EDITORIAL: Weaponized Aurora police-records attack of Chief Wilson, police reform, warrants council resignations

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Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly at an April 6, 2022 press conference announcing the firing of Police Chief Vanessa Wilson. PHILIP. B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

 

As alarming and disappointing it is that Aurora is back in the news as the home of a corrupt police department and an inept city government, it’s most vexing that, once again, the city has been wounded with another self-inflicted injury.

There’s no shortage of people to blame for the city being dragged into a sea of national worry and rebuke because of the harassment and virtual torture of Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who was fired last week.

But there are clearly a select few responsible for a new quagmire that clearly was created to provide impetus, or cover, for the ill-fated political smear and ouster of Chief Wilson. It’s indisputable that a spurious and deceptive “review” of a longstanding police records problem in Aurora was used as fodder to incite or justify Wilson’s ouster.

Some members of city council have for months conspired with insurrectionist police officers, livid that Wilson has made good on promises to the community to hold cops accountable for thuggery, racism and abhorrent episodes of incompetence. This latest attempt to undermine police reform — by using an obviously tainted “review” — to purposely stoke fear in Aurora and subvert Wilson and police reform efforts crosses a line from political intrigue to unconscionable subterfuge.

The PRI Management Group review of a backlog of “transcribed” police reports in the APD records department is a bogus sham, a Sentinel story published Wednesday revealed.

Police and city hall officials knew the scathing, politicized and sensationalized report was a red herring, or they should have known.

Even before the content of this feint was made clear, The Sentinel reported that the author of the review, the company’s CEO, has a well-published history of anti-police-reform, anti-Black Lives Matter rants on social media.

The report itself was so blatantly provocative it should have set off red flags for police and city managers immediately.

Instead, it was used to bludgeon Wilson publicly and make an argument against her crusade to restore credibility and honor to the city’s embattled police department.

Among the spurious and inaccurate charges in the review:

• “Of particular importance is the fact that reports do not get routed by the system for follow-up action or investigation until the transcription process is complete.” In reality, police routinely follow up on cases, especially serious cases of crime, regardless of whether a record is “transcribed,” which has nothing to do with transcription as most people know it. It’s nothing more than a clerical curation of reports. City police and other officials point out that ALL records added to a case are immediately available to investigators and others, even if they are not “transcribed.”

• ”As a result of the delays in processing police reports, violent crimes reported to the Aurora Police Department may not be investigated for months, enabling suspects who might otherwise have been investigated and taken into custody, to re-offend.” In reality, city and police officials point out that “processing” these reports is not integral and often not even a part of meaningful police investigative processes.

• “It is administrative errors and failures such as this that lead to cases like the Charleston, SC church mass murder and the Marjorie (sic) Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, both of which would not have happened had law enforcement not erred in the processing of prior cases involving the suspects.” This alarmist and politicized statement is not only false, but cruel. Police associated with both of those mass shootings have never associated any records problems with suspects in the shootings. 

• “Delays in the transcription process (of stolen cars or other property) can lead to officers having incorrect information in the field. Case in point: a stolen vehicle which has been recovered and returned to its rightful owner must be removed from CCIC, lest the owner risk being pulled over by an officer and detained at gunpoint based upon a computer query which indicates the car is still stolen.” This was easily debunked. Local and state police officials have made clear that Aurora, like most large police departments, report stolen and retrieved autos to the state CCIC database virtually in “real time.” Stolen car data does not languish in “un-transcribed” reports in Aurora, and trumping up the misnomer with more fear-baiting examples makes this report all the more suspicious.

Because this report is so rife with fakery, city officials must discard it immediately and terminate work with PRI Management Group. Taxpayers have every right to expect a refund from PRI Management Group for the $45,000 allotted for this instigative farce.

This odious report was only part of the problem.

Far more appalling is that it was weaponized against Wilson.

In numerous interviews, it’s become clear that City Manager Jim Twombly passed the report early on to Councilmember Dustin Zvonek, who at the end of an unrelated city council meeting March 28 launched into a tirade about the crisis at hand in Aurora because of a brewing police scandal. It’s unclear if others on city council also received an early heads up about the report.

After well-publicized efforts by Twombly failed to get Wilson to step down, and Wilson instead made public her fight against her firing, the unchallenged, spurious charges in this report were flung from radio talk shows, TV newscasts and social media posts, primarily from Zvonek and Mayor Mike Coffman.

This comes after months of public disparagement, insult and ad hominem attacks by Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky against Wilson, who admittedly has conspired on several occasions with disgruntled police officers to undermine Wilson and imminent police reforms.

Coffman, simultaneously saying he has no ill-will against the chief, has mimicked frequent baseless attacks on Wilson, especially as this controversy unfolded.

“The result of this backlog means that crimes, whether it’s a murder case or a motor vehicle theft, are going cold before they are ever investigated and that habitual criminals are allowed to reoffend before the rank and file at APD is made aware of the crimes that they’ve already committed,” Coffman wrote in an April 5 statement.

It’s false. And days after the report was made public, it’s unclear why no one in the city stepped up to the mayor to stop him from spreading disinformation. 

Twombly sent the spurious PRI report to city council members the day before he fired Wilson. City lawmakers speaking anonymously said Twombly did not tell them the report was damaged goods, but instead signaled that the report was accurate and bode ill for Wilson and the city.

And so the deceit in the report spread.

“Coffman told Denver talk radio host Jimmy Sengenberger of KNUS the next day that police reports must be transcribed before they are shared among police officers,” The Sentinel reported Wednesday. That’s also disinformation that should have been debunked by a city management team who knew it was false. 

Councilmember Dustin Zvonek posted on Twitter April 6 that “over 2500 victims … didn’t have their case investigated” due to the backlog.

It’s absolutely false, and days after he received information about the report without ever questioning its validity or being offered advice on the false information by city officials.

What’s perplexing and disappointing is that Twombly has been a steadfast leader in the effort to push back against Aurora Police corruption and malfeasance. He has repeatedly ensured Wilson has been able to rightfully be transparent that abusive, racist and incompetent officers are held accountable.

This is not Twombly’s first rodeo as a city manager. He’s well aware that caving in to elected bullies in a city-council-manager form of government only invites further abuse and corruption of the government, and possibly his own ouster. He has never given any indication he would cave to political pressure on this or any other matter. We look forward to a explanation about how his poor PRI report decision was bad optics and not bad intentions.

If Wilson’s performance rose to the level of dismissal in the very thick of the city’s most volatile period in history, he needs to hold himself to the same level of accountability and transparency he, and everyone in Aurora, expect of Wilson and the police department.

Why? Why now? And why play into this abhorrent ploy?

Coffman, Jurinsky and Zvonek have now destroyed their credibility on the issue of police reform and public safety with their dangerous collusion with insidious or simply misguided forces remaining in the police department. No longer able to credibly or effectively lead or even partake in what is the most important issue confronting the city right now, they should resign their seats.

At the very least, each should abstain from any city council vote or interaction involving public safety and police. 

They are part of a growing problem in the country where elected officials feel empowered to treat anything they say as reality, regardless that it isn’t based in fact or reality.

The gaslighting from this city council caucus must end now. Lives have been ruined by some Aurora police, others gravely and permanently damaged. And still others have died at the hands of Aurora police, some of the innocents like Elijah McClain.

Because of the ghastly behavior of some officers, people of color in Aurora live in fear and dread of any interaction with police. Despite the dismissal of that fact by these elected officials and the crony cops they collude with, these critical deficiencies in the police department exist.

The decades-in-the-making policies that enabled crimes and malfeasance inside the police force to go unpunished and unabated must be routed out. We, like much of Aurora, is at a loss how reform will be sustained now that there is not clear leadership in Aurora to make that happen.

Credible members of city council and Twombly owe all of Aurora, and Colorado, an explanation and assurances that the city can move past this debacle —  again.

Those free from delusion have a duty to assure residents they can be confident that the professional, compassionate and principled members of the police force and city leaders are in control of the most important reform effort in Aurora history.

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Ava Lavoie
Ava Lavoie
3 months ago

Apparently you just got a thesaurus today? This piece is absolutely insufferable. It’s impossible to actually digest the content when it’s written like a high schooler trying to meet an arbitrary word count.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  Ava Lavoie

But other than that you agree with it?

None
None
3 months ago
Reply to  Ava Lavoie

This comment is so well put i have nothing to add

Don Black
Don Black
3 months ago

It must be a beautiful thing to be able to simply generalize and to ignore the facts behind the situations. It must be great to be able to simply ignore what the officers know about their chief after long exposure to her. It is great to watch her become the great reformer after a career in the corrupt administrations that the author identifies. She kept her mouth shut and climbed the chain, currying favor while not objecting to any of the unethical behavior of those above. The author has helped to create the vastly exaggerated systemic racism and thuggery image given the department. If he had addressed any of those incidents factually, instead of emotionally, we would have a different picture of where the problems lie. APD has had leadership problems for a long time. The result has been poor attitudes in some officers, poor training, inadequate attention to equipment that would have saved lives, a broken promotional system, and rampart favoritism inside the department. Vanessa Wilson profited from that. There is much that needs to be addressed. Overall, the department is full of conscientious officers working to be professional. Chief Wilson has not adequately addressed a number of things that are damaging APD and police work in general. The flawed police reform bill has destroyed the police ability to do the job. How about the Sentinel really look at the details there. No effort to do anything there other than trumpet how great the reform is. Show some objectivity, Sentinel. Let us talk about the real details there. Did the Sentinel miss the chief’s incredibly poor performance when it came to crowd control during the protests. Did the Sentinel not remember the violin playing citizens being moved by officers during the protest for Elijah McClain? Did the Sentinel not notice all the boarded up windows on the city buildings after Chief Wilson kept her officers from stopping actual violent demonstrators? Did the Sentinel not realize that Chief Wilson was responsible for the actions of APD officers who were involved in assisting DPD during their excessive actions against protesters? Did the Sentinel not notice that Chief Wilson allowed a small group of protesters to chain officers inside the District 1 station? I could go on. Just for a refreshing change, how about the Sentinel deal with some facts? I understand that the records problem is not all the fault of Chief Wilson. It was long , long ago that we pointed out to the chain of command the problems with the way they were addressing police reporting. I certainly understand the childish attacks by both of our political parties. Why don’t we get away from that childish behavior and actually address facts in a way that helps everyone.

Brent G Taylor
Brent G Taylor
3 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

Great comment dispelling the smoke and mirrors the Sentinel is trying set before this issue. If this truly got national attention, whose doing was that? And if the APD is so bad right now, in fact or repute, is that not indicative of the one who was leading the department? Is it not reasonable that this change be made?

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
3 months ago
Reply to  Brent G Taylor

You have no idea what you”re talking about. This is an issue about historical records, i.e., records uploaded to national systems that track crime across the country. There are many police departments in the country that don’t even participate in this process. PRI knew this, of course, but they also knew what they were tasked with doing: Provide a rationale, however phony, for firing the Chief of Police.

And they capitalized on the ignorance of people like you.

Christine Crosby
Christine Crosby
3 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

Police reform has destroyed the ability of APD to do its job? How so?

How do we ensure that APD is accountable and able to perform? How do we ensure that the politicization and collusion that forced Chief Wilson out, doesn’t rear it’s ugly head in other areas of city governance?

DICK MOORE
3 months ago

I am free from delusion and would like to affirm to residents that the situation with firing the ex-chief of police and any reform of the APD is far from the most important reforms in the history of Aurora. That’s over 100 years.

When things are not working properly, I believe in, “the buck stops here” principle.
Now we have fired the boss let’s go to the next boss. Do what ever it takes to stop the shootings.

Journalists for the news should use more more nouns and vowels and far fewer adjectives. I know this is an editorial but, boy, you sure overdid yourselves with all the adjectives.

There, that’s my editorial of your editorial.

GeneD
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Dick, could you get a sit down with your buddy Don and maybe introduce him to the concept of paragraphs? Oh yeah, and maybe you could both look up some information on critical thinking skills….not the same, but related to critical race theory.

K Smith
K Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Dick Moore free from delusion. Uh huh.

Brent G Taylor
Brent G Taylor
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

No “yourselves” about it. This is Dave Perry. A man with a clear bias/slant he no doubt believes in; a paradigmic set of glasses through which he sees all. An extremist if you will, in his own right.

Christine Crosby
Christine Crosby
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Does the City Council own any of this? Does the buck stop with them, as well?

Did any of our council members vet PRI or even read the report before they quoted the more salacious and unverifiable portions? Or, do we count their, tweets, interviews and obvious errors of thought as delusional?

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago

Oh yeah, like this is going to happen!

Katrina Z
Katrina Z
3 months ago

The blatant lies that put residents at risk was exactly my point during my public comment at Monday’s council meeting. I knew the report was corrupt, but I didn’t know the exact points. Thank you for this research and fact finding. So we’ll put!

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
3 months ago
Reply to  Katrina Z

If you “knew the report was corrupt,” how exactly did you have this “knowledge” without the exact points?

Katrina Z
Katrina Z
3 months ago

I knew the CEO of the report was biased against police reform based on LinkedIn posts he made before being hired. I knew PRI was hired because of their anti-community policing stance. And I knew that the former Chief had requested assistance with the records problem and the city denied her extra staffonyhs ago, so it couldn’t have been that serious of an issue.
But I didn’t know the order of operations and standard operating procedure for the records not being vital to police doing their jobs or solving cases. This article outlines how PRI lied in their report about the records being necessary to catch criminals, and how the city staff would have known this if they had had enough time in advance with the report before the press conference.

sugar
sugar
3 months ago
Reply to  Katrina Z

Looks like Katrina has done her
homework! Way to go.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
3 months ago
Reply to  Katrina Z

There is a difference between believing and knowing.

sugar
sugar
3 months ago
Reply to  Katrina Z

Katrina, thanks so much for speaking out at the
Aurora Council meeting!