AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — The City of Aurora is embarking on a national search for a new police chief. But it’s unclear who could appease both sides of Aurora’s power divide to get the job done.
The Aurora Police Department is currently under a state-oversight consent decree, and the city is now governed by a conservative-leaning city council. The next chief may need to strike a balance of police reform while boosting morale among officers.
Councilman Juan Marcano, a Democrat, did not want to see Chief Vanessa Wilson fired by the city manager. Sources say Republican council members pressured the city manager to fire the progressive police chief. Now, along with his council colleagues, Marcano is responsible for selecting a new chief. He wants that person to continue reforming the department.
“I think we have the priorities, quite frankly, just ass-backwards — with what the Aurora Police Association is championing — that you have to put the officers and rank and file first and what the community wants comes second,” Marcano said.
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On the flip side, members of Aurora’s conservative majority on council say too many good officers have left over the past two years, and there needs to be a boost in morale.
“Chief Wilson spent a lot of time focusing on working in the community, which is important,” said Republican Councilman Dustin Zvonek. “But we don’t need a community liaison. We need a chief of police.”
Former 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler believes the next chief should strike a balance.
“I think you can, and you must, have both,” Brauchler said.
In a polarizing climate, striking that balance is easier said than done. With staffing, organizational and state oversight challenges, the question remains: Who would want the job?
“Coming into an organization, that by perception right now, is on its heels if not on its knees. that’s a good position to be in, because many times you can be perceived as someone who has done great work just to get it back to normal,” Brauchler explained.
Wilson was an internal candidate for chief two years ago. Wilson’s predecessor, Nick Metz, came to Aurora from the Seattle Police Department. Brauchler said an outside hire would come without past internal relationships, but would also come without baggage — offering a fresh set of eyes to take on the challenge.