DENVER – The city of Aurora will continue its search for a new police chief and will not currently move forward with the two finalists named last month after they met with the community and city leadership over the past several weeks.
David Franklin, one of the two finalists, withdrew his name from consideration after the three-day final selection process, leaving Scott Ebner as the only finalist. A city spokesperson said Ebner "does not have the necessary support to proceed in the process."
The city manager’s decision came after the Aurora City Council met in an executive session at 4:30 p.m. Monday to discuss what to do with the two finalists after community leaders said they did not feel their voices were heard in the selection process and that they felt the city did not do enough to consider diverse candidates for Aurora’s top cop spot.
City Manager Jim Twombly said in a statement that community members and City Council members wanted the city to continue to the search for “a variety of reasons,” which he said he supported.
“We all – city management, the City Council, and the community – want the best person for the job who will address crime in Aurora and lead the Aurora Police Department to be racially equitable, bias-free, culturally competent and responsive to all residents,” Twombly said.
City spokesperson Ryan Luby said 21 people applied for the Aurora Police Chief position over a two-month period, and two of them withdrew “early in the process.” Luby said the initial pool of 21 included seven people who were women or people of color, and two of those seven were picked as semi-finalists. The three originally named finalists were all white men.
“Moving forward, we will be assessing the process and determining next steps as we continue the search,” Twombly said. “People across our community may have differing preferences of who they want to lead the Aurora Police Department, but we will make sure that whoever is chosen will be held to serving every member of our community equitably.”
Denver7 reached out to all members of the Aurora City Council, which the city manager needs a majority vote from in order to confirm the next police chief, for comment on the city’s decision to continue the search. Several of the councilmembers were in San Antonio Tuesday to learn more about the city’s programs for people experiencing homelessness.
“I am confident we will find a great candidate for Aurora,” said Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky.
“I am confident we will select a top-notch Police Chief, who will first and foremost be proactive in fighting crime, be an excellent leader in this great organization, as well as build needed relationships in our community,” said Councilman Steve Sundberg.
Councilman Juan Marcano said the next steps will be discussed through city management.
Councilman Curtis Gardner says he believed the two finalists, Franklin and Ebner, were qualified for the job. He says that moving forward, council needs to regroup and figure out what they want in a candidate.
“I’m really concerned about our ability to attract the right person for the job because of how this process has played out,” he said. “…What my take on it is, is we really need to expedite the process. We need to take into account the feedback and apply that feedback to find the right candidate.”
Controversy has surrounded the issue of who will be the next Aurora police chief since the day the finalists were announced on Sept. 21. Shortly after the city announced three finalists, a city spokesperson said one of them – Scott Booth, the chief of police in Danville, Virginia – had dropped out of consideration, but the city gave few details.
The three picks – all white men – were also criticized by members of the community for not being diverse candidates, which the city had said it was seeking. That criticism continued after the two finalists – Ebner and Franklin – met with community leaders last week.
Franklin is the chief of staff at the Albuquerque, N.M., Police Department and Ebner is a retired lieutenant colonel and deputy superintendent with the New Jersey State Police.
Members of the Aurora Police Oversight Committee held a news conference after that meet-and-greet calling on the city to start the process over, saying the two finalists would face doubts from the community because of their lack of diversity.
“Reinstate the task force immediately and stop this process, as it is unjust and undemocratic,” Candice Bailey said at the time.
“We want to know who was on that committee that brought it down to three people, and now down to two,” said fellow member Pastor Thomas Mayes. “What is the process? And why were we not involved?”
And Assistant Senate Majority Leader Rhonda Fields and Sen. Janet Buckner, both Black senators from Aurora, said last week they were “deeply discouraged” by the city’s finalist picks and said they and other Black community leaders had been left out of the process.
“Hiring a Police Chief is a complex process that requires open and honest dialogue with the entire community. This process has been unnecessarily rushed and challenging for the public to access, and the decision not to pursue genuine engagement – especially with communities of color – has led to a disappointing lack of diversity among the finalists for the position,” Fields and Buckner said in a joint statement last Thursday. “…We are deeply discouraged that city leadership continues to ignore the voices of the Black community and has refused to ensure a fair and transparent process for all candidates who applied for the position.”
A recruiting firm conducted a national search “with a focus on recruiting a diverse pool of applicants at city management’s direction,” the city said the day it announced the finalists. And in the meetings with community members, both Ebner and Franklin said making the Aurora Police Department more diverse was important to them.
The candidates, in addition to their community meetings, were set to interview with Mayor Mike Coffman and members of the city council last Wednesday.