By Tori Mason

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Supporters of Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson began to worry about her future with the department weeks ago when rumors of her termination first began.

Omar Montgomery, president of the Aurora branch of the NAACP, says Wilson was doing a great job connecting with the community and restoring relationships with police. He’s disappointed with her termination, and like many others, unsure of why it happened.

“I thought she was doing a great job trying to heal some of those wounds so that the community can move forward as we began to address the consent decree and figure out what public safety look likes in the city of Aurora,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery reflected on Wilson’s tenure, saying she’s always been there to update their branch of the NAACP. He respected her community involvement following waves of recent crime. Last year, she met with school and community leaders for an open discussion on the surge of youth violence.

(credit: CBS)

Mayor Mike Coffman told reporters Wednesday that Wilson was the right choice at the right time but he supports a change in leadership.

“Given the fact that we have rising crime, given the fact that there was a lack of urgency in her leadership, resolving this problem, certainly caused me to support the city manager in his decision,” said Coffman.

City Manager Jim Twombly said that Wilson “prioritized community involvement” but didn’t “effectively manage the operations of the department.”

“It seems like people undermined the leadership of the police chief, and then expected for her to have the respect of their rank and file. That’s difficult,” said Montgomery. “I’m not sure what was going on inside, but I thought she was doing an amazing job.”

Aurora Councilman Dustin Zvonek says APD needs a chief who does more than restore trust.

“I know nothing that I would say negatively about her as a person. I just want what’s best for the department, but more importantly, what’s best for the city,” said Councilman Dustin Zvonek.

Vanessa Wilson

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass interviews Vanessa Wilson in February 2020. (credit: CBS)

Zvonek, who is also chair of the city’s public safety committee, told CBS4’s Brian Maass he believes Wilson is not capable of leading the department going forward.

“We don’t need just a Community Relations Officer. We need a Chief of Police who can establish trust with the community, continue the work that needs to be done there, and can attract and retain the best officers.,” said Zvonek.

Zvonek goes on to say the safety of residents is dependent upon a fully staffed Aurora Police Department, placing struggles with officer retention on Wilson.

“Just look at the fact that we’ve lost nearly 200 officers. If you talk to people about why they’re leaving Aurora to go to these various departments across the state, they’ll tell you it was because of Chief Wilson and the failed leadership within the department,” said Zvonek.

The city says it will take months to find Wilson’s replacement.

Interim Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson (credit: CBS)

Montgomery says the problems in Aurora are much bigger than replacing one person.

“I think we need someone who truly recognizes that this is a city that needs to heal, and at the same time, address all the public safety issues. Can they do both? Can they do the healing that’s needed with all of our Public Safety agencies. When it comes to trust and public safety, it’s the whole system that the community has concerns about,” said Montgomery.

Tori Mason