Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson talks with school officials. Aurora police officials say three people were injured outside of Hinkley High School in Aurora Nov. 19. It’s the second shooting in close proximity to a high school in five days. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to indicate that state Sen. Chris Kolker represents Centennial.

Aurora police say that a lunchtime gunfight next to a high school this fall was only supposed to be a fistfight among a group of bickering teenagers. 

The Nov. 15 episode of teen angst-turned-gunfire in Nome Park is a prime, and increasingly common, example of what many community leaders and experts fear is the new normal in urban areas like Aurora. 

Police suspect that an unrelated shooting just days later in the parking lot of Hinkley High School started as a dispute between one group of friends and another group calling themselves “Boner Boys.”

In both cases, gang-like politics and guns raised the stakes of teen skirmishes that likely would have never made the news. Instead, the incidents left nine wounded, and several teens face charges as adults for crimes as serious as attempted first-degree murder.

Aurora is grappling with the twin threats of gangs, which have evolved from how they looked a few decades ago, and youth violence — specifically shootings, police and experts say. The two problems are related, complicated but different.

Last year, 33 people were shot to death in Aurora, including two juveniles. Among 157 non-fatal shootings, 39 of the victims were juveniles, and a total of 16 non-fatal shootings were said to have been gang-related, according to police data.

Mark Hildebrand, metro division chief for the Aurora Police Department, said as many as 5,000-6,000 people considered by police to be gang members may call Aurora home, but quantifying the gang problem is its own challenge. He said police are struggling to keep up with a proliferation of “hybrid” youth groups that are difficult to track and classify.

“What we now have are these youth-based hybrid gangs and groups that we can’t even attach the label of ‘gang’ to,” Hildebrand said. “It’s very difficult from a law enforcement aspect to figure out what we’re dealing with.”

Council members have debated the overlap between the problems of youth violence and gang violence at length in recent council meetings. While progressive members have pushed for Aurora to expand its social safety net, members of the conservative majority have said it’s time for the city to step up enforcement to stem violence.

“If there’s a group of individuals that are armed and shooting at another group, I don’t care if you call them a gang or a community activity, it’s the same problem,” Mayor Mike Coffman said Jan. 18.

Hildebrand said a “significant percentage” of violent crime is gang-related — anywhere from 20% up to potentially 50%, depending on how agencies define gang ties.

Local activists and education professionals say that social media, the growing mental health crisis among youth, and behavioral issues spurred by the pandemic all play a part, too, combining to form what some worry could be an escalating problem.

“This is going to be a year that will go down in the history books if we don’t get involved right now,” said longtime anti-gang activist Jason McBride. “I think we’re in some real trouble.”

New gangs. Same problems.

Newly-minted hybrid groups buck many of the trends observed in traditional street gangs, Hildebrand said. 

There’s the matter of territory. Historically, gangs such as the Bloods and Crips have laid claims to geographic areas where they exert influence and control certain criminal activities, such as drug dealing. Hildebrand said sets of those gangs were often established by people living in close proximity with one another, who would then organize crimes to make money.

Hildebrand said new Aurora gangs haven’t claimed large swathes of territory like other gangs — namely the Crenshaw Mafia Gangster Bloods of Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood — have. 

“Aurora’s really been transient in the way gang members operate,” he said.

Gentrification shuffling people around the metro area could have a hand in that, Hildebrand said. But the “fracturing” of gangs and gang territory is a nationwide trend that he attributes in part to the rise of social media.

Where youths might have formed a gang with others in their apartment complex or neighborhood before, now, young people can use social media platforms to align and discuss criminal activity.

Aurora Police Officers Arturo Zepeda, left, and Ken Hernandez stand for a portrait outside of Gateway High School, Feb. 16. The two serve as School Resource Officers at the high school.
Portrait by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

“I equate it to how businesses are working today with COVID,” Hildebrand said. “You don’t have to be standing right next to one another to talk about what your gang is going to do.”

McBride, who has been working at the Denver-based nonprofit Struggle of Love as a violence prevention specialist for 16 years, said that over the years he has seen the amount of violence increase and younger and younger kids get involved in fights. A major factor is social media, which often helps to fan the flames of what could otherwise be a minor disagreement that blows over. 

“Kids are doing a lot of things for likes,” McBride said. “If you embarrass a kid on social media, and you have 1,000 people telling you that you aren’t worth anything, what do you think is going to happen?”

The anonymous nature of social media makes it easy to spread threats, whether or not they are sincere. Over the past several months both Aurora Public Schools and the neighboring Cherry Creek School District have implored families not to share threats of violence online, and instead report anything they see to the district or directly to police.

APS Superintendent Rico Munn told The Sentinel that speed of communication over social media is what makes it such a challenge.

“Things can blow up a lot quicker than they might have when I was in high school,” he said. “And it can also bring in a larger group of people who are paying attention and participating in whatever is happening.”

Gun access is another aspect of the problem that offers no easy answers.

“It’s really disappointing and so discouraging that so many kids have access to guns,” said state Sen. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora. “I was talking to some teenagers and they told me ‘oh yeah, we know who has guns.’”

Buckner is one of the prime sponsors of Senate Bill 1, a bill under consideration in the state legislature that contains a raft of crime prevention policies.

Teen gun ownership can have tragic consequences. A 17-year-old Vista PEAK student was shot and killed in December after getting into a traffic dispute with a former Greenwood Village police officer, who is now facing murder charges.

According to police, the teen had a “ghost gun,” a firearm created with untraceable parts, and his parents did not know he owned it.

Placards marking shell casings at Nome Park.Photo provided by Aurora Police Department

McBride said that minors often get guns illegally by stealing them, mostly from parents or other relatives, or by getting friends who are over 18 to purchase guns on their behalf.

An affidavit for the Nome Park shooting said that some of the guns were stolen in advance of the shooting from a parents’ safe.

McBride particularly points the finger at gun shows, which he said are an easy place for minors to get others to buy guns for them. Gun shows have been a frequent target of criticism from gun control groups because they usually do not require background checks or waiting periods. (Colorado law is slightly stricter, and requires gun shows to conduct background checks and conduct sales through a licensed firearms dealer.)

According to the Giffords Law Center, guns purchased at gun shows are disproportionately used in criminal activity.

“We have these gun shows, and as soon as they’re over, there are shootings,” he said. “Maybe we shouldn’t be having gun shows in neighborhoods that are having issues with gun violence.”

Gun purchases have spiked nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic, including in Colorado. The Colorado Bureau of Investigations approved 443,060 gun sales in 2021, over 100,000 more from 2019.

In response to the spate of shootings, the Aurora and Denver city councils partnered to host a series of gun buybacks scheduled for this spring and summer. Aurora Councilmember Curtis Gardner said the events will be an opportunity for people to return guns “no questions asked.”

But with so many firearms already on the streets, it’s unclear how much any voluntary program can do to stem the tide. The first city-sponsored buyback is scheduled to take place at Mile High Stadium in Denver the weekend of March 19. Two local churches also held a buyback in January in partnership with RAWtools, a faith-based nonprofit that turns guns into gardening tools.

Gang territory goes digital

Another difference between today’s hybrid groups and traditional gangs lies in their organization. Whereas traditional street gangs often included senior members who directed the activities of younger initiates, hybrid groups may lack a hierarchical structure.

“You may not have someone who’s directing and is in charge,” Hildebrand said, adding that police have also seen members of established groups working in tandem to commit carjackings and other crimes.

Jason McBride is a secondary violence prevention specialist with the Struggle of Love foundation.
Portrait by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

McBride concurred with much of Hildebrand’s assessment, saying that while organized gangs still have a presence, much of the current activity isn’t based on geography or affiliations with large groups.

“Gangs have evolved, they’ve changed from when they first started to affect us in Colorado,” he said. “You had Bloods and Crips coming in from L.A. … now you may have six or seven kids that identify with each other and they start their own thing regardless of what neighborhood they’re in.”

Hildebrand also said police have seen members of established gangs like the Crips, Bloods and Gangster Disciples working together in “crews” to perpetrate carjackings and other crimes.

“We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Hildebrand said the differences between hybrid and traditional gangs don’t make it any easier for police to crack down on the newer groups.

Gang members coordinating electronically may leave digital traces of their behavior, but police still have to obtain a warrant to conduct electronic surveillance. Police also have to be mindful of the bar set by organized crime statutes such as the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and Colorado’s Organized Crime Control Act that weren’t written with the new groups in mind.

Hildebrand said the department defines a gang in part as “three or more people who come together under a sign or symbol, and one of their main purpose is to commit crime for … the benefit of the group.”

Those benefits could include money, with members kicking up the proceeds of a crime to other members, or enhanced reputation, for example when a member attacks someone for wearing the colors of a rival gang.

He said police are cautious when labeling youth groups as gangs, not only because it could increase the group’s standing, which could have the added consequence of making it a target for established gangs, but also because they need to defend their designations in court.

Dedicated police units such as the Gang and Robbery Investigative Team focus on gang crime specifically, and APD coordinates with other agencies through investigative partnerships such as the Regional Anti-Violence Enforcement Network.

Since April 2021, through its Youth Violence Prevention Program, the city has also reached out to at-risk youth through community events, distributing recreation center passes and more.

In January, the City Council indicated it wanted to relaunch Aurora’s Gang Reduction Impact Program, which dissolved in 2018 due to the end of the red-light enforcement cameras that had provided funding.

Council members said they wanted to fold the Youth Violence Prevention Program into Aurora’s Gang Reduction Impact Program, focusing more on the problem of gang violence and directing more of a proposed funding increase to gun-violence intervention efforts rather than prevention.

Youth Violence Prevention Program manager Christina Amparan declined to be interviewed for this story, City spokesman Michael Brannen said the city wanted to wait until a presentation for the YVPP scheduled for Feb. 28.

Hildebrand said he doesn’t believe existing restorative justice programs go far enough to curb violence and that limits on how juveniles can be detained and charged in connection with violent could be contributing to a perception of impunity.

“There’s a limit to what the accountability will be,” Hildebrand said. “And that’s understandable. And I’ll be the first to tell you that incarceration is not the answer for our youth population. But we need to find something that works, because what we have right now is not working.”

Aurora police officials say three people were injured outside of Hinkley High School in Aurora Nov. 19. It’s the second shooting in close proximity to a high school in five days. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

 The school connection

One area where the city may be able to expand their presence and preempt bloodshed is in schools, Hildebrand said. 

He said “many” of Aurora’s young gang members are in school, where tensions that simmered remotely during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic are erupting since the return to in-person learning.

“There is a reluctance to come to law enforcement,” Hildebrand said. “I think we can do better with that (so) we can see the warning signs early on, getting something in place to get them off that trajectory.”

A dozen officers are assigned to Aurora high schools already as part of the department’s School Resource Officer program. According to the department’s website, the officers “perform normal law enforcement functions in and around the school, along with providing education and counseling to the students in their school.”

“Schools can help turn us on to, ‘There’s this group over here that calls themselves this, and they’re talking about guns, and now there’s this rival group that they have a disagreement with.’ And that’s a situation where we could intervene,” Hildebrand said.

“We’re not getting there right now. And the only other option is a heavy presence in the community, and then we’re accused of overpolicing.”

Community members have mixed views of the efficacy of policing to stem youth violence. APD Chief Vanessa Wilson herself acknowledged that the city can’t police its way out of the problem.

“The pipeline to prison is real, and I don’t want to be a part of it,” Wilson said at a meeting at the Dayton Street Opportunity Center following the two November shootings. “We need to find community solutions so we can save our youth.” 

The number of SROs at APS has remained the same for the past several years, and APS Superintendent Rico Munn said that the district expects SROs “to do police work and not education work.”

Security issues are being handled on a school-by-school basis, he said, and the district is soliciting parent involvement in many cases. After the November shootings APS decided to prohibit high school students from leaving school grounds during school hours, including lunch. That remains in place district wide but is being assessed regularly, Munn said.

The racial justice protests of 2020 brought renewed scrutiny to the use of SROs in both APS and Cherry Creek, but neither district ultimately chose to do away with partnering with them.

Janiece Mackey, founder of Young Aspiring Americans for Political and Social Activism, said that youth councils at YAASPA are currently examining how SROs operate and what type of offenses, such as drug use on campus, they are required to discipline students for.

“It’s not necessarily a ‘get them out’ type of question. It’s more of thinking about what their role is in these contexts,” she said.

Similar to the ways in which cities including Aurora are starting to implement co-responder models where mental health professionals accompany police to certain calls, Mackey thinks a similar approach could be beneficial in schools. Instead of having an SRO respond first to every situation, a social worker or therapist could be the first point of contact. 

APS is currently keeping an eye on a bill that state Sen. Chris Kolker, D-Centennial, plans to introduce this legislative session, which would provide Colorado school districts with grant money to spend on security measures. It’s part of a rollout of public safety measures that Gov. Jared Polis is touting as the first step in a data-driven plan to lower Colorado’s crime rate.

McBride was also present at the November meeting, which he said he left early out of frustration of what he perceived as all talk and no action. But he and other community members all stress a need to address the root causes of the issue, which he says include poverty and a lack of opportunity.

Struggle of Love and YAASPA both work to give local youth access to paying jobs and career development opportunities.

“Many young people are sharing in the financial responsibilities of their households,” Mackey said. “It’s critical to provide a conduit for them.”

A desire for connection and a lack of other opportunities can both lead young people into gang life, McBride said. But when presented with more options, he said “most of the time they’ll choose the option that keeps them away from violence.”


 

The shooting at Hinkley High School

The events that led to, and through, the shooting at Hinkley High School illustrate the complexity and capriciousness of some current shootings among youth. Here are details of the investigation into the shooting.

After gunfire erupted Nov. 19 in the parking lot of Hinkley High School, witnesses painted a picture of chaos and confusion. Three boys expecting a schoolyard fight had drawn handguns and fired at scattering students, police allege, and one teen wounded in the melee told police she didn’t think she was the intended target.

The Sentinel reviewed Aurora Police Department affidavits to stitch together the story of how cops say the shooting unfolded.

Four boys have been arrested and charged with attempted murder and other charges in connection with the violence, in which three teenagers were wounded. All of the boys, although minors, were identified by name because district attorney officials charged them as adults. They are Alejandro Carillo Hernandez, 17, and Larry Renee Jefferson, Dalen Lenale Brewer and Diego Flores, all 16 years old.

Police later collected video surveillance and interviewed witnesses, including Flores and another boy involved in the shooting whom prosecutors have not charged or publicly named. Here’s how police think the shooting unfolded — and why.

Before the  shooting

The boys charged in connection with the shooting were friends who knew each other from middle school, Flores told police. Aurora Public Schools won’t say whether the charged boys were students at Hinkley. Flores told police that he and Hernandez were not.

According to one probable cause affidavit, the unnamed boy told police he and his friends had “beef” with a rival clique of teenagers they called the Boner Boys. The boy said this clique had “shot up his house” several times in the past, and Flores said they’d gotten into fights before. Police didn’t say whether any victims belonged to this rival group.

On Nov. 19, police say Flores picked up Hernandez, Brewer and Jefferson and drove to Hinkley in his white Chevrolet pickup truck near 10:45 a.m. Flores said he ran into the rival clique, who called him a “bitch” and a “pussy.” Flores said he wanted to fight them, and they all agreed to fight at a Wendy’s restaurant, but the other crew never showed up, according to police. Flores then drove the group to pick up a friend, the unnamed boy, and they all went to a nearby Walgreens to smoke a blunt, according to an affidavit.

The unnamed boy went to “scout” at Hinkley for the rival group. When he returned to Walgreens, Hernandez, Jefferson and Brewer were showing off their handguns, police say. It’s not clear how the boys came to possess the firearms.

At this point, another unnamed boy called Flores and said the so-called Boner Boys were at Hinkley, police say. The boy said he was in danger of getting jumped and “he needed help,” the affidavit says, so Flores drove the boys to Hinkley and they arrived in the parking lot just before noon. Most of them got out of the truck. They talked to the unnamed boy who’d just called. At this point, one of the unnamed boys said he “knew they were going to fight.” A witness later told police she saw one  of the boys step out of the truck with a handgun and heard him say, “You all are gonna get it.”

Two boys got back in the truck, with Brewer now in the driver’s seat, police say.  Hernandez walked alone down the parking lot, appearing “animated.” He strode toward three people, pulled out a handgun and began firing at them, according to police.

During the shooting

People who “appear to be innocent bystanders” scattered across the lot “to run for their lives,” police say. The affidavits say Flores jumped into the bed of his truck when the shooting began. Inside the cab, Brewer piloted the car through the parking lot while firing shots with a handgun out of the window. Jefferson was in the back seat on the driver’s side and was also firing his handgun that includes an extended magazine, according to police. One of the shooting victims, an unnamed boy who was seriously wounded, was running toward Hinkley’s front doors. Surveillance footage reported by police shows the boy falling to the ground after apparently being shot.

Aurora Public School Officers Ronald Banks and Darius Walls told police they were sitting in their marked car by the front entrance when they heard gunshots. Banks told police they took cover behind the car and Walls began firing at the truck while he yelled at the schoolchildren to get inside or get down.

Another teenage victim, who wasn’t seriously wounded, told police she was hanging out in the parking lot when the shooting began. She ran to her cousin’s car, where they took cover as the white truck neared her. Brewer drove the car out of the parking lot and onto Chambers Road, and the shooting stopped, police say. She realized she was injured and went to the hospital.

After the shooting

At 12:04 p.m., two minutes after Hernandez began shooting, a police camera captured the white truck traveling north on Chambers Road before making a U-turn and traveling south, where it pulled into the parking lot of Vasa Fitness. Flores was still in the bed of the truck, according to police. The unnamed boy in the car told the boys he’d been shot. Flores got in the car and the truck rolled to the nearby Burger King at the intersection of Chambers Road and East Colfax Avenue, police say.

Jose Trejo later told police he was working at a food truck in the Vasa Fitness parking lot when he saw the white truck with six teenagers. He noticed a bullet hole through one of its windows. Two of the boys got out of the truck and told him “don’t take pictures of us, or call the police or we will shoot you,” according to the affidavit. The two boys then  “took off” on East Colfax Avenue, both holding guns.

The shooting victims began arriving at the Anschutz Medical Campus for treatment. One APD officer near UCHealth’s emergency room noticed a white pickup truck with a “broken spot” in a window and “a young looking Hispanic male driver.” It’s Flores, police say, and the unnamed boy, who has a bloody abdomen. The officer said he directed the unnamed boy to the hospital and later looked in the car, finding a bullet casing. Flores told him the car is his but in his mother’s name.

Police later said they interviewed the unnamed boy and Flores at length. They learned that the boy had thrown a spent magazine out of the car while driving to the hospital, which police said they later recovered.

Aurora police said their investigation included obtaining a search warrant for the white truck. Inside, they found a shell casing, two empty handgun boxes and a black backpack containing a temporary Colorado instruction permit with Hernandez’s name and photo.

Charges against each of the four boys include:

4 counts of attempted first-degree murder 

1 count of first-degree assault

1 count of second-degree assault

1 count of possession of a weapon on school grounds

2 crime-of-violence sentence enhancers

Jefferson was also charged with one count of using a prohibited large-capacity magazine during a crime.

— Grant Stringer, for Sentinel Colorado

 

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Dean
4 months ago

WoW- I’m amazed to learn the City of Aurora has gang issues. That is hard to imagine!!
I guess all the local shootings, the gang signals I look at, and have seen on the streets, for the last ten years, have been my naïve imagination. Out past city councils over these previous years and police chiefs have downplayed this gang infestation. So this article, and all its disclosures are to be akin to some Rosetta Stone to unlock this mystery. End of story –Gangs Discovered in Aurora!

When is the City of Aurora, and the Police Dept willing to admit the same about Mexican Cartels and their level of business operating presence?
Or are we going to hear the story – We’re sorry we’re not completely sure, so we can’t get into that with you.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
4 months ago
Reply to  Dean

Never heard anyone “downplay” the problem of gangs.

Doug King
4 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

I get so tired of the citizen complaints without a shred of solution offered, don’t you?

Michele Wagner
Michele Wagner
4 months ago

When I lived in Iowa I was a prevention specialist and went to schools and provided research based curriculums to children in 5th to 12th grade. I also headed up SADD Students Against Destructive Decisions. When I started working in my assigned county the program did not exist, one year later I took 4 buses full of students to the state capital to protest for a higher Tabasco tax. What I learned from that experience is kids are looking for someone to relate to and someone that will listen without judgement. If you come at them as an authority figure with judgement of who they are and their choices they shut down. My ability to relate to them and remembering what it felt like to be 17 and pregnant made them comfortable to open up and talk to me. Many of my students sought me out to talk about drugs and sex pressures and how they feel invisible at home unless they do something wrong. Bottom line is as human beings we search out acceptance and a purpose and youth tend to only be able to find this in each other. Whether it’s sports, drama club, band, or in showing dominance in the crime sector. Which is an easy find for the low income, not noticed youth unlike the well known popular quarter back. These youth aren’t blood thirsty harden criminals they are children in search of some of the most basic of human emotional and mental needs. There are many solution based possibilities here but they require time, effort, and money. Like the gun shows…the promoter and all the vendors should be required to allocate at least 10% of all sales to youth gun education and prevention programs. A need for grants and grant writers to set up funding for at risk youth. Like mentor program and peer to peer relations groups, and teaching communication and self worth classes. The police’s main purpose is to stop crimes but they can’t solve it all, this requires prevention, education and communication which are some of the key factors here.

Publius
Publius
4 months ago
Reply to  Michele Wagner

One PROTESTS against something. When in support of a legislative initiative one ADVOCATES for it. Also, I am unclear why there should have been an increased tax on Tabasco. It does not seem like it would produce much revenue. Was it intended to reduce consumption of pepper sauce?

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
4 months ago
Reply to  Michele Wagner

Thank you for your ideas and input. This is intervention at an earlier age, instead of waiting to “enforce” later.

And by the way, were you successful in raising the tobasco tax?

Doug King
4 months ago
Reply to  Michele Wagner

thank you! someone with an actual grasp on this situation as well as a real solution be offered.

Mark Kaiser
Mark Kaiser
4 months ago

I think you should call Schultz-polis, I am sure he will be glad to help to make your city crime free within 10 years. LOL!!!!!!!!

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Kaiser

I’m glad you think this is funny. Some, on the other hand, are giving serious thought to this matter. But maybe you missed that our Governor has introduced crime-fighting measures, although without support from folks like you, it probably won’t go anywhere.

Don Black
Don Black
4 months ago

As a former member of the APD Gang Unit, I can tell you that the city has always downplayed the gang problem and the number of gang members. Years ago, while working a drug sting on East Colfax, we had a female council person with us. She became very angry when the Narcotics guy told her that we had 289 crack houses in Aurora, that we knew of. She said that the City manager had told her that there were two and that we were watching them. It is always the same with management. They live to protect themselves and not you. There are better ways to do police work, but you can’t get them through the top brass. When I did, I quickly learned that they were not capable of running anything. They stick with the same tired, simple ideas that don’t require them to work. I enjoy when they say “We can’t police our way out of this problem”. While much of that is true, it is an abdication of their responsibility. These committees that know nothing about police work will contribute little of value. While I agree wholeheartedly in getting everyone possible involved, it will take a long time to address the root causes. Speaking of root causes, the approach taken by our Vice President will never show any results in our foreseeable future. The Mexican cartels are steadily infiltrating America and can hide in the huge illegal immigrant population. For instance, in Houston, there are about 20,000 American gang members who are getting their drugs and their orders from two Mexican cartels. They have said that they are afraid of the cartels. The cartel members can hide among the 400,000 illegal immigrants and get their help by simply threatening to kill their families in Mexico or Central America. Eventually, you may get a phone call like they do in Mexico. They tell you that they have your family member and for you to bring cash, your TV, and the title to your car or they will kill your family member. The people who run things in America will ignore problems until it is too late. The police will be bought or intimidated by the time you realize how bad the problem is. Scythian proverb from 600 AD goes “Wise men argue causes…fools decide them”. It probably will never change.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
4 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

You are an angry ex-cop with a vendetta. We already knew that. You were the kind of cop that the Chief is trying to discourage.

Don Black
Don Black
4 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

No, I am an ex-cop who cared and tried to change things and improve law enforcement. I simply have always dealt with reality and not the fantasy that many people immerse themselves in. Fooling yourself about human nature will resolve nothing and will hurt everyone in the future. I realize that it will take a long time for people to realize that we have gone in the wrong direction with some of the liberal fantasies. The big lies like systemic racism and the Trump big lie will hurt us in different ways. Teaching young kids that most of the society hates them can only lead to misery for them and everyone else in the future. Fix the problem where it pops up and always discourage it. You are not going to change human nature. Be realistic about what needs to be fixed in law enforcement. We have been trying to recruit minority officers for over 40 years. So, to throw out that you are going to fix things by recruiting more minority officers is a sham. Not only that, but many departments now have large numbers of minority officers and the things you think are problems are not any different there. To pick chiefs based upon race or political correctness does nothing for the real problems in law enforcement. The fact that you don’t know that many of these people are too weak to fix the real problems doesn’t change the facts. I am intimately familiar with the real problems and am not afraid to discuss them. You are making decisions from a TV world view that is totally unrealistic. The politicians are able to throw out silly things that you believe. I can’t fix that. I can only try to give people a more realistic understanding of what exists.

Publius
Publius
4 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Yours is one perspective. Another perspective is that he is an honorably retired officer with decades of relevant law enforcement experience willing to share a perspective he knows will be unpopular with some who may then attempt to denigrate him for his perspective, but he offers it regardless, being willing to receive that denigration to participate in a public policy debate.

As for Chief Wilson, and what she is trying to discourage, at some point, and I would argue it is soon, she will have to take responsibility for what the Department is under her leadership. The position that she has had to correct the past will become less and less compelling as the past she references fades and her policies and decisions are the reality of the Department now and for some time. She has been in charge for a year and a half now. The Department now reflects her, not the prior two or three Chiefs.

BTW, I respect Chief Wilson’s service and her intent. I wish her success. I doubt she will have success in transforming the Department if we cannot have frank discussions about the nature of the problems.

Doug King
4 months ago
Reply to  Publius

ok, Publius, where are the ‘frank’ discussions?

There is this:https://www.advancepeace.org/get-involved/nominate-your-city/

And this: Systemic change is already underway in Aurora. We have a deep commitment to a ‘New Way’ of providing public safety services and we will not waver from that,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said.
https://www.auroragov.org/residents/public_safety/a_new_way__our_plan_to_restore_trust

And this: Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE)™

Is our APD enrolled in this? Bergan, Francoise

Yes. We have been enrolled in this program for several months.

https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/d2e7960518694b50b61cd387906eab25

Bill Leake
Bill Leake
4 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

A good reality check and well put. Kudos for stating it.

Doug King
4 months ago
Reply to  Bill Leake

see my posts, Don Black doesn’t refer to any of these programs that are trying to address the issues in the department….all he does is complain…I asked about who he thought was a great chief….? no answer.

Bob
Bob
4 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

American Cartel, is a two part Amazon documentary on the Mexican Cartels infusion into big US cities. It is not surprising in this series to see a Burbank Ca. city council official was deeply involved with the Cartel. As the east Colfax corridor has more of the makings and behavior of the perfect gang storm in our near future, is the Ward 1 council person interested? It sounds as if the previous council woman and in that ride along she did not want to accept a dose of reality. And as you said, has things changed much now? Aurora, is at a tipping point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wP8ViPLdigg

Grinch
Grinch
4 months ago

It’s time to start prosecuting parents as well as their “juveniles”. Are there laws on the books for this? If not, there should be. .

Paul Reimer
Paul Reimer
4 months ago

But easy access to guns, no problem there, right?

Doug
Doug
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul Reimer

Notice the negatives when guns are mentioned? Isn’t it amazing with 71 shootings this year so far??

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
4 months ago

They’re arguing over what to call them? Really?

Of course it’s all the fault of City Council and the Chief of Police. Whatever. While the real issues are the outrageous number of guns and that youngsters have them. Without guns available to them, kids wouldn’t have them to take them to a “fist fight.” It makes no matter that they obtain them illegally, though some seem to think that dismisses the issue. And of course, the anger and hate in our society does nothing to help the situation. Anger and hatred in the hands of Americans with guns is always going to be a lethal combo.

We, as a society, are incapable of “enforcement” at this point. Intervention at an earlier age, as some wise council members point out, is what’s needed. By the time we get to discussing “enforcement,” it’s too little, too late. And nowhere is there adequate personnel for “enforcement.”

Don Black
Don Black
4 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Obviously. intervention is needed at an early age. Obviously, mental health services are needed. The police did not decide to handle mental health problems by themselves. The same smooth politicians you seem to believe dropped it on the police because it was cheap. Meanwhile, there are also a bunch of nasty people out there who will not benefit from anything other than enforcement. Our legislature and governor have destroyed enforcement with their police reform bill that is so vague that it has crippled any chance at proactive policing. Community policing depends upon proactive policing. I know. I have run community policing programs. So, to cripple proactive policing and then say that you believe in community policing, is another smooth lie. If you had spent years interacting with some of these young kids, you would understand that many of them are beyond redemption. Psychologist call them “monsters” because their blood pressure doesn’t go up while committing crimes of violence. Do we have to try? Of course. Black ministers have been trying to fix problems in the black community for over a century. Blacks were successful, often well educated, and well received for a long time in the north. When their rowdier southern cousins came north long ago, the northern blacks tried to get the newcomers to behave. They tried to elicit help from the black churches to calm their southern cousins down. They were not successful. The result has been a negative picture of many in the black culture. Blacks are disproportionately involved in crime. To say that you are going to make law enforcement do everything proportionately to satisfy your social justice agenda is simply another lie. That lie is being forwarded by our attorney general and the legislature. Meanwhile, some of these “kids” will murder you in a heartbeat. I have dealt with the ones who have casually murdered while trying to just take your purse. They only understand force. Force is no longer allowed by our naive legislature and the media. Like the covid situation, it takes a long time for people to accept that it comes down to personal accountability at some point.

Doug
Doug
4 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

Who was the last police chief you admired and was proud to serve under?

Jay Alan
Jay Alan
4 months ago

For “gang” activities to happen during school hours in the first place, the kids have to be disengaged from the content of school. While the reasons for this can be complicated, as a special education teacher who has worked for APS, I know that one of the starting points for this is simple and unfathomable. When students have a legally identified learning disability which has resulted in an IEP (Individual Education Plan), that legally binding document must be followed by the district so the student receives FAPE (a free and Appropriate education). What I saw instead looked like this… students who should have been placed in reading or math classes where instruction was at their level (say at a 2nd or 3rd grade reading or math level instead of at a middle school level) were instead placed in grade level classes. So what did many of these kids do on a regular basis? They did what I’d probably do if I went to lecture and found all the materials to be in a language I couldn’t fully understand. They left or never showed up to class in the first place. They roamed the halls, went in and out of other classrooms, some sold drugs in the bathrooms, some left the building. They were the “high fliers” of the school. They were labeled “behavior problems.” But were they really? When kids are forced to feel inadequate, leaving that space seems like a pretty normal thing to do, just as my leaving that lecture would be. I would only have myself to blame for not reading the fine print. But who is to blame when kids leave a class they never should have been in in the first place? They blame themselves for being “stupid.” That’s what they would tell me. “I’m stupid, Miss,” I’ve been told far too many times. But maybe they wouldn’t feel that way if their IEPs were actually followed. Do the shootings in Aurora all have to do with non-compliant IEPs? I couldn’t say. But I’ve definitely seen some of my previous students drop out of school and join gangs. There is a connection. Students who are disengaged from school look for their identity elsewhere. Clean up your act, APS. The kids are suffering.

Get Tough on Crime
Get Tough on Crime
4 months ago

Oh yeah it’s totally just “social media, the growing mental health crisis among youth, behavioral issues spurred by the pandemic” and “gun shows” that are the problem, not the fact the parents are not parenting, schools aren’t educating, and some of these gang members are just terrible humans out to cause trouble because there is a serious lack of personal accountability and consequences. But, keep believing that it’s every factor except the ones that are the actual problem.

DICK MOORE
4 months ago

Gosh, this is exactly what I’ve been saying and thinking for many years about defining the problem and solution here in Aurora. Maybe there are 10’s of thousands out here that believe exactly this. If parenting improves, schools begin teaching only educational things and police begin policing again, we Aurorans may get through all this criminal activity.

Kelly White
Kelly White
2 months ago

When I was a kid, my gang was my baseball team.