AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly and Mayor Mike Coffman answered several questions outlining why they decided to fire Chief Vanessa Wilson after a little more than two years on the job.
“Chief Wilson prioritized community involvement,” Twombly said. “This is something we all recognize as a strength of hers, but there’s more to being chief, and that involves management of the police department.”
Twombly cited the need for managing department operations, engaging with staff and a strategic approach to moving the department forward. Overall management and leadership were top concerns for Twombly.
When asked by FOX31 Problem Solver Rob Low if the city council had any influence on his decision, Twombly said it was based on his own evaluation and conversations with officers and the department, despite one city council member telling FOX31 other members of the council put pressure on Twombly to fire Wilson.
“She was the right person at the right time for this city,” Coffman said. “We were going through a pretty challenging time in terms of restoring trust in our community.”
Coffman said Wilson did a good job of restoring that trust and trying to prompt change in a department that was found to have a pattern of practice of civil rights issues, prompting a consent decree with the attorney general’s office.
Wilson’s termination does not impact the decree, according to the attorney general’s office, since it was made with the city of Aurora and not the individual chief.
“I had some concerns as the situation changed in Aurora and crime became an increasing issue,” Coffman said.
Coffman said his concerns never rose to the level of replacing the police chief until he saw the report of a backlog in record-keeping, saying it compromised the safety of the city. He called it a monumental failure of leadership and ultimately voiced his support for the decision.
Twombly cited attrition in the department as a factor in his overall evaluation. As the Problem Solvers have reported, 232 officers left the department in the two years and three months Wilson has been in charge. Fifteen officers were terminated, 105 resigned, 104 retired and eight transferred to another agency within the city of Aurora.
Twombly said Wilson was fired without cause as an at-will employee. The city is prepared to defend any lawsuit that may be coming as a result of the firing.
Wilson’s attorney Paula Greisen released a statement to FOX31, blaming the city council and the city manager for a misinformation campaign, leading up to her firing:
This morning the City of Aurora fired Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson without cause after a concerted campaign by Council woman Danielle Jurinsky and other conservative city council members to smear Chief Wilson’s reputation and credibility. Since assuming their positions, these council members have made it clear that they did not support Chief Wilson’s efforts to implement the Court order to reform the police department and eradicate the systemic racism found by the Colorado Attorney General in the wake of the death of Elijah McClain. In an effort to justify getting rid of Chief Wilson, the City and Council have engaged in a conspiracy to leak misinformation to the media and falsely attribute responsibility for the department’s long-standing historical problems to Chief Wilson. In reality, Chief Wilson made numerous attempts to have good faith discussions with the City leadership about these issues and repeatedly sought the resources necessary to resolve them from the City Council. City leadership refused these efforts, preferring instead to smear the reputation of a dedicated police officer who has served the Aurora Police Department for over two decades, and courageously agreed to take the helm in one of the City’s most difficult times to bring needed reforms. The citizens of Aurora have the right to demand accountability from the City Manager and City Council who orchestrated this farce.
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 Chief Wilson. “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.Paula Greisen and Scott Medlock, counsel for Chief Wilson