In their misguided effort to push Chief Vanessa Wilson out of the Aurora Police Department, a handful of city lawmakers are turning a serious police records problem into an untenable debacle.
City Manager Jim Twombly fired Wilson Wednesday, saying that the police reports backlog controversy was not part of his decision to sack her. Regardless, the crisis remains and so, too, does an untenable quagmire.
On Tuesday, a Florida police records consultant dropped a scathing audit report at city hall, detailing how more than 2,000 police reports have gone essentially untouched, allowing murderers and molesters to continue pillaging the city unabated.
There’s no proof of that.
City managers backpedaled from the numbers later in the day, but not before Denver TV stations pushed unchallenged headlines that Wilson’s police department was responsible for inexcusable malfeasance.
There’s no proof of that, either.
The only part of the growing drama is that conservative Republicans on the Aurora City Council have worked diligently to undermine Wilson in a clear effort to stop critical police reform in the city.
The public deserves clear, credible answers and not more political kabuki.
The part of the story left untold all day Tuesday, is that the man who is the CEO of the audit company hired by the city, regularly posts his disdain for police reform, Black Lives Matters, liberals, President Joe Biden, vaccination mandates, those who protest police brutality, “woke” community leaders and even schools for teaching history he disapproves of.
That’s according to a story here in Sentinel Colorado.
“There are 2 kinds of liberals,” PRI Consultant Edward Claughton said in a LinkedIn post a few months ago. “Those who genuinely believe in the party’s ideology and are blind to what’s really going on, and those who know perfectly well its real intention…the destruction of democracy and America. Divide and conquer. Power and control. Race and gender wars under the guise of diversity and inclusion, take over the media, education and technology industries and voila.”
Even a casual look at Claughton’s frequent posts raises serious red flags about his credibility as a police auditor in any department, especially this one.
“Keep fighting for freedom, friends. Keep fighting. What is happening in your country and ours is an outright coordinated attack on liberty through strategically crafted social division using everything from race to technology, to finance, to vaccinations…Enough is enough! The destruction of our freedoms are well underway. Stand up and shout out against wokeism, division and the corporate reverse discrimination that is now so blatantly in place.”
Why a city like Aurora — in the thick of state mandated police reform and trying to dig out from under of a mountain of documented police scandals, many of them focusing on systemic racism — would hire a consultant who is a self-proclaimed warrior against police reform, Black Lives Matters demands and other “woke” concerns, is befuddling.
It takes little more than a simple internet search to find out Claughton was embroiled in a similar no-credibility scandal about 10 years ago in Milwaukee. There, Claughton pitched for a contract to audit the Milwaukee Police Department, embroiled in a host of under-reporting accusations. While bidding for the contract, Claughton posted on social media so many pandering comments about the police chief, it caught the attention of many, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“In more than a dozen Twitter and blog posts since a Journal Sentinel investigation found flaws with the city’s crime data, PRI Management Group has praised Police Chief Edward Flynn and criticized the paper’s reporting,” a Journal Sentinel story said in 2012.
Police officers accused Claughton of shamelessly pandering to Chief Flynn in the reporting scandal. Flynn later hired PRI for a $25,000 contract.
“The online comments by PRI Management Group represent a clear conflict of interest, said Samuel Walker, criminology professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Omaha,” The Sentinel Journal reported in a story. “If they have taken a position on the issue, they are not neutral and independent,” he said. “This doesn’t look good at all.”
Similarly, this doesn’t look good at all for Aurora city management and especially city council members who have made public their contempt for Wilson and her “no more business as usual” push for police reform.
Without doubt, Claughton and his “audit” are damaged goods and offer no credible insight to what appears to be a serious problem.
It’s a problem, however, by the city manager’s own admission, that has existed for years. It’s a problem that just a few weeks ago City Manager Jim Twombly lauded Wilson for her diligence in trying to correct.
At this point, it would be a further travesty for city management or city council to pursue anything Claughton’s week spent in the Aurora records department has supposedly gleaned without first seeking credible, objective help.
Far more credible are outlandish statements anti-police-reform proponents on city council and from inside the police department have made in a naked attempt to oust Wilson for having the audacity to fire cops for their racist and felonious thuggery.
Wilson upheld the firing of Aurora Police Association union chief Doug Wilkinson after an email he sent to all union members became public last November, in which he stated that Wilson’s ultimate goal is “to replace as many of the department’s white males as possible with as many women and minorities.
“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” Wilkinson wrote. “You know, so we can make the department look like the ‘community.’”
As disconcerting as was Wilkinson’s email to police union members, Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky’s defense of him was ghastly. Jurinsky has repeatedly shielded the sexist and racist email by saying it was sent from a private email account to members, not an official union account, and shouldn’t be held against him.
With city lawmakers agreeing with Jurinsky currently in the slim majority on the council dais, the community is at risk of the police department backsliding to a time and place where systematic and regular abuse of minorities and others by unscrupulous police officers is justified, overlooked or even hidden.
Such a move could bring serious consequences for the entire city, since the state attorney general has entered into a court ordered pact with Aurora to ensure reforms bringing about the very accountability and transparency Wilson has promoted.
It could result in the state or federal government moving in to take over a police department that refuses to properly and lawfully take care of its citizens.
City managers and cogent, reasonable city lawmakers need to end this charade. The state should complete its own independent audit of problems inside the police records division so a reliable assessment can be made.
Wilson is gone, the records problem remains, and the city so far has little more than a tainted report and upended police department to go on.
If city leaders can’t end this farcical mistreatment of its police employees and citizens, Aurorans can only plead with state officials to intercede on their behalf.