AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Supporters of former Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson gathered on Monday afternoon to contest her termination. Wilson was fired by the city manager last week.

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“It’s not about me, it’s about making sure that we have leaders in the police departments, in this city, across the state who are willing to stand up to the unions and stand up to those who are doing it wrong, willing to fire those officers who are doing it wrong,” said Wilson. “I’m talking about criminal behavior, it cannot and will not and should not be allowed in that building.”

Wilson also claimed her firing was a political move.

“What I did was not popular. Leadership is not a popularity contest.”

She also discussed the current police force and urged the community to take a positive outlook.

“The vast majority of the officers in the Aurora police force, those dedicated men and women, embraced the changes that are coming, are excited about the change the consent decree will implement, better training, better equipment, better support in implementing support for best practices. So please, still believe in these men and women who are out there doing their jobs selflessly.”

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“Chief Wilson was the pathway for equity and justice for women, for LGBTQ and victims of violence,” said Maisha Fields, the daughter of state Rep. Rhonda Fields.

Supporters of Wilson were emotional about her firing and at times disagreed about the city manager’s reasoning for terminating Wilson.

Last week, Jim Twombly said that there were two issues with Wilson: management and leadership. In the announcement about Wilson, Twombly said that Wilson “prioritized community involvement” but didn’t “effectively manage the operations of the department, effectively engage with staff, build morale, and validate employee feedback.”

Wilson was hired as police chief in August 2020. She served as interim chief before that.

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Wilson took over as chief during a tumultuous time in Aurora. The city was facing a lawsuit stemming from the 2019 death of Elijah McClain after an encounter with police. The City of Aurora agreed to pay $15 million to the family of McClain to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed over his death. There were widespread protests throughout the city during the summer months of 2020, many spurred by the lack of investigation into McClain’s death.

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During Wilson’s tenure, the city also consented to improve policing and public safety in an agreement reached with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. That agreement was reached in November 2021 after issues were identified in a report from the 14-month investigation into the practices of the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue. The investigation team appointed by Weiser found the Aurora Police Department has a history of racially biased policing and found Aurora police and fire departments have a pattern of violating federal and state laws.

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Jennifer McRae