EDITORIAL: Aurora has every reason to trust Police Chief Wilson, not a political ‘confidence’ vote on the eve of an election  

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Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson lays out what she hopes to accomplish during her tenure as the Chief for the Aurora Police Department, Jan. 17, 2020. (Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado)

No one thought it was going to be easy for Aurora to strategically and comprehensively reform its broken police department — except, perhaps, hundreds of Aurora police officers and a handful of local politicians.

Events last week made it clear that a quick or painless transformation — from the police department that the community has been saddled with for years, to the police department Aurora wants and needs — isn’t in the cards.

Thursday night, Aurora’s two police unions released the results of a “no confidence” poll against Police Chief Vanessa Wilson.

Wilson was appointed to the top post after a cauldron of Aurora police scandals boiled over at the end of 2019. Amid the tragic death of Elijah McClain and others, Aurora was sunk by a notorious debacle surrounding a cop passed out drunk in his squad car.

Since then, Wilson’s priority has been to sort out and reveal the department’s critical problems and fix them. In her spare time, she’s the police chief for the state’s third-largest city, beset with myriad issues that are not the result of policing. 

Some of those issues include a dysfunctional city council, an imminent city council election and politicized police union.

Aurora has two cop unions that together claim about 500 members among the department’s approximately 750 law enforcers.

Of those who voted in the no-confidence poll last week, 442 gave Wilson a generic thumbs down. Only 16 said they have faith in her leadership right now.

Of course it’s worrisome news that a majority of those asked are unhappy with Wilson’s unapologetic insistence that cops who are drunks, bullies, bigots or incompetent boobs have no business boasting a badge in Aurora or anywhere else.

At the same time, Wilson has never showed anything but unfailing support for the profession of policing, for the Aurora police force and for those who don humility and humanity with their uniforms and badges and set out each shift to truly “serve and protect.”

She has never publicly said nor done anything to contradict her insistence that Aurora cops who honorably and professionally serve the public have no greater ally.

What Wilson hasn’t done is adopted the foolish canard dismissing Aurora’s international calamity of a police department as the overreaction to just a “few bad apples.”

That’s the message some existing and petitioning city lawmakers keep hammering, along with leaders and members of the Aurora police unions.

Lawmakers like Aurora City Councilperson Marsha Berzins have endlessly told police during public meetings that she “has their back.” Others have sworn undying support to Aurora’s police department, ignoring or dismissing undeniable problems.

Just one day before the results of the police no-confidence survey were released, a televised city council candidate forum, sponsored in part by Sentinel Colorado, revealed a handful of city council candidates insisting Aurora’s police conundrum could be solved with more police “support” and less consternation.

Berzins, the police unions and others confuse pandering to police with supporting them.

There is little doubt that police union officials chose now to play the no-confidence card with city council ballots just days away from hitting mailboxes across the city.

They’re betting that the off-key, far-right message of “police lives matter” candidates will appeal to the masses.

It’s a dangerous and foolish bet.

Aurora’s police department may suffer from only a relative handful of high-profile policing tragedies and disasters among thousands of police contacts each month. However, wrongly killed Black people, drunken cops kept on the force, Black children forced face down onto hot pavement, Black women left to die under the seats of police cars, a man wrongly shot and injured through a house window, patently racist cops forced back into duty, and much more, are just the highlighted problems besieging the Aurora Police Department.

That’s the unanimous conclusion of trusted experts across the country, across the state and right here in Aurora who have had a close look under the hood of APD.

Wilson and other city administrators have acknowledged the problems Aurora faces and have already begun the process of providing real, meaningful solutions.

Wilson has shown the temerity to fire cops who without question warrant dismissal. Her expectations mirror that of the community: Police must be held to a higher standard than the general public, and certainly higher than past standards at the Aurora Police Department.

The Aurora Police Department cannot effectively police the community until trust is restored, and there is no way to rebuild trust without change.

Wilson has shown the wisdom, courage and leadership to point out not only what’s wrong with the police department, but also what’s right. She’s worked hard for city lawmakers and the public to understand how dangerous and complicated police work can be.

But she’s made the commitment to accept and adopt change to make the Aurora Police Department a far better organization to serve and protect the public — and to work for.

Wilson has our solid confidence as police chief at this time, and she has earned yours as well.  

 

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ImmovableLadder
ImmovableLadder
23 days ago

Just one day before the results of the police no-confidence survey were released, a televised city council candidate forum, sponsored in part by Sentinel Colorado, revealed a handful of city council candidates insisting Aurora’s police conundrum could be solved with more police “support” and less consternation.

Name names.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen
23 days ago

After I had heard about Ms Wilson participation in the March on the INS building at 39th and Peoria where the doors were attempted to be chained with people inside, her participation with the assault on the District 1 Police Station where the doors were again attempted to be chained and the building set on fire with people inside, with Ms Wilson’s participation in the siege of the Municipal building where again the buildings door where attempted to be chained shut and the building set on fire with people inside, with Ms Wilson’s lack of action when race drivers shut down I225 and the Police were unable to access the highway to stop the street racing. Has anyone ever heard of climbing over a fence and walking over to arrest the perpetrators????? All of these and more cause me to have little faith in the Police Administration.

Don Black
Don Black
23 days ago

The Sentinel is right about the public not having any reason to not support Chief Wilson. The public, like the legislature, has no real knowledge about police work. The 442 officers who voted against voicing support for her do know something about police work and about Chief Wilson. Do you really think that they are just all evil racists who resist change? In today’s narrative, it is easy to find a former chief and other “experts” who will condemn APD. It is easy to have a biased investigation supported as fact. It is easy to call the legislature’s actions police reform when you don’t know anything about it. You won’t see any in depth examination of what the police reform bill actually did. Chief Wilson may have fired some people who deserved it, but that is pretty easy in today’s environment. When she instantly jumps to conclusions about officer’s actions and condemns them publicly before a court does, she adds to the public distrust. Each situation must be fairly investigated. To reopen cases where the experts in the department have already made a judgement smacks of political pandering. The people in the department know that Chief Wilson was never any type of leader throughout her career. They also know of her problems during her career. They know that Chief Wilson has not voiced the very real concerns that have been caused by the police reform bill. There have always been serious leadership issues in law enforcement. You may have seen leadership issues in whatever you do, too. Leadership can’t be weak and pandering like we see from Chief Wilson. The problems in police work have always been due to a lack of ethical and professional leadership. So, the people who are being put into leadership positions now are the people who never spoke up about the real problems in police work. They have curried favor, kept their mouths shut, and maintained a spotless record by doing nothing. Ironic that now you think they are good leaders. Chief Wilson doesn’t know much about police work. She does know how to curry favor. If she were a real chief, she would be telling you about how the police reform bill has crippled law enforcement. There are a few good things in the bill. Body cameras go a long way toward giving good supervisors the ammo to correct, discipline, and fire officers who don’t live up to a standard. Chief Wilson did nothing to help set standards during her career. You should understand that what you see on a body cam is often completely different from what a police professional sees. We can’t remediate or fire officers based upon what an uninformed and emotional public perceives. There is no bright spot in the future at this point. Chief Wilson and the community activists are simply doing things that keep officers from doing their jobs. You don’t know it and the Sentinel definitely doesn’t know it. Notice too, that the City of Aurora doesn’t want open discussion about these issues. When Chief Wilson gave her talks, they were carefully scripted and controlled to avoid any real informed questions. Law enforcement is dangerous and many of the people that officers deal with constantly lie. They have always yelled police brutality even where there was none. It takes the focus off of them and gives them a chance to avoid prosecution and to make money. For you to use your uninformed judgement to support the streetwise criminal simply helps to cripple law enforcement. Whatever your good intentions, it doesn’t help for you to blindly follow the present narrative. Chief Wilson is simply following that popular narrative to further her career. There isn’t any genuine concern for law enforcement or you behind her actions. She is simply a politician. By now, an adult should have some idea what that means. 442 officers know what that means. That is what comes from inside knowledge. I am sorry that the public is not privy too that knowledge.

Jennifer Roberts
Jennifer Roberts
15 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

I understand what you are saying. I think that it is very fair to say that the public has a different perception of policing and that being an officer is a dangerous job. But my question is, if there are real problems in policing, you are saying that police only trust each other to solve it. Officers serve and protect their communities. When the community is telling you that there are problems, and you are saying that the community doesn’t understand you, what is the way to be receptive about solving those problems? What I hear this article saying is that even with your vulnerability you hold a tremendous amount of power and that requires trusting people outside of policing and trust in the truth of their experiences to address.

BlueBird
23 days ago

Wilson is the police chief that the community needs now. She never ever waivers on her support for good policing.

Emily L Carroll
Emily L Carroll
23 days ago

I wholeheartedly support Police Chief Vanessa Wilson in her attempts to improve the Aurora Police Department. She was given a “house divided” that she appears to be sincerely trying to build back as better than ever before. It may take some time, but well worth the effort.

BlueBird
23 days ago

I applaud your clear message of support for Chief Wilson and necessary APD reforms.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
23 days ago

I happen to think the Chief is doing a good job. The “rank and file” don’t like being controlled by the boss. Too bad! This vote, because it was “secret,” has sexists and homophobic undertones. It also flies in the face of public opinion. The Chief is trying her best to get the officers under control and in so doing, to help the citizens who are, in many cases, being abused by officers, whose minds are stuck in the “good-old-boys” way of doing business of the past. We get it–most people are afraid of change. If the Chief were not doing what she’s doing, people would complain that she is not doing the job of reforming the department. Then the same folks would tell us to elect people to the City Council who are aligned with their views, as if the Council has any control over the police department, which it doesn’t. This vote, though they think it’s cute, will not serve the department well. Don’t cave to the naysayers, Vanessa! Godspeed!

Last edited 23 days ago by Joe Felice
Old timer
Old timer
23 days ago

If anything needs to go, it’s the Aurora Police Association. The mafioso in blue!

None
None
22 days ago

Politicians should be required to ride along with police once a month

Don Black
Don Black
22 days ago

The comments show that facts don’t matter to much of the public.They simply believe what they want to believe. This is quite simply why the police have resisted civilian review boards who have agendas and are not bound by the rules of fairness that should always guide a system of justice. For the police, who are supposed to enforce based upon facts, this recent foaming of the mouth and police hatred doesn’t indicate that they will receive just treatment that we should expect even for the criminals. The public has only a very surface understanding of any of what is involved in police work. They are completely unaware of what the police reform bill really did. If Chief Wilson had the public’s interest at heart, she would be making some noise about what that bill has done to the ability to protect the public. I understand that the public will continue to make judgements based solely upon their like of a person from some sensitive comments on TV. Meanwhile, Chief Wilson is making politically acceptable talk while letting the department and your safety go down the drain. Luckily, the public will remain blissfully ignorant.

Jennifer Roberts
Jennifer Roberts
15 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

It might help if you explain what you don’t like about the bill and trust people within the public to understand you if you are open about your experiences.

God
God
13 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

You speak of the Aurora police as if they aren’t the worst police force in the country. You speak of this disgusting disgrace of sociopaths and no-account cowards as if they do a good job.

You’re apologist platform is pathetic. Anybody who would do blatantly snd blindly support such a disgusting institution obviously has serious mental issues. Yes, I am talking DIRECTLY to you.

No police department in America could be less human.