Aurora Police Chief Finalists Answer Community Questions

On Tuesday evening the four finalists who are each hoping to be the next chief of the Aurora Police Department answered questions submitted by the community.

Listen to the report and the finalist’s answers:

(Download Audio)

The vast majority of questions that had been submitted centered on the death of Elijah McClain.

McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, died in August 2019 after being stopped by police for no criminal reason.

The moment McClain is dosed with ketamine in police body camera footage

A caller to 911 reported that a man was dancing to music while wearing a ski mask.

McClain, a massage therapist, who was unarmed and on his way home from a convenience store, was put in a chokehold, given ketamine and then suffered two heart attacks on the way to hospital. He was pronounced brain dead 6 days later.

The Adams County District Attorney later determined that all three officers did not commit any criminal acts, and no charges were filed against them.

Elijah McClain’s death has seen renewed interest in the recent protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 2.1 million people had signed a Change.org petition calling for a new investigation into McClain’s death.

The city of Aurora recently posted a message on its website that says the City Manager is working with members of the Aurora City Council and the Mayor to initiate a new independent, external investigation of the actions of police, firefighters and paramedics in the Elijah McClain case.

The four finalists for the Aurora police chief are:

  • Marcus Dudley Jr., a commander with Aurora Police
  • Alexander Jones, a colonel and bureau chief with the Baltimore County Police Department
  • Avery Moore, assistant police chief with the Dallas Police Department
  • Vanessa Wilson, the current interim chief for Aurora Police

Speaking on Tuesday night Vanessa Wilson said as interim police chief she has attended the community meetings and rallies about Elijah McClain’s death.

“(I have) talked to people face to face and listened to their anger and listened to their pain. We need to remember that this community lost a vibrant young man and that tragedy cannot be reversed, but what we can do as a police agency is change the way we do business.”

Wilson recently introduced policy changes including a ban on the carotid hold that was applied to McClain. Another initiative introduced is a suspicious call directive which gives the ability for an officer to respond to a call and to examine whether the person is in fact suspicious or whether implicit bias is in play.

“When someone is called in as a suspicious person it should never be because of the color of their skin. What I’m saying is that in law enforcement in general, we need to look differently at how we do business.”

Marcus Dudley Jr. was the commander over the investigations bureau when Elijah McClain was killed. He said he took a victim centered approach to the investigation and viewed the body camera footage with the family.

“One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do is to spend time with a family that is having to grieve and see their son in that way.”

All four candidates said they supported city’s use of military-style equipment, and they all vowed their support for the creation of an independent review entity in the city.

Wilson and Dudley both said that the existing Independent Review Board that is composed of four citizens and four police officers has been successful.