AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson has been fired. The announcement was made on Wednesday morning by City Manager Jim Twombly.
Hours after Wilson's firing was announced, city leaders spoke during a news conference about their decision.
Twombly said that there were two issues with Wilson: management and leadership. In the announcement about Wilson, Twombly said that Wilson "prioritized community involvement" but didn't "effectively manage the operations of the department, effectively engage with staff, build morale, and validate employee feedback."
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said that he supports the decision made by Twombly. He also thanked Wilson for her years of service and said that she was the right person at the right time for the job.
"Given the challenges that we had when she came on, I think she was the right person for the right time at that time. Given the fact that we have rising crime, given the fact that there was a lack of urgency in her leadership, resolving this problem, certainly caused me to support the city manager in his decision," said Coffman.
On Tuesday CBS4 reported that more than 2,500 Aurora Police Department reports dating back to 2021 and covering crimes such as murder, carjacking and child abuse had not been reviewed and entered into the police department's records system, allowing suspects to go free and re-offend.
"To provide the level of public safety that our community deserves, a change in leadership must occur," Twombly said.
Starting Wednesday, Division Chief Chris Juul will oversee operations until an interim chief is named.
Wilson was hired as police chief in August 2020.
In a statement, Wilson's attorney said that conservative members of the Aurora City Council launched a concerted campaign to smear the chief's reputation and credibility. Her attorney also claimed that she was fired without cause.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve the people of Aurora. I am proud of its police officers and what we've accomplished together," said Wilson in a statement provided by her attorney. "I look forward to continue working in law enforcement to ensure transparency, reform, and accountability. We must all remain dedicated to practices that ensure the safety and well-being of our communities and the fair treatment of all citizens. During my time as Chief, my focus has been to bring about the reforms required by the consent decree and restore trust in our community. I am proud of the progress this department has made during the myriad of challenges that we have faced. I hope that the Aurora community understands that the amazing women and men of the Aurora police department care about them and will continue to protect and serve regardless of who leads this agency. I am proud to have been their Chief."
Wilson took over as chief during a tumultuous time in Aurora. The city was facing a lawsuit stemming from the 2019 death of Elijah McClain after an encounter with police. The City of Aurora agreed to pay $15 million to the family of McClain to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed over his death. There were widespread protests throughout the city during the summer months of 2020, many spurred by the lack of investigation into McClain's death.
During Wilson's tenure, the city also consented to improve policing and public safety in an agreement reached with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. That agreement was reached in November 2021 after issues were identified in a report from the 14-month investigation into the practices of the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue. The investigation team appointed by Weiser found the Aurora Police Department has a history of racially biased policing and found Aurora police and fire departments have a pattern of violating federal and state laws.
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