Commission upholds firing of Aurora police union leader for email disparaging female, minority officers

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AURORA | Aurora’s Civil Service Commission upheld the firing of a former police union leader Tuesday, saying an email he sent union members last year denigrated women and minorities in the department, violating department rules against such behavior.

Fired Officer Doug Wilkinson’s “statements regarding reliance on race and sex rather than intelligence, personal ethics and courage in APD hiring are a clear insinuation that minority and women officers were hired on the basis of their race and sex, rather than their ability, qualifications and integrity,” the commission stated in its decision. “Those statements are negative stereotypes that denigrated all minority and female officers in the Department.”

READ THE COMMISSION DECISION HERE

Wilkinson was fired after CBS4 News reported last year that Wilkinson, then president of the Aurora Police Association, criticized a police reform contract between the department and the state attorney general’s office in an email to police union members.

Wilkinson sent the email Nov. 16, 2021 to the group’s 240 members calling diversity provisions in the Aurora-Colorado consent decree “sexist and racist.”

The consent decree was imposed last year because of “systemic” and repeated instances of Aurora police abusing people of color and exhibiting a lack of transparency and accountability in preventing such problems and addressing them when they arise, according to AG office documents.

Aurora police have been at the center of numerous controversies, among them the death of Elijah McClain, mistreatment of Black family forced to lie face-down on hot pavement during a botched car stop, and, most recently, an Aurora officer pistol whipping an unarmed Black man accused of loitering.

Part of the court decree encourages the police department to increase diversity among the ranks, which Wilkinson was critical of in his email.

“To match the ‘diversity’ of ‘the community’ we could make sure to hire 10% illegal aliens, 50% weed smokers, 10% crackheads, and a few child molesters and murderers to round it out. You know, so we can make the department look like the ‘community,’” Wilkinson wrote in the email. “But I’m pretty sure that’s not the “diversity” they are talking about. I’m pretty sure they are simply talking about the only currency leftists deal in: identity politics.

“We’d prefer that they focus on intelligence, personal ethics, and courage, which should be our only criteria for hiring and promotion. We should only be interested in merit. But that will never do.

“They’re addicted to race and sex politics. The decree indicates that they want to replace as many of the department’s white males as possible with as many women and minorities as possible. It’s as simple as that.”

Former Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said she was shocked by the email and was approached by several police force members also offended and upset by it. She deemed the email a violation of police department regulations and fired Wilkinson in February.

The Wilkinson termination became part of controversy surrounding Wilson’s own firing in April. Wilson was sacked amid controversy over her staunch support of police reform and displeasure over that by some rank-and-file officers and conservative city council members. City Manager Jim Twombly said he dismissed Wilson over concerns about her management abilities.

In the civil service commissioners’ decision, women and minority police officers interviewed by outside investigators said they were discouraged and incensed by Wilkinson’s message.

“Doug has taken away every ounce of respect and dignity that I have fought for,” one female police officer said in an interview, according to the commission decision. “It does not matter how hard I work, whatever I get is given to me based solely on my race and gender and I am inherently not qualified to be doing this job.

“My entire life I’ve been told or made to feel that I’ve gotten something because of my skin color or sex…Based on Doug’s statement I’m in [my current] position because I’m a black female and I stole it from a white male….How many of my fellow coworkers read this email from their union president and agreed? How many read it and now are questioning every position of a minority officer or now think they were turned down for a position because they are a white male?”

The commission agreed with the officer and others, saying that the missive sullied a wide range of people and was a violation of police department policy prohibiting it. 

“The evidence is overwhelming that Petitioner Wilkinson violated the directives by sending an email that denigrated and showed hostility toward women and minorities, included negative stereotyping, had the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile and offensive work environment, and adversely affected employment opportunities for women and black officers within the APD,” the commission said.

Wilkinson, during the firing appeal process, said his remarks were either misunderstood or misconstrued to mean something he did not intend. 

Wilkinson told a commission during a hearing on his firing that “his statements about the makeup of Aurora’s citizenry was a “metaphorical” estimate of the type of misconduct amongst those he has interacted with during his time on patrol.”

He said his email was not “divisive” and that “his role is to do what he thinks is best for the majority of the APA membership.”

The commission wrote that they found his explanation and defense “disingenuous.”

Commissioners also dismissed his defense of the email as protected free speech, citing case law upholding similar complaints and defenses in court cases.

 

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None
None
6 months ago

Read the article you wrote

Publius
Publius
6 months ago

Certainly Officer Wilkinson lacked the discretion one would hope for in leadership of the Union. He also seems to have become jaded in his outlook on some of his fellow Officers and on the community he served. Probably best to not have him serving, particualrly out on the streets.

Perhaps he can still serve as a cautionary tale. His statements are a warning policing is hard and leaves those who do it, or some of those who do it with a jaded perspective. Maybe the Department can rotate assignments so Officers spend less time in enforcement and break that up with administrative assignments. Perhaps they can rotate assignments to partner Officers with other Officers of differing backgrounds so they can learn to appreciate their colleagues through direct interaction.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
6 months ago
Reply to  Publius

Well said.

Jason
Jason
6 months ago
Reply to  Publius

Policing can be a toxic job, and many people do become jaded as a result. I don’t think that your suggestion of rotating officers through admin assignments would have even the slightest impact on that, because the toxicity isn’t limited to direct interactions with the public (most of which are actually fairly positive). The toxicity is more related to the extremely poor job that law enforcement has done of educating the public on the realities of our job, which leads to a sense of isolation from a community that doesn’t understand us at all. In law enforcement’s defense, the public has also proven very difficult to educate on this matter.

I also don’t much care for your suggestion that officers be assigned to work with partners based on having different backgrounds. Bigots should be removed from the force. Everyone else already interacts with officers of any background and just treats them as a brother or sister in blue. Direct interaction already happens, and the attitudes of the average Aurora police officer are far more progressive than the popular narrative would have you believe. Ham-handedly forcing interaction will only diminish its quality and the impact it could otherwise have had.

Zero
Zero
6 months ago

Doug Wilkinson is a monster who never should have had a badge in the first place, glad to see that the Commission is making this turn to cracking down on racism, sexism, and bad leadership in the APD. All of Wilkinson’s years of charges against women, black people, and hispanics should all be reviewed, too, to make sure he wasn’t showing this disgusting bigotry in his actual police work, too. I hope Vanessa Wilson sues him into financial ruin and he gets laughed out of every other police job in the country, too.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
6 months ago
Reply to  Zero

He probably has another job right here in Colorado. And they wonder why people mistrust their public servants.

Zero
Zero
6 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Sad truth, Joe. You’re right on the money.

Dean
6 months ago

Didn’t we go through all the absurdity of this six months ago when CM Jukinsky, used her first amendment privilege talking about Chief Vanessa Wilsom? And then our CM Juan Marcano was going to teach her a lesson once and for all. Lawyer David Lane, then for $17K gave CM Marcano and the city his US Bill of Rights #101 legal tutorial about carrying through as CM Marcano proposed.
I suspect, the city will accomplish nothing with this firing and will get another lesson on how much they limit their employees to express a message to separate non-city-controlled union membership. The city of Aurora now says what can be said on union stationary or people’s personal email? I don’t think this firing will fly if challenged.

Don Black
Don Black
6 months ago

His firing makes the point. Racial politics cannot be discussed honestly. We should be hiring based upon merit. Race should not be the criteria. Race certainly should not ever be used to disqualify someone. But today’s narrative means that we can interpret everything from an angle that fits the popular narrative. Thomas Sowell calls it the “invincible fallacy”. So, we can’t have an honest conversation. We must be constantly cautious about anything that someone can construe as racist. DA Weiser’s report and the consent decree are based upon distorted facts and things that are called racist simply because the people involved were black. We cannot talk about all the multiple shootings around the country that are simply the result of two or more black males shooting at each other. Racial politics are skewing everything we do. The vague police reform bill in Colorado has created an environment where the police do not know what force can be used. So, to protect a small number of black suspects who run, fail to cooperate, or fight, we have basically legalized most crime by paralyzing the police. We have run thousands of good officers out of police work by our distorted approaches that use emotion instead of facts. Now we have to struggle to replace them with anyone we can get. New, inexperienced, quickly and inadequately trained officers who are not necessarily the best we could have found in the past are going to be the replacements. It is true that some officers are being promoted to positions based upon race. Some officers are promoted based upon their connections. In all cases, you can only do the job in such a way that you prove your merit and dispel those notions. All officers are supposed to perform in a way that shows they have merit. New recruits generally have to prove themselves to a degree. That is why we have training officers. But, we will make sure that blunt language and honest discussion about the racial politics do not occur. The way the Sentinel writes these articles shows that they are not objective. They simply have an agenda that they bend the language toward. If we are going to have honest discussions, people’s feelings are going to be hurt. We have to admit the failures that do exist in police work. We also have to admit the failures that exist in black culture. If we are too fragile to do that, then we can’t resolve anything. It will simply be whoever has the political clout to prevail. Right now, the black and woke group have the voice. In the past, white power people had the voice. We all must have a voice and we must look at things critically. There is usually a little truth in everything. Deciding things based upon a biased interpretation will not help. I have to be a little concerned about the ability of officers to police when they are so easily offended. Drunks are going to call you all kinds of names. You have to be able to look at facts and not deal from emotion. Life isn’t going to always try to please just you. The world doesn’t revolve around you. If you can’t deal with honest discussion, I question your ability to resolve anything. But, the firing of Wilkinson will reinforce the woke narrative and make sure we don’t have honest discussions.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
6 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

We were all waiting for you to chime in with a bunch of nonsense, Don. You need to let go of your personal vendetta against the APD and move on. An employer CAN limit what an employee says on the job or about or on behalf of the employer. You however, are free to say whatever you like (and you do!) because you no longer work for the APD.

Wilkinson may have had a good point, and many will agree with it, but it was the derisive and derogatory manner in which he flippantly expressed it. The citizens that he was supposed to serve found it offensive. We here in Aurora are tired of being talked down to by him and by you. There are proper ways to have these conversations. People of your ilk need to learn this.

vern
vern
6 months ago

Seems like we can never feel “people” are equal and as such we can and should make decisions that are color blind. How ever that is not the case. I was passed over by a less qualified double minority in the 70’s, and as an employee of the city I was told what is the big deal- “just hire a woman and then another man to do the job she can’t” I have worked with men and VERY QUALIFIED WOMEN. It is unfair and insulting to keep saying we need to give preference to someone just because they are—– fill in the blank. Only when the best is hired will cities and businesses and god forbid governments begin to work well. Want to know the most prejudiced against minority- it is white men and old white men even more.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
6 months ago

I found his comment to be offensive, but offensive words seem to be all the rage in the era of Trump. People seem to be so flippant about what they say about others, without regard for how those others might be affected. When are people going to learn that an employer CAN control what is said at work or about or on behalf of an employer without running afoul of the First Amendment?

I expressed an opinion about a boss and was fired. I manned up an accepted that this was his right to do. What he did not have the right to do was to call me what he did, which is too obscene to mention on here.

Dean
6 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

CM Jaun Marcano akin to Joe regrettably does not seem to get the concept of the first amendment and its basic limitations. These two need to understand there exist a big difference as a government employee vs. a private employer.

The First Amendment protects us against government limits on our freedom of expression something CM Marcano was hoping he would have a government club to use over CM Jurinsky. That is prohibited which maybe the city and Juan learned. That same rule in the private sector, employers are not subject to or from setting its own rules. Many do have their own rules of etiquette and conduct they expect. The small outfits, the boss sets the rules about speech as he sees fit.
In this case I expect Wilkinson has already been in the office of a civil rights law firm to be reviewing the real possibility of a Federal Lawsuit. But what else is new?

Professor X
Professor X
6 months ago
Reply to  Dean

Hey, since you’re an expert on Free Speech and the first Amendment, Doug – I got a couple quick questions…

What about the new rule that says Councilmembers can’t say the Mayor is lying – is that a Free Speech issue?

What about the way that the Council has limited public speech and intimidated speakers – is that a Free Speech issue?

What about when members of Council retaliate against members of the public that publicly disagree with them, clearly attempting to have a chilling effect on that is person’s Free Speech?

Your expertise is anxiously awaited.

Don Black
Don Black
6 months ago

The space between the public’s understanding of the job and the reality is so large as to be almost insurmountable as is evidenced by some of the comments.

Bob
Bob
6 months ago

It’s interesting this has taken off in whole a new direction of first amendment- what is and what isn’t. Years ago a long time APD high ranking, high time senior officer that wanted to become the chief after Oates went to Miami sued the city because he was not picked. One thing that was the major in the case was what he had said and would not change his testimony in behalf of another officer(Swanson) that had some questionable time sheets he had claimed.That was a many year long fight, and the new chief ended as Nick Metz. That Federal employment case was close to a million dollars Aurora paid to Brownstein / Farber.