Former Chief Dan Oates returning as interim Aurora police chief

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Former Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates, returning to Aurora as interim chief. SENTINEL FILE PHOTO

AURORA | Former Police Chief Dan Oates has been tapped to lead the Aurora Police Department again on an interim basis as the city continues its search for a permanent replacement for Vanessa Wilson, who was fired April 6.

Oates led the department from 2005 to 2014, a time period that included the Aurora theater shooting, which killed 12 people and injured dozens more.

His tenure also included controversies such as the 2013 revelation that evidence in 48 sexual assault cases had been destroyed. The gaffe impacted prosecutions and which Oates called a “grievous mistake.” Even after his departure, he remained embroiled in litigation with a police officer who said he was demoted for contradicting Oates in court.

Oates went on to lead the Miami Beach Police Department and later served as a consultant for the Baltimore Police Department and the St. Louis City and County police departments on crime reduction strategies and organizational reform efforts.

“I’m honored and flattered to be coming back to help out Aurora in this challenging time,” the new interim chief said during a press conference Wednesday. “Aurora has a very special place in my life and the life of my family. We raised our two children during those formative nine years, from when they were in middle school through high school.”

He said building trust with the community was a top priority and also that he “loved the cops in the Aurora PD,” saying “there’s a lot of talent and dedication in that organization.”

“Dan brings focus to crime reduction, community engagement and internal leadership that will serve our community well during this transition. He will also provide critical guidance as we begin to seek community input in selecting a permanent chief,” City Manager Jim Twombly said in a news release.

Oates and Twombly also stressed the city’s ongoing commitment to the police and fire reforms outlined in the consent decree negotiated between the city and the state attorney general’s office.

“This is the roadmap to improving the image of the department, which, you know, cops may or may not acknowledge it, (but it) is terribly, terribly important to them. They want to feel good about the agency they work with,” Oates said.

During the press conference, Twombly described the new interim chief’s decades of policing experience as one of the reasons why he was chosen, along with Oates’ leadership in the aftermath of the 2012 theater shooting.

The city manager said his priorities for Oates’ tenure as chief would include implementing the consent decree, tackling an increase in certain crimes and “stabilizing” the police department in the wake of Wilson’s termination.

Twombly and Oates took questions from reporters during the conference. In response to the question of what he planned to do about rising crime, Oates said he had “ideas but no plans” and wanted to do more research before committing to a strategy. He did say that he valued data collection to determine where and when crimes are occurring.

Some of the questions concerned the disciplining of officers — one of the areas where the previous chief clashed with police union leaders who described her firing of certain officers for cause as unfair.

Oates said that he was “not coming in with an agenda to change the discipline process.” He said he believed there have been “nuanced changes” to how discipline is meted out in the department. However, he said he was confident in his ability to manage and discipline officers.

“The way I think an ideal police department should operate is that the chief decides what’s appropriate discipline in a transparent way, for the cops and for the community, and if the community and the elected officials are unhappy with those decisions, then you get rid of the chief,” he said.

He said he would respect and support accountability mechanisms put in place by voters and elected leaders.

Though in 2013 he expressed skepticism toward an independent monitorship proposed by then-Mayor Steve Hogan, Oates said he thought the system of an independent monitor overseeing the city’s implementation of its consent decree was “the national best practice and exactly the right decision that Aurora should have made.” The firm currently serving as the city’s consent decree monitor is IntegrAssure.

When asked how he would recruit officers to help the department achieve its goal of representing the community, he said he wanted to make sure qualified candidates progressed through the hiring process as quickly as possible. He said candidates who are told to wait for too long find jobs elsewhere.

“In this hiring climate, if you tell a candidate that, that candidate is going to get hired by another police department,” he said. “The entire time I was in Aurora, we struggled around minority recruitment and hitting our diversity marks. We had some success but a lot of frustration and a lot of failure.”

He said improving the department’s hiring process would be a “very high priority.”

Oates is scheduled to arrive in Aurora by May 23, once he recovers from a medical procedure. He will be paid $18,250 per month during his stint as interim chief. A new chief is expected to be chosen by the end of the year.

 

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Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
7 months ago

I had no confidence in police reform once Chief Wilson fired, and now it’s really clear we are going back in time to incompetence (especially when it comes to procedures around diversity), police cronyism/union corruption and systemic racism/sexism.

Last edited 7 months ago by Debra MacKillop
Jason
Jason
7 months ago

I really don’t understand why anyone would think Vanessa Wilson was the only hope for moving policing forward.

Michelle B
Michelle B
7 months ago
Reply to  Jason

She may not have been the only hope, but the present best for changing the current system. Also the community liked her, especially the community who has lost trust in policing. Will we find better, I sure hope so. We don’t fix mistakes by repeating the past though.

john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago
Reply to  Michelle B

She was bathed in the old system, she played it like a fiddle, don’t fool yourself. The old system is why she filled the chiefs office with the good old boys club…
There is a reason nothing ever changes at APD, and its not the Chiefs, they come and go as political pawns, but the proteges in the good old boys club stay in power like the Swamp in Washington….

Last edited 7 months ago by john wilson
john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago
Reply to  Michelle B

She was bathed in the old system, she played it like a fiddle, don’t fool yourself. The old system is why she filled the chiefs office with the good old boys club…
There is a reason nothing ever changes at APD, and its not the Chiefs, they come and go as political pawns, but the proteges in the good old boys club stay in power like the Swamp in Washington….

Melissa S.
7 months ago

Are you serious? This has to be a joke, right?

Doug
Doug
7 months ago

Not impressed. Status quo.

Publius
Publius
7 months ago

Forward into the past!*

*Apologies to the good folks of Firesign Theater

Melissa S.
7 months ago

Just so I’m clear, they fire Wilson for the mishandling of records only to rehire this guy who mishandled records?

Publius
Publius
7 months ago
Reply to  Melissa S.

Well, not personally, just under his watch.

Publius
Publius
7 months ago
Reply to  Publius

I am guessing my sarcasm did not shine through.

Don Black
Don Black
7 months ago

The consumate politician.

john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago

Smart move. He knows the incompetence/arrogance of a couple people in the Chiefs office.

GeneD
7 months ago
Reply to  john wilson

Who served under him when he was in the chair?

john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago
Reply to  GeneD

Cloyd, Murphy, Jones ….if your point is were they competent? The answer is partly, but Oates was forced to keep Jones as part of the hiring arrangement and that is what held him back from doing the right things many times. Finally Jones is gone, but his proteges are left to metastasize…

Last edited 7 months ago by john wilson
john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago
Reply to  GeneD

.

Last edited 7 months ago by john wilson
Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
7 months ago

Gates does not have a record of caring about police reform, nor of competence.

john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago

Not true

Dean
7 months ago

The city currently is in the midst of a nervous breakdown. So, medicine man, city manager – Twombly, with some scheme a hurry up and get somebody-anybody plan to show the city he knows exactly what to do in a crisis. So, in some twisted logic temporarily rehiring back a guy whose ideas, some worked, some didn’t, but for sure said adios Aurora.  What’s hard to understand is what was wrong with acting Chief Chris Juul, until the city came up with their new choice. This all seems so uncoordinated and spur of the moment, some fashion of a- free-for-all. Some well -oiled machine? It’s not particularly convincing.

And that’s also obvious to any new candidate that wants the new APD chief’s hat.  

Last edited 7 months ago by Dean
Bob
Bob
7 months ago

Now we are looking back at where all this chief controversy begins into its non- ending drama. It’s starting was  with Aurora’s APD affirmative action push  in top management .  Ken Murphy, one of the most qualified in checking  all the required boxes. He  exceeded in some areas others were not close to matching. Murphy did not know at the time the city was looking for a AA hire only. Murphy  was passed over for Chief Nick Metz, with notable  Seattle PD baggage where he was on his way out.  Murphy had no chance, knowing what we know now. Murphy lost his case  in a Federal jury trial because he challenged Oates, because of refusing in not changing his testimony to match what Oates wanted to fit the narrative. The next chief after Metz, another AA hire, Vanessa Wilson. A big problem looming now is again non-transparency. Chief Chris Juul, has been replaced, by Oates, and not a word why Juul, was not working out.And the city wonders why the citizens are questioning what’s going on? It’s like their throwing darts at the name board of chiefs.  

john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Juul, Parker, and Brown are a big part of the problem. They always have been. True Metz was involved in a Seattle lawsuit when hired, but they wanted an AA as you claim. He was never qualified and actually just had ran a District in Seattle, but his title was more elaborate so it fooled the department. I’m sure Jones had a large influence in the hiring, later most of Jones’ proteges were moved up into high ranking positions. Murphy stood up to Jones, the only one to ever do that.

Last edited 7 months ago by john wilson
john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Several under chiefs are part of the problem.

Last edited 7 months ago by john wilson
PeriodicallyOpinionated
PeriodicallyOpinionated
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob

The City was very transparent upfront, right to the press release of Wilson’s termination. Juul was appointed as the Acting Chief, while they searched for an Interim Chief. Oates is now the Interim, while they search for the permanent. This was the plan laid out since day one. As to why Juul couldn’t have been Interim, that is up for debate and question.

john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago

Chiefs don’t really matter, its the Swamp behind them that control a department