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'Great way to end my career': Dan Oates' final exit after two-time stint as Aurora police chief

Oates weighed in on new leadership, the state of the department, and the state of policing
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Dan Oates sit down interview
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Posted at 5:41 PM, Dec 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-07 11:07:02-05

AURORA — Dan Oates is closing a chapter as he departs from the City of Aurora as police chief for the second time.

In an exclusive interview, now-former Aurora Police Chief Oates sat down with Denver7 Investigates to discuss the future of Aurora and policing.

"I was happy to come in and correct what I could," Oates said, reflecting on his decision to return to Aurora on an interim basis.

Oates spent the past six months triaging a police department devastated by major malfunctions. He said morale within the department was impacted greatly in the wake of the death of Elijah McClain, as well as a leadership overhaul after the firing of previous Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson.

The incidents also eroded the public's confidence in Aurora policing. Oates attributes that to a lack of leadership and accountability.

"We define ourselves very differently than we've been portrayed in the media. And this is true across the country of any of these departments that have an incident or two or three that creates that image," Oates said.

Aurora's image also made it hard to attract new candidates to fill Oates' position.

"The response I got from candidates was, ‘I don't trust your city council to make a fair choice about me based on who I am and what I've done. They're more concerned about what my race is and what my gender is,’" Oates said.

With time running out until his interim term expired, Oates tells Denver7 Investigates he used his nationwide resources and reputation to help the city find a police chief with a solid resume. Those conversations led Oates to Art Acevedo, who had already led large departments like Huston and Miami. Acevedo was sworn in Monday as the new interim chief.

Oates said Acevedo is a great fit.

"The first bilingual police chief in the history of Aurora. ... And I will bet that the community is going to love him and that we will be begging him six months from now to become the permanent chief because he's that good," Oates said.

Reflecting on his accomplishments, Oates said he feels proud of his leadership in Aurora.

"It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. A great way to end my career, and I feel really good about Chief Acevedo succeeding me," he said.

Oates offered perspective on how policing has transformed over his tenure in the industry, saying, "if there's anything that's really changed over my 18 years of being a police chief, it's been the emergence of hypercriticism in the uncontrolled, unfettered environment of social media."

Oates first came to Aurora in 2005 after serving as the chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department in Michigan. Before that, he worked for the New York Police Department for 21 years, working his way up from a beat officer to a command position where he oversaw 3,000 officers.

Oates left the Aurora Police Department in May 2014 after he accepted the top cop position for the Miami Beach Police Department. He retired in May 2019.

He later returned to Aurora in May of this year for the interim role.

Oates now plans to retire.