AURORA, Colo. — Aurora community leaders are reacting to the firing of Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson.
In 2020 when Wilson was named police chief, she was tasked with building community trust and implementing police reforms.
“Chief Wilson had a presence in the community that we felt comfortable with,” community activist Angelia Baker said. “Even if she didn't agree with us, she at least heard us. She showed her face in the community, and I can't say the same about some other city leaders.”
Baker, who has a background in youth violence prevention research, says she could see the progress Wilson was making and feels Wilson is being used as a scapegoat by conservative city leaders.
“There has been a lot going on within the city of Aurora. A lot of this happened before Chief Wilson,” Baker said. “Crime and youth violence is heightened throughout America.”
At a time when dozens of Aurora police officers have left the department, Baker says the department should prepare for a continuation of those departures.
“There were many officers that were in support of Chief Wilson, specifically officers of color. There were officers from the LGBTQ community that supported her. There were white officers that supported Chief Wilson. But all those officers are afraid to come forward. That's why they asked community leaders to speak out because they're afraid even more now,” Baker said. “Chief Wilson didn't agree with some things that were said by the mayor, and even though the city manager is saying he made the final decision, we as citizens all know who is making the calls in this great city of Aurora.”
In an interview with Denver7, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said he had nothing to do with the decision to fire Wilson.
“When the city manager met with me and showed me the outside investigation of the department in an area that's absolutely critical, that she's known about for quite some time… it was really at that point that I agreed with the city manager with his decision to let her go,” he said.
Coffman said Wilson did a good job implementing reforms during a difficult time for the city.
“But I began to question her leadership as the crime rate rose, and I just didn't see the urgency of it,” he said.
NAACP Aurora Branch President Omar Montgomery was shocked to learn that Wilson was fired. He says he felt Wilson started building trust with the community.
“Our city is crying for help. But firing Chief Wilson, I don't think it helped. I think if anything, it may increase that divide,” Montgomery said. “So I hope those people that voted or pushed for her to be fired, that they have a plan to keep our city safe.”
As the city prepares for its third police chief in three years, Montgomery and Baker say they plan to hold the city accountable for what happens next.
“Now that she's been terminated, my question is, is the community going to be involved as a part of the process for selecting a new chief?” Montgomery asked.
Baker says this decision is a call to action.
“We need to look at maybe recalling some of these folks, maybe look at what our policies and preventative measures are for the city of Aurora,” Baker said.