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Aurora City Council grills city manager about police records backlog

The city manager admitted he denied a request for more people for the records unit.

AURORA, Colo. — Aurora's city manager on Thursday admitted he denied a request to increase staffing in the records unit to help eliminate a backlog of reports.

It was a four-page memo with enormous implications and effects: A preliminary report issued on March 14 by an outside management group that showed a backlog of more than 2,500 incident reports within the Aurora Police Department (APD).

The day after the backlog was reported by news organizations, City Manager Jim Twombly fired Police Chief Vanesa Wilson, citing a lack of leadership and management – and mentioning the records backlog as an example.

On Thursday, Twombly conceded during a hearing of the City Council's Public Safety Committee that he denied a request last May from APD to add 10 people to the records unit to help get rid of the backlog.

"We did deny that request at the time until we had a better handle on what was going on and those vacant positions could be filled," Twombly said. "Processes that appeared to be broken, systems that weren't working –vacancies that were already part of the records section that needed to be filled."   

When asked if he thought the backlog was a serious public safety issue for the City of Aurora, Twombly said, simply, "I do."

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According to APD, through the use of mandatory overtime, they have reduced the records backlog from a little more than 2,500 last month to just 59 as of Thursday morning.

The author of the report was also at Thursday's virtual hearing. 

Ed Claughton blamed the backlog on a lack of urgency within the records unit, a broken organizational structure, and ineffective management. At one point, he was asked about the role of the report in Chief Wilson's firing.

"Have you had any conversations with any city employee, any city council member that they wanted this to come forward to smear the chief of police?" Councilman Dustin Zvonek asked. 

"Absolutely not," Claughton answered. "I wasn't even aware of the efforts regarding her performance that had come out in the public news."

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