she had launched an internal investigation into how the matter was handled.
“That case in my opinion should have been handled as a DUI,” Wilson told CBS4. “If that was a regular citizen, a DUI investigation would have occurred, in my opinion.”
The investigation, however, is now hampered by O’Keefe’s departure.
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