Aurora, Colorado, police chief hired during fallout over the death of Elijah McClain has been ousted

“There are two main issues that continue to come up as major concerns: overall management and overall leadership,” City Manager Jim Twombly said at a news conference, adding that he wouldn’t go into detail, but “it’s an assessment.” general based on a lot of input”.

The announcement comes weeks after an outside consulting firm, which has also come under scrutiny, released a preliminary report in mid-March that “identified an issue of serious concern regarding backlogged police records,” a report that Twombly said that was not the reason. for Wilson’s firing, and again puts the Aurora Police Department in the national spotlight.

Twombly had announced the decision in a statement earlier Wednesday, saying that Wilson had been relieved of her duties and that the city had launched a search for a new police chief effective immediately. Twombly said Aurora Police Division Chief Chris Juul will take over as chief in the interim.

“It is clear that Chief Wilson has prioritized community engagement,” Twombly said in a statement provided to CNN and posted on the city’s website. “However, the police chief also needs to effectively manage department operations, effectively engage with staff, build morale, and validate employee feedback.”

“This, as I said in my opening statement, is based on my assessment of the situation, my discussion with the officers, my review of the report that came out on the status of the file, and then the overall assessment that I made.” Twombly added during the press conference.

Hundreds of backlogs, report says

The preliminary assessment found more than 2,500 backlogs at the Aurora Police Department, according to the report written by Ed Claughton.

“As a result of delays in processing police reports, violent crimes reported to the Aurora Police Department may go uninvestigated for months, allowing suspects who would have otherwise been investigated and arrested to be re-investigated. offend,” Claughton wrote.

The backlogs, more than 1,000 of which are from 2021, include those related to murder and child abuse, according to the report.

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“The Aurora Police Department would face significant scrutiny and responsibility should a suspect commit a murder or other violent crime who would otherwise have been apprehended were it not for the transcript queue,” Claughton wrote.

On Tuesday, Twombly issued a statement calling the preliminary findings “alarming.”

“The issues you identified are clearly unacceptable. While the consultant looks at them in terms of liability, I see them as a risk and a danger to our officers and the community,” she said.

Twombly wavered about the weight of the report in Wilson’s firing.

In an exchange with a reporter, Twombly said Wilson “wasn’t fired because of the records issue.”

“It really comes down to a lack of trust in me, on my part for her to be able to run the department,” he said at one point.

Official says city manager may have been pressured to fire chief

Asked if “the city council essentially told you that if you didn’t fire Vanessa Wilson, you would be fired,” Twombly said no. “The council has never told me that. I’ve certainly heard rumors to that effect; I’ve never been told that.”

Juan Marcano, an Aurora City Councilman for District IV, told CNN that the city manager was pressured to fire Wilson.

“I can tell you from my perspective that I have absolute confidence that the most vocal members of our Republican majority pressured him to get rid of Chief Wilson, or would basically try to get rid of him,” he said. “This is, pure and simple, retaliation against a police chief who was aggressively trying to reform our department’s culture after our community stood up and demanded it.”

Wilson’s attorney, Paula Greisen, directed CNN to an editorial published Wednesday in Sentinel Colorado that called the report a “clear political coup” and alleged ideological biases at the consulting firm that produced the report.

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“Why would a city like Aurora, in the midst of state-mandated police reform and trying to unearth a mountain of documented police scandals, many of them centered on systemic racism, hire a consultant who calls himself a warrior against crime? police reform, Black Lives Matters demands and other ‘awakening’ concerns, is perplexing,” the editorial board wrote.

The editorial alleged an anti-police reform supported by the Claughton investigation,

Twombly said at the news conference that PRI Management Group, the consulting firm Claughton works for, was selected through a process in which Aurora city employees reviewed the work he and another organization had done, and in the PRI assessments it scored higher.

“They addressed the problems we wanted to address and had done similar studies in the past,” he said.

Asked if he had any concerns about Claughton’s social media posts, Twombly said he wasn’t aware.

“I didn’t know about that until yesterday. We usually, not usually, never do political background checks on the consultants we hire. What they’ve published, or we don’t do a litmus test.” about whether they’re conservative or Democrat or whatever.

In a statement provided to CNN via email, PRI Management Group specified that it was conducting a staffing study for the city of Aurora that is still ongoing and that the study is not targeted at specific employees.

“This study did not include the evaluation of individual employee performance, nor was our work in any way, shape, or form, intended to disparage, defame, evaluate, or affect the employment of the Chief of Police,” the statement said.

“To suggest anything to the contrary, or to politicize this issue, is very unfortunate.”

CNN has reached out to Claughton for comment.

Marcano said Wilson became interim chief in January 2020, after the deputy chief, in line to replace the retiring chief, resigned following a “cover-up” by another officer. “Leadership passed to then-interim chief Vanessa Wilson, who eventually became chief of police,” he told CNN.

“This was at a time when our community was reeling from the murder of Elijah McLean and demanding accountability. That was further amplified with the murder of George Floyd and demands for police reform and accountability across the country.”

Marcano said he thought Wilson “earned the ire” of the Aurora Police Association, the union that represents the city’s police officers, while working on reform, “and I’m disappointed because I think those reactionary forces have won with these actions of our city manager today.

Support for the dismissal decision

In a statement Wednesday, the Aurora Police Association said it had been made aware of the firing and “fully supports” the decision.

“We look forward to working closely with a new incoming administration, prioritizing officer morale, Administration leadership and service to the citizens of Aurora,” the association said.

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said at Wednesday’s news conference that he supported Wilson’s initial hiring, but the report changed things.

“I thought she was the right person at the right time for this city, that we were going through a pretty tough time in terms of restoring trust in our community,” he said.

“I think it was instrumental in not only regaining that trust, but also putting the department on the path of reform.”

“I had some concerns because the situation changed in Aurora and crime became an increasing issue over his leadership, but I will say this, my concerns never rose to the level of saying we should replace the police chief,” Coffman said. .

“However, this report on the critical role of records and the lack of leadership and making sure that process worked effectively, I think compromised the public safety of our city, and I think it was and is a monumental failure of leadership. ”.

For her part, Twombly said Wilson “stood out” as a leader in the community.

“In terms of the many crises that we’ve experienced, I think he responded very well to them. I think obviously that was his strength and he deserves praise for that. But like I said, there’s more to running a police department than that aspect. her”.

CNN’s Leslie Perrot contributed to this report.

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