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1 of 3 finalists in Aurora police chief search drops out after announcement

As part of the City of Aurora's selection process, the public can submit questions for the police chief finalists and attend a meet-and-greet next week.

AURORA, Colo. — The City of Aurora on Wednesday named three finalists for a new police chief  –five months after the firing of former Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson – but one of the finalists almost immediately withdrew from the process.

Scott C. Booth, police chief in Danville, Virginia, withdrew from consideration soon after the City of Aurora named him as one of three finalists, the city said.

According to the City of Aurora, the other two finalists are:

  • Scott M. Ebner, deputy superintendent of administration for New Jersey State Police, where he's worked for about 27 years. He also worked for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida. He has a master's degree in human resources management and training and a bachelor's in criminal justice.

  • David Franklin, chief of staff of the Albuquerque Police Department. He previously was assistant police chief at the University of Texas at Arlington Police Department and worked for 25 years for the Texas Department of Public Safety. He has a master's degree focusing on homeland security issues and served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

After Booth withdrew, a city spokesman said Aurora will go forward with the selection process with Ebner and Franklin but might approach some of the original semifinalists for reconsideration.

The city hired California-based recruiting firm Public Sector Search & Consulting (PSSC) to conduct a national search for a new Aurora Police chief with a focus on recruiting a diverse pool of applicants, according to a news release.

A city spokesperson added that more than 60% of the firm’s successful police executive placements in recent years have been women and people of color.

On Thursday night,  the firm's president, Gary Peterson, and Senior Consultant Kenton Buckner, explained that they engaged multiple stakeholder groups within Aurora. 

"...and had conversations about what they were looking for in their next police chief in terms of qualities, in terms of the priorities for the chief and what they hope the next leader would bring to the department and to the community," Peterson said. 

A city spokesman said that seven of the 21 applicants for the position, or 33%, were women or people of color. The finalists were then selected by a panel that consisted of City Manager Jim Twombly, Deputy City Managers Jason Batchelor, Roberto Venegas and Laura Perry and Interim Police Chief Dan Oates.

The firm had also reached out to multiple law enforcement professional associations, including ones that represent Hispanic, Black and women law enforcement professionals.

Peterson with PSSC doesn't consider the candidate pool to be small. 

"It's the pool of candidates that most search firms are getting in this day and age," he said, adding that recent searches conducted by his firm in recent years also showed a decrease in the number of candidates.

"...and the fact that there are issues in Aurora that some people are not willing to take on," Peterson said, referring to the consent decree in Aurora.

"Aurora's a beautiful city that has challenges, much like many urban cities across the country," Buckner added. "And, you know, the same way that we've seen this mass exodus of line officers leaving the profession for a variety of different reasons, I think it's becoming increasingly difficult to find police leaders who are willing to take on these very difficult challenges in our communities."

Credit: City of Aurora
The finalists for Aurora Police chief: Scott M. Ebner, left, and David Franklin.

The city will hold a three-day in-person selection process for the finalists starting Monday.

The finalists will meet with APD employees on Monday and with community members on Tuesday and will interview with the mayor, City Council members and other city officials on Wednesday.

A public meet-and-greet with the finalists is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Aurora Municipal Center Lobby, 15151 E. Alameda Parkway.

The city set up a form where anyone can submit a question to the finalists in English and in Spanish. Questions will be accepted from Wednesday through 5 p.m. Sunday.

Submitted questions will be sorted into categories and compiled into a list to ask the finalists in taped interviews. The finalists won't get the community questions ahead of time.

Community members can also provide feedback after 4 p.m. Tuesday when the interviews are over and published.

The mother of Elijah McClain, Sheneen McClain, said she's disappointed with the city's picks. 

Her son died in 2019 after Aurora Police officers stopped him for doing nothing wrong, restrained him and paramedics gave him the sedative ketamine.

In a statement, Sheneen McClain tells 9NEWS:

"It's unfortunate that Aurora Colorado police department chooses to stick to the bro code mentality that murdered my son in 2019, nothing and no one can save that Department from itself, it will always have Elijah McClain’s blood on their hands and staining their uniforms. No amount of controlling solidarity can change the truth, the apple orchard is corrupt."

In April, Twombly fired Wilson, who said that she disagreed with the reasons given for her firing. She called her firing politically motivated, though she acknowledged that many of the reforms and other actions she put in place weren't popular.

RELATED: 'Sir, you are very wrong': Former Aurora Police chief disputes reasons for firing

Jason McBride, a secondary violence prevention specialist with the Struggle of Love Foundation, is also part of Aurora's Community Police Task Force.

He said that he found the final candidates for the position, "frustrating."

"I just felt like we have wasted two or three years of trying to build that department back up from when Elijah McClain was murdered to, you know, through George Floyd and everything that we dealt with to now. Nothing has changed," he said. 

He also stressed the importance of representation in positions of power, like the position of chief of police.

"I think if you bring a new chief in, that chief must know the unique issues that face Aurora. And it being one of America's most diverse cities, the department, should reflect what Aurora boasts about – being a diverse community," said McBride.

RELATED: Aurora interim police chief says 'things are improving' after extended period of turmoil

Before Wilson was fired, the department was already reeling from several high-profile cases of alleged excessive force, most notably the death of Elijah McClain, which led to an agreement, or consent decree, that requires major reforms to the department's practices and policies.

After Wilson's departure, the city brought Oates as interim police chief. He was previously the APD chief from 2005 to 2014.

Twombly will hire the new police chief with approval from the majority of the City Council.

During its candidate search, the consulting firm contacted the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Executive Research Forum, Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, according to a news release.

RELATED: Aurora PD changes hiring requirement to help with staffing shortage

RELATED: Aurora City Council grills city manager about police records backlog

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