AURORA | Aurora announced Tuesday afternoon the failure of its first attempt to find a replacement for ousted police chief Vanessa Wilson, after three finalists withdrew or were rejected by city leaders.
Officials said they would announce soon how Aurora will proceed in finding a new police chief following weeks of friction between community leaders and the city.
The final stage of the chief search was fraught with controversy, with one candidate — Scott Booth of the Danville Police Department in Virginia — dropping out the same day the city announced its lineup of three finalists.
The two remaining candidates — Scott Ebner formerly of the New Jersey State Police and David Franklin of the Albuquerque Police Department — met with police and community members last week, but the city announced Tuesday afternoon that Franklin withdrew his application after visiting the city.
City spokesman Ryan Luby later wrote in an email that Ebner “did not have a majority of the necessary support to proceed.”
“Over the last week, I listened to a lot of feedback from community members and City Council members who want us to continue the search for a variety of reasons, and I support that,” City Manager Jim Twombly said in a press release.
“We all – city management, the City Council and the community – want the best person for the job who will address crime in Aurora and lead the Aurora Police Department to be racially equitable, bias-free, culturally competent and responsive to all residents.”
The announcement means Aurora has no clear timeline for replacing Wilson, who City Manager Jim Twombly fired earlier this year, naming former chief Dan Oates as her temporary replacement.
“Moving forward, we will be assessing the process and determining next steps as we continue the search,” Twombly said Tuesday. “People across our community may have differing preferences of who they want to lead the Aurora Police Department, but we will make sure that whoever is chosen will be held to serving every member of our community equitably.”
The selection of Booth, Ebner and Franklin as finalists drew sharp criticism from a spectrum of lawmakers and community leaders who called the process opaque and said no serious effort was made to get the input of residents of color on the candidates.
“We have an opportunity to do this better and get it right this time,” said state Sen. Rhonda Fields, who criticized the city’s selection process after the finalists were initially announced in a joint statement with state Sen. Janet Buckner.
Fields said the city should take the chance to solicit feedback from residents about what they’d like in a new chief, and use that to guide the selection of a new chief. Buckner said she hoped the city brings the community into the process before finalists are chosen.
“This is the right thing to do, starting over again,” she said. “It’s too important of a decision to rush.”
The city up until Monday defended the process, saying Wilson was chosen via the same process and that seven of the 21 applicants were women or people of color, including two of the nine semifinalists (the three finalists were white men).