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Consultant finds huge case backlog amid controversy over Aurora Police chief

Chief Vanessa Wilson's attorney said a consulting firm's report on more than 2,500 unprocessed records was part of a "smear campaign" against her.

AURORA, Colo. — An independent report last month on the Aurora Police Department's record section found an "alarming" backlog of more than 2,500 crime reports, which the attorney for Police Chief Vanessa Wilson called part of a "smear campaign" against her.

The interim report was part of a larger, ongoing assessment that City Manager Jim Twombly commissioned from Florida-based consulting firm PRI Management Group, according to the City of Aurora.

The report focusing on the backlog came after a PRI Management consultant spent one week in APD's records section. At the time of the assessment the week of March 7, there were 2,512 reports pending processing by APD's Records Section. The consultant said there should be fewer than 50 in the queue, Twombly said.

"The fact that 2,512 reports are in the transcription queue is alarming," according to the report. "In addition to the delays in the administration of justice and poor customer service which this backlog creates, the City of Aurora is facing significant liability as a result."

Reports in the queue don't receive follow-up action or investigation until processing is complete, the consultant said.

The report said more than 1,000 of the reports were from 2021 and included crimes such as murder, carjacking, child abuse and cruelty to a child.

"The Aurora Police Department would face significant scrutiny and liability in the event a suspect commits a murder or other violent crime who otherwise would have been taken into custody were it not for the transcription queue," according to the report.

The report claims violent crimes reported to the Aurora Police Department may not be investigated for months because of these delays. On Tuesday, Aurora Police said that isn't true. 

> Watch: Aurora Police Department responds to consultant's report of huge case backlog

According to the department, the reason murder cases came up in this backlog is because those records were supplemental reports. Those reports are additional documents police officers submit that are not necessarily crucial to the investigation, the spokesperson said. They could be something as simple as a police officer reporting he or she was at the crime scene. 

Aurora Police said supplemental reports like that aren't prioritized for approval, and the documents stay in the queue until the records department can sign off on them.

As for child abuse cases, Aurora Police said a report for that crime can stay in the queue if officers find there isn't enough evidence for an arrest. When that happens, the report gets prioritized lower for approval from the records department.

The consultant recommended that all available resources be immediately assigned to address the backlog.

Twombly said in a statement that he supported the report's recommendations to reduce the backlog. He said that while the consultant discussed liability, "I see them as a risk and danger to our officers and the community."

According to 9News Legal Expert Scott Robinson, the city wouldn't face legal liability at all because of current state and federal law. 

"The later victim of a criminal who might have been arrested, might have been convicted, and might have been sent to jail and prison does not have a claim under Colorado or federal law for negligent policing," he said. "That particular civil liability has never been imposed."

A spokesperson for the city said that as of Tuesday, there were 1,252 pending reports. Of those, according to the spokesperson, 721 were "general offense" reports and 531 were "supplemental."

According to a spokesperson for Aurora Police, many reports in the backlog were related to accidents or theft cases with no suspect information. Those types of reports do not get prioritized for quick approval like violent cases. 

Paula Greisen, Wilson's attorney, told 9Wants to Know that Wilson repeatedly brought the longstanding backlog issues to Twombly's attention.

"The city manager responded to this report, which detailed all these problems, and credited Chief Wilson for addressing these issues, raising these issues, and asking for additional staff," Greisen said.

After an internal Police Auditor issued a report on the issues in December, Twombly ordered the PRI Management assessment.

"She has repeatedly brought these problems to the attention of city leadership," Greisen said. "And they're just now recently taking steps to try to help her remedy these problems. It is simply not her fault."

This is "nothing but a part of the ongoing campaign to try to justify her termination," Greisen said.

Twombly said in his statement:

"In the summer 2021, the city’s Police Auditor, which reports directly to me, began an audit of the Police Records section at the direction of city management and Chief Wilson to assess the section’s timeliness in handling open records requests from the public. Upon further investigation, the Auditor had mounting concerns about the processes, organization and supervision of the section overall.

Due to those concerns, I put together members of the city’s Innovation Design Team to evaluate and make recommendations for improvements to the section. After some time spent in that effort, they realized the problems were more than they could take on. As a result, in December, the Police Auditor, in concert with my office, hired the consultant to review APD’s entire Records section. 

After one week onsite, the consultant filed an initial report that focused on the transcription of crime reports – the process of reviewing, prioritizing and assigning reports for investigation or follow-up. They took this action due to the alarm they had about the backlog of transcriptions and the urgency needed to eliminate that backlog."

Last month, Twombly suggested a strategy for Wilson's resignation, to which Wilson's attorney responded that she won't resign.

RELATED: Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson not resigning despite suggestion from city manager, attorney says

Wilson became the interim police chief in early 2020 after 23 years with the department. She took the position amid controversy including the death of Elijah McClain, a photo scandal related to his death and criticism over the department's response to protests related to his death.

She was appointed to the full-time position in August 2020 in a 10-1 vote by the Aurora City Council.

RELATED: Aurora sees alarming rise in murder victims who are women

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