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Aurora Chooses Police Chief

Daniel Oates oversees about 330 employees in Ann Arbor, Mich.

By Javier Erik Olvera, Rocky Mountain News
October 5, 2005

AURORA - Daniel Oates will take over as chief of the city's 600-officer police department on Nov. 28 - becoming only the second outsider in 25 years to hold the position.

Oates, who is police chief in Ann Arbor, Mich., told the City Council in a videoconference Tuesday he is "excited" and "thrilled" about his new job.

Oates said he knows the department has faced "several bumps in the road," but added he's "focused on going forward."

In Ann Arbor, Oates oversees the fire, police and emergency management departments, which total about 330 employees.

Before taking the job in Michigan in 2001, he spent 21 years working his way up through the ranks of the New York City Police Department, retiring as deputy chief.

Oates, who earns $128,000 in Ann Arbor, will be paid $131,000, the top of the range for the Aurora job.

As his first official act in his new job, Oates told interim Police Chief Terry Jones that he wants him to remain with the department as his deputy chief.

That's the same job Jones held for three years before temporarily taking over the department in March when Chief Ricky Bennett stepped down amid criticism over officers' failure to arrest serial rapist Brent J. Brents.

Jones and C. Scott Harris Jr., chief deputy for the Sacramento, Calif., Sheriff's Department, were the other finalists for the job.

Council members, who unanimously approved City Manager Ron Miller's recommendation to hire Oates, took turns welcoming the 50-year-old father of two school- aged girls.

Council members also thanked Jones, a 26-year department veteran who is credited with putting the department back on track in the wake of the Brents controversy.

Ultimately, Miller said, Oates stood out as the "best qualified" person for the job, citing his law degree and two decades of work with the NYPD.

The only other police chief hired from outside was Jim Everett, who came to Aurora from Dallas in 1992 and stayed in the job until 1995.

Oates was offered the job last week, but said he needed more time to discuss moving to Colorado with his wife, Nancy, and their daughters.

"It fit the bill in so many ways," said Oates, who toured Aurora last week with his wife.

Deputy City Manager Frank Ragan said Aurora is fortunate to hire someone like Oates, who he believes can mend fractured relationships with minorities and other community members.

"The truth is, we couldn't find anything not to like about him," Ragan said, adding that he and Miller recently traveled to Ann Arbor to talk to colleagues and community members about Oates.

He said that everyone they spoke to was "crying the blues" over losing Oates, saying "there's no question in my mind that he's the right fit for the city."

Several members of the city's black community expressed disappointment that Harris, who is black, didn't get the job.

Bishop Acen Phillips, of the city's community of faith advisory committee, said he is hopeful that Oates will continue the relationship that Bennett and Jones fostered with the city's black community.

Phillips said he hopes Oates "will seriously look at the needs of the whole community and eliminate some of the frustrations that exist between the African-American community and the police department."

Oates said he would spend the first few months learning about the department and the community before he starts proposing any kind of changes.

He also will work closely with the Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers, who has questioned the credibility of at least one Aurora police officer and was critical of the department's handling of the Brents case.

Last November, Aurora police didn't arrest Brents after the registered sex offender, recently released from prison, admitted to them that he inappropriately touched a boy.

A breakdown in communication between Aurora police and the Arapahoe County district attorney's office was blamed for a two-month delay in issuing an arrest warrant for Brents. He went on to commit a series of brutal rapes until a manhunt ended with his arrest on Feb. 18.

Copyright 2005, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.