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Former Aurora Police chief to lead department on interim basis

Dan Oates is returning to lead the Aurora Police Department as it searches for a candidate to take over the full-time position after Vanessa Wilson's firing.

AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora Police Department announced a familiar name to lead the department on an interim basis Wednesday.

Daniel Oates was previously the head of APD from 2005 to 2014, during which he led the department through the July 2012 shooting at an Aurora movie theater during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" that left 12 people dead.

After leaving APD, Oates became the police chief in Miami Beach, Florida until his retirement in 2019.

Since retiring, Oates has served as a law enforcement and security consultant for various clients, including the Baltimore Police Department and the St. Louis City and County police departments.

Oates is scheduled to have a minor procedure at the end of April, and will arrive in Aurora by May 23. In the meantime, the city said he will begin having conversations with key community leaders and APD staff members remotely.

“I am honored and flattered to be asked to serve again. I love Aurora. It has given so much to me and my family over the years,” Oates said. “I want to help the men and women of the APD get through this critical period of reform. I also look forward to reconnecting with the wonderful Aurora community. We’ll all need to work together to ensure a smooth transition to the new chief.”

“I selected Dan for this important role because he has established trust with our community and many of our officers, and I believe he will effectively manage the department and further the enduring transformation in public safety our community expects under our ‘New Way’ plan,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said. 

“Dan brings focus to crime reduction, community engagement and internal leadership that will serve our community well during this transition. He will also provide critical guidance as we begin to seek community input in selecting a permanent chief.”

> Watch the full news conference introducing Oates below:

Former APD Chief Vanessa Wilson was fired on April 6 after rumors had been swirling for weeks about her possible departure, including a report that she planned to resign, which were disputed by her attorney. 

Wilson said she disagreed with the reasons given for her firing.

"I can only go with what the city manager claimed that he fired me for, which was 'overall leadership and overall management,'" Wilson said. "To that I say, 'Sir, you are very wrong.'"

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

Division Chief Chris Juul was temporarily overseeing operations at APD before Oates was named as interim chief, the city said. The city management team is conducting a nationwide search for a permanent chief.

APD is under a consent decree, a legally binding agreement that requires the department to make changes when it comes to their use of force, Fourth Amendment stops and biased policing. 

The oversight came after the attorney general found APD engaged in excessive force practices and racially biased policing. 

Oates is now in charge of getting officers on board with the consent decree.

"To the extent they feel the image of the department is tarnished, their image is tarnished, the only way out of that is the roadmap of the consent decree," he said. 

According to Oates, the only way to move forward in the department is to get officers to embrace the reforms promised in the court order. 

"There has to be an effort by leadership every single day to convince the employees of the department that this is the roadmap," he said. "There are plenty of police departments in the country who have been through this process very successfully."

RELATED: Aurora City Council approves consent decree

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


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