Aurora., Co., the Denver suburb where police officers and paramedics have been charged in the death of a Black man in 2019, ousted its reform-minded police chief Vanessa Wilson, faulting her management of a department at a time of rising crime and officer departures, the Associated Press reports. Lawyers for Wilson, who became chief in Aurora in 2020 after the death of Elijah McClain gained new attention amid protests over police brutality and racial injustice after the police killing of George Floyd, said she was the victim of a campaign by conservative city council members who opposed reforms to damage her reputation. Last year, the city signed an agreement with State Attorney General Phil Weiser to make changes aimed at ending a pattern of racially biased policing and excessive force. Wilson also acted quickly to discipline and fire officers accused of misconduct, including officers who took and shared photos appearing to mock McClain’s death.
City Manager Jim Twombly said Wilson excelled in her community outreach work in Colorado’s third-largest city, but he fired her because of concerns about her leadership and management of the department. He declined to give examples other than mentioning a backlog of thousands of crime reports, with the potential to delay investigations and arrests, that he first learned about last month. Twombly said he had conversations with officers and was concerned about the number who have left. “It really comes down to a lack of confidence on my part for her to be able to lead the department,” he said. The state lawmakers who represent Aurora, all Democrats, said Wilson’s firing will set back efforts to eliminate “the department’s longstanding pattern and practice of racist policing.”