By Michael BeDan, The Aurora Daily Sun & Sentinel
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
The Aurora City Council unanimously approved City Manager Ron Miller’s recommendation to hire Oates Oct. 4 with a 9-0 vote. Councilman Bob Broom was not at the special meeting.
“Chief Oates is committed to achieving our goal of setting and maintaining standards of excellence and of providing law enforcement and public safety services to our citizens that will be second to none in the state of Colorado,” Miller said.
Oates, 50, brings 25 years of police experience to Aurora — 21 with the New York Police Department, the past four as chief of the Ann Arbor, Mich., Police Department.
“I’m thrilled, I’m excited,” Oates said in a video conference call from Ann Arbor the night he was hired. “I’m going to do everything I can to show you I’m worthy of your trust.”
Oates’ hiring put to bed a long — and sometimes awkward — search that began with 35 candidates. After narrowing the pool to three finalists, which included interim APD chief Terry Jones and Sacramento County, Calif., Sheriff’s Chief Deputy C. Scott Harris Jr., the city conducted exhaustive interviews with each candidate Sept. 12.
By Sept. 29, word leaked that Oates was being courted, and he was offered the job Sept. 30. Oates asked for a few days to consider the proposition. Meantime, Jones and Harris were left in the dark. Neither candidate had heard from the city, and the city would not confirm they had offered Oates the job.
Deputy City Manager Frank Ragan said Sept. 30 that an official announcement would come Oct. 10, the date of the next scheduled city council meeting. By Oct. 3, the city decided to expedite the announcement.
“With all the media attention and, the truth is, we had hoped to have this resolved by (Sept. 30) — Oct. 10 was too far away,” Ragan said the night Oates was officially appointed. “We saw this as a need to get this issue resolved.”
Harris said he wishes Oates and Aurora the best.
“I wish the process wouldn’t have taken so long, but it was such an important decision that it took a while for it to occur,” he said. “It was pins and needles for that time, but given the importance of the decision, it’s understandable that it takes that long.”
Jones admitted he was disappointed to find out he didn’t get the job, but he said he looks forward to working for Oates.
As soon as Oates is on the job, Jones will return to his role as deputy chief, a position he held under former chief Ricky Bennett. Bennett stepped down in March amid the fallout surrounding the Brent J. Brents fiasco. Brents is a convicted child molester who went on a rapist rampage earlier this year after Aurora police failed to arrest him while he was in their custody. Jones has been at the helm since.
“I told Terry I wasn’t going to take the job unless I knew he would partner with me and help me,” Oates said. “This was critical to my decision making.”
Oates inherits a department that has been hit hard with controversy, much of it stemming from its handling of Brents, some of it a product of racial tension.
Oates says he is aware of the issues, but he wants to explore them himself before making any bold proclamations.
“I intend to be myself,” he said. “My No. 1 responsibility when I get on ground in Aurora is to become a quick study. I think it’s always an issue with every department, the relationship that department has with individual interest groups. The cornerstone of policing is communication with the community you serve, building partnerships with people so you can be responsible.”
Oates said he intends to live within city limits.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think that’s an essential statement a chief makes about the community. That’s just fundamental.”
Many in the department were adamant that change was in order in the months leading up to Oates’ appointment. Sgt. Don Black, an outspoken, 29-year APD veteran, said Oates has his work cut out.
“I’m glad they didn’t pick somebody from the inside,” Black said. “The only chance we have is from somebody on the outside. After all these years of neglect, God, there would be a whole list of (priorities for Oates). Obviously, he’s got to decide who on his staff is competent and who he should have as division chiefs.”
Aurora Police Association President Don James said Oates’ resume is impressive.
“He has a lot of varied experience that I think will be beneficial to our city,” James said.
“I’m hopeful that he will come in and objectively evaluate our organization and keep in focus all the good things, all the things men and women in the department do on a daily basis but, yet, be willing to make some positive changes that would be appropriate.
“It’s an opportunity to create a clean slate. I do think there are some internal issues he needs to evaluate.”
Oates broad experience includes a stint as deputy chief of the patrol borough Brooklyn South, where he supervised 3,000 officers and civilians. He also served as the commanding officer of the Intelligence Division.
Oates received a law degree from New York Law School in 1986 and a master’s degree in management from New York University in 1993. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from Bucknell University in 1977.
Oates spent a year as a general assignment reporter for The Press in Atlantic City, N.J., and two years as an editorial production assistant with Popular Mechanics before beginning his career in law enforcement. He said an ad triggered his move into police work.
“I never once thought about being a cop,” he said. “I was 23 years old, living in Manhattan, struggling to make a career in journalism. I heard an ad saying the NYPD was hiring. I’m in a one-bedroom apartment, unhappy with my current work setting. I kind of said, ‘Gee, that’s interesting.’
“The rest, as they say, is history.”
Oates was born in Hackensack, N.J. He has been married 27 years to his wife, Nancy. They have two daughters — Natalie, 11, and Julie, 10.
Oates said he plans to be in Aurora for a long time.
“I have two daughters, it’s going to be a minimum of eight years until the youngest one is out of school,” he said. “My wife doesn’t want to be moving the kids again. I’m going to be there a while.”
Oates’ starting salary will be $131,000 a year.
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