AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Mayor Mike Coffman is opening up about his support to oust Vanessa Wilson as police chief.
“I have never said publicly until today that I think she should leave nor did I ever have a conversation with the city manager that she should leave,” Coffman said.
However, he now admits he has had lingering doubts about her performance, which grew exponentially following the release of a records audit showing a records backlogs of more than 2,500 cases.
“When I looked at that, there is no question that she should go,” Coffman said. “It just sounds innocuous, records. But it’s a key part of the process in terms of fighting crime.”
Wilson’s attorney said in a statement that the backlog has been a problem long before she was promoted to chief. This has some critics of the termination questioning whether it was politics at play instead of performance.
“I don’t think that a majority of council prior to this report coming out were for the police chief leaving. There are some that were, that have been vocal about her leadership,” Coffman said.
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With Wilson’s departure also comes questions about the city’s consent decree, which mandates changes to use of force policies, transparency and police training. The decree was adopted in 2021 following the investigation into the death of Elijah McClain.
“Who is chief can certainly help determine the outcome in the speediness in which reforms are achieved, so we are concerned with that. I am sure the community is concerned with that as well,” said Jeff Schlanger, president of IntegrAssure.
Schlanger’s company was selected as the independent monitor to make sure that the decree gets carried out as agreed upon. The monitor is an impartial party when it comes to personnel matters.
“Chief Wilson has been exemplary in her cooperation and setting the tone at the top for the department,” Schlanger said. “The concern is that the next chief may not be as invested in the consent decree, but I have been assured by city leaders that that won’t be the case.”
Schlanger said in other cases, not all chiefs of police have been as cooperative as Wilson in cooperating with the decree. Coffman said he is confident that whoever is selected as the next Aurora police chief will continue to work toward the required changes.
“That’s going to be part of the criteria in the selection process, so I’m not concerned about that. I think that’s the easy part,” Coffman said. “The hard part is finding the person who has got the law enforcement skills to better organize this department to be effective in terms of bringing down crime in this city.”