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Aurora, Colorado, police chief hired in fallout of Elijah McClain’s death has been ousted


“There are two main themes that continue to be front and center: global management and global leadership,” City Manager Jim Twombly told a news conference, adding that he would not go into details, but “it’s an overall assessment based on a lot of input.”

The announcement comes weeks after an outside consultancy firm – which has also come under intense scrutiny – released a preliminary report in mid-March that “identified a significant issue with police records pending,” a report that Twombly says 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 Wilson had been relieved of her duties and 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 acting chief.

“It’s clear Chief Wilson has prioritized community involvement,” Twombly said in a statement provided to CNN and posted on the city’s website. “However, the chief of police must also effectively manage department operations, engage effectively with staff, boost 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 record situation, and then the overall assessment that I have made,” Twombly added during the press conference.

Hundreds of pending cases, report finds

Preliminary assessment revealed more than 2,500 files pending at the Aurora Police Department, according to the report authored by Ed Claughton.

“Due to delays in processing police reports, violent crimes reported to the Aurora Police Department may go uninvestigated for months, allowing suspects who might otherwise have been investigated and taken into custody of repeating the offence,” Claughton wrote.

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

Aurora, Colorado, police chief hired in fallout of Elijah McClain’s death has been ousted

“The Aurora Police Department would be subject to significant scrutiny and accountability in the event a suspect commits a murder or other violent crime who would otherwise have been taken into custody without the line. waiting for transcript,” Claughton wrote.

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

“The issues he has identified are clearly unacceptable. Although the consultant talks about them in terms of liability, I see them as a risk and a danger to our officers and the community,” he said.

Twombly went back and forth on the weight of the report in Wilson’s shot.

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

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

Official says city manager may have been pressured by fire chief

When asked if the city council had “essentially told him that if you didn’t fire Vanessa Wilson, they would fire you,” said no. “The council never told me that. I certainly heard rumors to that effect; I was never told that.”

Juan Marcano, Aurora city council member for Ward IV, told CNN the city manager was forced to fire Wilson.

“I can tell you from my perspective, I absolutely believe he was pressured by the most vocal members of our Republican majority to get rid of Chief Wilson or they would try to get rid of him.” , did he declare. “This is, plain and simple, retaliation against a police chief who was aggressively trying to reform the culture of our department after our community rose up and demanded it.”

Wilson’s attorney, Paula Greisen, directed CNN to an op-ed published Wednesday in Sentinel Colorado calling the report “clear political work” and alleging ideological biases at the consulting firm that produced the report.

Aurora, Colorado, police chief hired in fallout of Elijah McClain’s death has been ousted

“Why would a city like Aurora — at the heart of state-mandated police reform and trying to dig under a mountain of documented police scandals, many of which focus on systemic racism — hire a consultant who is a self-proclaimed warrior against police reform, Black Lives Matters demands and other ‘woke’ concerns, is confusing,” the editorial board wrote.

The editorial alleged an anti-police reform leaning on Claughton’s investigation,

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

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

When asked if he had any concerns about Claughton’s social media posts, Twombly said he was unaware.

“I didn’t know them until yesterday. Usually, not usually, we never check the political backgrounds of the consultants we hire. What they’ve released, or we don’t do a litmus test whether they’re Conservatives or Democrats or whatever.”

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

“This study did not include the evaluation of individual employee performance, and our work was not in any way intended to disparage, smear, evaluate, or impact the Chief of Police’s employment,” the statement read. .

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

CNN has reached out to Claughton for comment.

Marcano said Wilson became acting chief in January 2020, after the deputy chief, in line to succeed the outgoing chief, resigned following a “cover-up” for another officer. “Leadership went to Acting 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. This was then amplified by the murder of George Floyd and demands for police reform and accountability at the national scale.”

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

Help with dismissal decision

In a statement on Wednesday, the Aurora Police Association said it was made aware of the dismissal 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 the press conference Wednesday 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 to restore trust in our community,” he said.

“I think she helped not only regain that trust, but also put the department on the path to reform.”

“I had some concerns as the situation changed in Aurora and crime became a growing issue regarding his leadership, but I will say this, that my concerns never rose to the level of saying we should replace the Chief of police,” Coffman said. .

“However, this report on the critical role of the archives and the lack of leadership and ensuring that this process works effectively, I think, has compromised the public safety of our city, and I think that was and is a monumental failure of leadership.”

For his part, Twombly said Wilson “excels” as a leader in the community.

“In terms of the many crises that we had, I think she responded to those very well. I think that was obviously her strength, and she deserves praise for that. But as I I said, there’s more to running a police department than just that.”

CNN’s Leslie Perrot contributed to this report.

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