AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) – The firing of former Aurora Police Chief Police Vanessa Wilson could disrupt newfound trust between community members and police, activists warn. Wilson’s supporters said the firing is deepening the divide between the Black community and officers who patrol the streets.
Wilson was known for her work to change the department’s culture at a time when racial tensions were especially high. Tensions are still high, according to various community leaders, and they warn a pivot in approach will not likely help. Members of the Black community told FOX31 they fear that the department is stuck in the past and resistant to change.
“I just hope, you know, police don’t get to acting crazy and whatnot,” Walter, a lifelong Aurora resident, said. “I don’t want to see riots and stuff back in Colorado, nothing like that.”
On Monday, Wilson was flanked by supporters who praised her community outreach that led to the breaking down of barriers, fighting corruption and holding officers accountable. However, conservatives on the city council, along with Mayor Coffman, point to low morale in the department and caseloads stacking up in the department’s records department. The Wilson camp says the former chief was the target of a smear campaign.
“[Wilson] was a person who was willing to stand up for justice,” said Pastor Topazz McBride of Restoration Christian Fellowship.
McBride, a supporter of Wilson, was at Monday’s press conference. She was representing the Greater Denver Metro Alliance. McBride said Wilson’s firing creates a climate in which people will be more reluctant to report crimes.
“People are going to pull back, and people are not going to be willing to cooperate nor trust an officer’s intentions or motivation,” McBride said.
Her concern is over Aurora reverting to policing that is not community-focused.
“Things are going to be at a higher level of risk — and a higher level of volatility in the Aurora community — and it’s really unfortunate,” McBride said.
Amid a rise in violent crime, the City of Aurora now has its work cut out to find a new chief who can be a unifying force. The un-elected city manager, Jim Twombly, who answers to the city council, was the one who fired Wilson. The city council will collectively be responsible for finding Wilson’s successor.