AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — An outside consulting firm took a deep dive into the Aurora Police Department’s records section and found a backlog that has city officials worried about the department’s urgency in responding to crime.

After one week of review, PRI Management Group, filed an initial report and found there were 2,512 cases pending processing on March 11. There should be fewer than 50 cases pending in the queue normally, according to the consultant.

As of today, that queue is down to 1,252 cases, according to the City of Aurora.

The review was triggered following a summer 2021 audit conducted by Aurora’s Police Auditor, who reports to City Manager Jim Twombly. The initial audit was to look into the records section and how timely it handles public records requests.

After the auditor raised concerns about the process and organization of the police department’s records section, the city ultimately hired PRI to complete a more thorough review. The firm’s full report is still being finalized.

The backlog revelation comes at a time when Chief Vanessa Wilson’s leadership is being questioned. As FOX31 reported, Twombly asked Wilson to step down, but Wilson’s attorney says she refused. Multiple inside sources tell the Problem Solvers that Wilson may be working on a separation agreement to leave her job.

Wilson’s attorney Paula Greisen tells FOX31 the backlog was an issue before Wilson stepped into her new role as chief.

“The fact is these issues have been going on for a long time, and when the initial audit was completed at the end of last year, the city manager’s response was, yes, these are serious issues,” Greisen said. “Yes, they need to be addressed. Yes, they’ve been going on for a long time. Chief Wilson inherited this issue and something needs to be done.”

Twombly sent the following statement to FOX31, explaining why the assessment was commissioned and what action the city has taken to address the backlog:

“The preliminary assessment of the Police Records section was alarming to me. The issues it identified are patently unacceptable. While the consultant discusses them in terms of liability, I see them as a risk and danger to our officers and the community.

As part of our implementation of the ‘New Way’ plan, which aims to improve public safety for the community and add process improvements to make our work more efficient, we continue to assess Aurora’s various public safety systems. In the summer 2021, the city’s Police Auditor, which reports directly to me, began an audit of the Police Records section at the direction of city management and Chief Wilson to assess the section’s timeliness in handling open records requests from the public. Upon further investigation, the Auditor had mounting concerns about the processes, organization and supervision of the section overall. Due to those concerns, I put together members of the city’s Innovation Design Team to evaluate and make recommendations for improvements to the section.  After some time spent in that effort, they realized the problems were more than they could take on. As a result, in December, the Police Auditor, in concert with my office, hired the consultant to review APD’s entire Records section. After one week onsite, the consultant filed an initial report that focused on the transcription of crime reports – the process of reviewing, prioritizing and assigning reports for investigation or follow-up. They took this action due to the alarm they had about the backlog of transcriptions and the urgency needed to eliminate that backlog.

At the time of the consultant’s initial assessment, there were more than 2,500 cases sitting in the queue, potentially delaying timely investigations on serious criminal offenses. According to the consultant, there should be less than 50 in the queue. While attempts to expedite the transcription process for more serious crimes have been created, ongoing system vulnerabilities still exist. We can and must do better.

These are not failures that have occurred overnight. Nevertheless, it is the city management team’s responsibility to make sure there is a plan in place that prioritizes a swift, thorough and lasting resolution to these problems.

APD continues to have my full support to deploy all available resources and is already taking action to reduce the backlog:

• A police lieutenant with prior records management experience began overseeing the Records section, a change that is consistent with a recommendation made in the consultant’s report.
• All remote work in the Records section is transitioning to in-person work.
• APD management authorized overtime for Records staff and supervisors.
• The Records section is temporarily closed to the public on Wednesdays in order to focus on transcriptions.
• Officers currently assigned to light duty will be trained on the transcription process and temporarily assigned to the Records section to assist.
• Sergeants will be trained on quality control measures to fix reports prior to submission to the Records section.
• APD will implement new, automated features within the records management system to reduce errors and increase efficiency in the transcription process.
• The department is increasing the number of records technicians and adding a supervisor.
• Human Resources is conducting a compensation study to attract and retain Records staff.
• An additional Open Records Coordinator has been added to process CCJRA requests.
• The Records section is prioritizing and expediting significant cases that requiring immediate investigative assignment or jail follow-up.

APD’s Records section is the central repository and quality control clearinghouse for every report an officer generates, and it provides a critical nexus between officers in the field, criminal defendants, victims and the courts. It also aids in providing a transparency portal to the public on open records requests submitted under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act (CCJRA). In many ways, the Records section is the backbone of Aurora’s criminal justice system. It is crucial to me that we find a long-term solution to the problems and get it right.”

Jim Twombly, Aurora City Manager