AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - With the interim title removed and Chief Vanessa Wilson officially at the helm of the Aurora Police Department, a newly formed community police task force is hoping to quickly implement changes that will revive the relationship with the community.
"Right now we're seeing mistake after mistake being done by Aurora PD. And I'd rather begin to have discussions about some of the issues we need to address as a community including the police department but right now there's an us against them mentality," said Omar Montgomery the President of the Aurora Branch of the NAACP. "It can't be the blue squad against the residents. It has to be all of us working together for the safety for the City of Aurora."
Montgomery is one of several prominent community members on the task force. The group has already held a handful of meetings, and members told CBS4 on Tuesday while they were surprised the City Council approved Chief Wilson on a 10-1 vote, they're eager to work with her.
"She has fired a few officers during her time as interim chief so that was something that did catch my eye, and I did have a lot of respect for," said Jamie Ray, a Care Manager at the Second Chance Center in Aurora and member of the task force. "She really wants to have a direct line from the community to her desk, and that's something I definitely respect."
Montgomery says the department will need to hit benchmarks around training, recruiting and regaining trust.
"If we can't reach these benchmarks, do we need to look at total reform within the police department?" he said.
The past weekend's latest controversy is still leaving raw emotions for many. Online video shows a family pulled from their car and several of them placed in handcuffs, including a 12 year old and 17 year old, during a stolen car investigation. Aurora police apologized and offered to pay for therapy.
"You see a family on the ground in the hot summer sun, not one (officer) felt like they could step away from protocol training and say, 'Hey we need to do something different.' That's common sense, that's leadership. And those are areas the task force won't be able to tackle."
"Maybe it isn't a training problem, maybe it's a problem with culture in general," Ray said. "I think with the support of Chief Wilson we'll be able to see a lot quicker changes than people are expecting."
The attorney for Elijah McClain's family responded to Wilson's recent appointment saying,
"We are hopeful that she has not just the moral compass, but also the fortitude to take decisive action to make the fundamental changes that the department so desperately needs."
The next meeting of the Aurora Community Police Task Force is Aug. 25.
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