It’s difficult to fathom a better way for Aurora to further maim its reeling police department than to needlessly sack its chief amid a scandal fed by rumors and secrecy.
The city appears to be headed for such a quagmire after an attorney for Police Chief Vanessa Wilson confirmed rumors that City Manager Jim Twombly has pressed her to resign.
“There has been a campaign against Chief Wilson and the deputy chief orchestrated by certain members of city council,” lawyer Paula Greisen told The Sentinel last week. “They have made it clear their priority is to push her out. They have called her ‘trash’ and said her termination is in the works, and there’s been an ongoing effort to demoralize and demean her.”
That is indisputable.
Leading the baseless and erroneous attack on Wilson has been newly elected Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky. On a right-wing-extremist talk radio show, during council meetings and on social media, Jurinsky has spearheaded an ad hominem and baseless attack on the chief. The assault has been inspired by disgruntled rank-and-file cop leaders incensed by fearless efforts by Wilson to lead the beleaguered Aurora Police Department out of the shameful disaster the force has inflicted upon itself. Demanding quid-quo-pro for propping up her election campaign, she’s delivering the goods to aggrieved union leaders.
Aurora residents are not fooled by attempts by Jurinsky nor anyone else to gaslight them about what has happened in the department over the past several years.
- Some Aurora police officers were at best criminally negligent in confronting Elijah McClain and causing his death. While a grand jury has indicted officers involved in the homicide of a completely innocent Black man, a court has yet to convict those involved in the crime or acquit them. Regardless, the entire world saw the video with their own eyes and read thorough investigations that made it indisputable that McClain was abused by some officers and died because of it.
- An Aurora police officer remains on the force who also was caught on video tape making sick racist remarks during an investigation, referring to Black witnesses to a crime as “porch monkeys.”
- Three sadistic Aurora police officers were caught making a “selfie” as they parodied the very choke hold procedure inflicted on McClain associated with his death while being abused by Aurora police officers. It was a scandalous scheme that drew international scorn and ridicule.
- Aurora police drew global contempt again when an Aurora officer passed out drunk behind the wheel of his squad car, on duty, an outlandish stunt that was forgiven by the previous police chief and placed back on duty.
- The APD clinched its reputation as a racist nightmare when cops pulled over a car with Black women and girls, wrongly targeted as a stolen vehicle, and forced hysterical young black girls face down on hot asphalt during their erroneous arrest. Just months ago, another Aurora officer, filmed on video, sadistically abused a Black man during his arrest for loitering, wrongly choking him during what was clearly an assault on a citizen.
While some misguided Aurora police and city council members like Jurinsky have tried to defend or excuse what are clearly indefensible and inexcusable crimes, Chief Wilson has courageously made clear how repugnant these felonies were, and how wrong it is not to call them out.
Wilson has been steadfast in assuring the public that as horrifying and unnerving as these and other Aurora police stunts have been, they are but a relative few cops that have tarnished the reputation of more than 600 officers who are honest, trustworthy and competent officers. Wilson has made it clear that those officers who abuse citizens should be fired, and she has honorably held that promise.
At the same time, Wilson has just as steadfastly stood behind those in the force who are allegiant to a police department dedicated to transparency, accountability, fairness and professionalism.
Wilson has stood up against the mayor and others who insist it is the job of the police to insert themselves in the social and humanitarian crisis that has made thousands of people homeless.
Wilson has insisted that police focus on rebuilding trust in the community, paramount to successfully addressing crime, and at the same time she has pressed elected and appointed leaders to stand behind the police department with resources and support.
In relatively record time, Wilson has been able to demonstrably show that abusive behavior by sworn officers will not be tolerated, persuading a skeptical public that it can and should trust Aurora police as it enacts reforms mandated by residents, city leaders, state and, likely, federal officials.
No credible person on the city council nor in city management has offered a single reason why Wilson should not continue to lead the Aurora Police Department out of the quagmire that former police and city officials inflicted on the community.
Just weeks ago, Twombly and Wilson were lockstep in ensuring the state and the public that Aurora was on track to enact police department reforms based on transparency and accountability.
Tentative public confidence in the embattled Aurora police department, and the city government as a whole, is absolutely undermined by a clandestine, ploy to oust the very person capable of salvaging the police, and focusing on rising crime instead of internal scandal.
If Twombly or Wilson’s critics on city council have evidence of deeds or behavior by Wilson so inapt that it warrants her ouster, they need to make those allegations public now.
Much of the reason Aurora has sullied its image as a well-run city and virtually destroyed the reputation of the police department is because of closed-door “internal” antics that permitted endless acts of police misdeeds to culminate into unchecked racism and malfeasance.
Aurora cannot continue to permit politics to permeate a critical function of the city that its council-manager structure was created to protect against.
City lawmakers need to either force disclosure of credible reasons to question Wilson’s leadership, or they need to voice their advocacy for Wilson to reassure Twombly she has the political support to continue her vital work.