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March 25, 2022 09:51 AM UTC

Mayor Mike's Next Target: Aurora's Reformer Chief of Police

  • 3 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols
Aurora PD Chief Vanessa Wilson.

The Aurora Sentinel’s Max Levy reports on the latest controversy to emerge from Aurora’s newly-installed Republican majority City Council, which in just a few months has mired itself in a string of embarrassing miscues and silly political grandstands that have distracted from their agenda even with the strength to push it though on party-line votes.

With Mayor Mike Coffman’s cherished homeless camping ban set to pass its final vote in a few days, it appears that the next target is Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson. We say “appears” because, much like the recent treachery in Douglas County Schools against that district’s now-ousted superintendent, the action in what should be above-board public dealings is going on behind closed doors:

“There has been a campaign against Chief Wilson and the deputy chief orchestrated by certain members of city council,” [Attorney Paula] Greisen said. “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.”

…On Monday, Greisen said Wilson was invited onto a Zoom call with Twombly in which the city manager said they needed to discuss an “exit strategy” for Wilson.

“Chief Wilson’s response was that she was not resigning and had no plans to resign,” Greisen said, “and that if the City of Aurora wanted to talk about that, they could contact me.”

But who Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly really doesn’t want to talk to, it appears, is the media:

When asked by a Sentinel reporter Wednesday to confirm whether he had requested that Wilson submit her resignation, Twombly said he was “surprised” by the inquiry.

“This is kind of a volatile situation, and I don’t really have anything to say about it,” the city manager said before the call abruptly ended.

So what’s really going on here? As most readers know, Colorado passed a robust police accountability law in 2020 in response to recent high-profile killings of Black people by police officers across the nation. Although the most famous case driving the reform movement in 2020 was that of George Floyd in Minneapolis, local impetus for this legislation also came from the killing the year prior of Elijah McClain of Aurora at the hands of police and paramedics who had no good reason to restrain him.

Senate Bill 20-217 led to a broader investigation by the state Attorney General Phil Weiser into the practices of the Aurora Police Department, who issued a damning report in September of last year documenting far higher arrest and use of force rates against people of color than white people. These facts combined with massive public protest in the summer of 2020 to create the mandate for reform under which Chief Vanessa Wilson has been operating ever since.

The pushback from Aurora’s police union and more recently Republicans on the City Council to this reform mandate has been an ugly affair. Wilson fired the head of the police union after he sent an email department-wide ridiculing diversity on the force, and after new city councilor Danielle Jurinsky trashed not just Wilson but the whole city as “not safe,” Mayor Mike himself had to intervene to reel Jurinsky’s economically harmful rhetoric in.

Ousting Chief Vanessa Wilson would be the clearest sign yet that despite years of lip service, and all the light which has been shed on the city’s systematic brutality against residents of color, Mayor Mike Coffman and his new Republican majority city government have no intention of meaningfully reforming Aurora’s emergency services. We laugh about antics like grandstanding against masks, but here is a deadly serious consequence of Republicans taking control of the state’s largest and most diverse suburban city.

It’s the same painful lesson, over and over until we learn it: all elections matter.

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