Longtime Aurora police officer will be first woman to lead the department

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A longtime officer will lead the Aurora Police Department as interim chief while the city searches for candidates to fill the position permanently amid a series of high-profile controversies in the agency.

Division Chief Vanessa Wilson will step into the interim chief role Wednesday, becoming the first woman to lead the police department in Colorado’s third-largest city. Wilson said at a news conference Monday that she will be applying for the permanent position.

“Let’s be honest, I’m stepping in at a very turbulent time,” Wilson said at the news conference.

Her appointment follows the announcement by the city’s previous pick for the interim position that he would not take the job. Deputy Chief Paul O’Keefe was slated to serve as interim chief, but instead announced his retirement on Dec. 24 after becoming embroiled in a controversy involving an on-duty officer found passed out drunk in his police car in the middle of a busy Aurora street.

The officer, Nathan Meier, kept his job, though he was demoted, and his fellow officers never investigated him for DUI. O’Keefe was the first officer on the scene and first ordered a DUI investigation, but later reversed course and said it looked more like a medical issue than a crime.

Wilson declined to comment Monday on the continuing investigation into Meier’s conduct and the agency’s response. She said that the body camera footage showing Meier unconscious in his police vehicle was “disturbing and shocking.”

Wilson also acknowledged community anger over the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, who died in police custody though he was accused of no crimes. Wilson said that she plans to implement new body camera technology that will keep cameras from dislodging, as they did during officers’ interactions with McClain, and will implement the previous chief’s request that a review board examine the tactics the officers used in the arrest.

Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said Monday the hiring of a permanent chief will likely take between six and eight months and will include a national search. Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz announced in September that he would retire from the department on Dec. 31.

“We are confident that (Wilson) is the right person to guide our team as interim chief and be a steady and respected figure both with our officers and with our residents,” Twombly said in a news release.

Wilson joined the Aurora Police Department in 1996 and Monday marked her 23rd anniversary with the agency. Wilson worked in patrol before becoming a detective in the Major Investigations Unit. She was then promoted through the ranks and led a variety of teams, including the intelligence unit, investigations and served in the internal affairs bureau. In 2015, she became the city’s first female division chief.

Police and city leaders said Wilson’s leadership was crucial in the development of Aurora’s Community Outreach Team and the department’s program that pairs mental health clinicians with officers.

Wilson takes the helm of the department as City Council members work to develop a new police oversight mechanism. Wilson said that she will work with those groups and listen to community members.

“The trust in the community has been very seriously shaken,” she said.

Wilson was a good choice for the interim position because of her strong ties to the community, said Councilwoman Alison Coombs, who is part of the group working for better police oversight.

“I know that community leaders have respect for the work that she’s done,” Coombs said.

Guest Commentary: The middle class risks consuming itself

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Americans are increasingly anxious about the costs of services such as health care and education. But these are the very same industries that increasingly sustain the middle class. Resolving this paradox is the key to creating the economy of the future.

It’s not much of a surprise to note that prices for most physical goods have dropped, but the cost of big-ticket services has become much higher.

As health care absorbs an ever-larger share of national income, many want the government to take over. Soaring tuition has spurred calls for free public college. Child care seems to have similar issues. These services represent a large amount of what people consume during their lifetimes.

Some might suspect that these high costs are filling the coffers of the country’s wealthiest individuals. But a quick perusal of the Forbes 400 list reveals that most of the super-rich made their fortunes in either technology or finance. The top health care billionaire is Thomas Frist Jr., No. 41 on the list, who co-founded the for-profit hospital company HCA Healthcare. But he’s the exception; a handful of others made their money in medical devices, medical equipment or pharmaceuticals. Even fewer people make vast fortunes selling education.

This suggests relatively little of the soaring costs Americans pay for health care, education and child care is being sucked up by profits. Only 20% of hospitals are for-profit, and less than 10% of college students attend for-profit universities.

Instead, most of what Americans are paying for is the salaries of the people who work in services industries. And the number of those employees is growing; less than 5% of the workforce was in health care and education in the 1950s compared to more than 16% today:

Of the 20 fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. in 2018, the bulk are in care-related jobs such as home health aides, occupational-therapy assistants and so on. Most of the rest were high-end software, math and statistics jobs of the type that will probably never be options for the bulk of middle-class Americans.

The rise of care jobs may be one reason why predictions of mass unemployment due to automation haven’t come to pass. As agriculture and manufacturing have become more productive with fewer workers, Americans shifted into service work:

Now, many technologists are predicting that the rise of artificial intelligence will automate a bunch of service jobs as well in foodservice, retail and elsewhere.

Health care and education — things humans only feel comfortable having other humans do — could become the last refuge for middle-class workers for whom top-end jobs in software or data science are out of reach. This will be especially true if regulations prevent health and education from being automated, for example by specifying the ratio of workers to children in child-care centers. Another refuge occupation might be construction, where productivity growth has been notoriously low.

If middle-class Americans spend most of their time taking care of and teaching each other (and building each other’s houses and roads), all their other needs — food, transport, physical goods — will be met by robots. Those robots will be built and managed by a small number of very high-skilled workers, and owned by an even smaller number of entrepreneurs and financiers. That sounds like a recipe for vast inequality.

That’s where taxes come in. Those who decry health and education costs the loudest often clamor for higher taxes to pay for these big-ticket items. In real terms, this means forcing the entrepreneurs, financiers and highly-paid engineers to hand over some of the vast material bounty created by their robots to a middle-class populace increasingly engaged in care-related work.

It’s possible that such a system might work. Arguably, the U.S. economy has already moved in this direction over the years, as workers have shifted into services, inequality has gone up and the fiscal system has become more redistributive.

But there may be limits to this process. If the wealthy eventually find a way to evade the burden of higher taxes, the system may be unsustainable. And if care jobs and construction are subject to more automation in the future, the long-feared technology-driven unemployment wave might materialize at last.

So to hedge against such a collapse, the government should do two things. First, it should look for ways to make the middle class more productive; even if everyone can’t be a programmer or data scientist, programs such as Germany’s apprenticeship system and vocational education may be able to find many workers productive jobs outside care-based industries. And experimenting with welfare programs such as universal basic income, funded by social wealth funds, might prepare the country for the possibility that work itself could one day become obsolete.

Noah Smith is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He was an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, and he blogs at Noahpinion.

Letters: Way to soar, Falcons; Don’t vilify the billionaires; What about the victim of the pardoned immigrant? (12/30/19)

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Way to soar, Falcons

Let’s hear it for those gritty, hard-nosed, undersized budding Air Force officers who got themselves into a bowl game with a big, bad Pac-12 team and smacked around the Cougars from Washington State.

Are they the best team in the state? Well maybe not or maybe yes they are. The fans and the scribes at The Denver Post will decide that.

Coach Troy Calhoun and the cadets deserve all the credit right now. We can be very proud of that program.

Robert Bamford, Aurora


Don’t vilify the billionaires

During heightened uproar and calling out of billionaires, I have given much thought to the various viewpoints. I don’t hear many valid reasons. What is wrong with making money, I ask? It is not unlike the disdain by some for the New England Patriots just because they know how to win, year after year.
Barring ill-gotten gains, criminal misdeeds or societal improprieties, the reasons for criticizing the very rich don’t hold much water.

Yes, I agree that the distribution of wealth in the United States is progressively out of balance, the middle class is in many ways forgotten, and the gross domestic product indicators don’t do enough to highlight the problem.

If anything, the feds might consider establishing a national charity and require a contribution above a certain wealth ceiling.

But, to call foul on those who have accomplished what any of us only dream about, just because they’re better at it, seems silly and not value-added.

Call them lucky, smarter, maybe worked harder, or misguided enough to climb over the rest of society up the corporate ladder, but it’s their money.

Many billionaires and millionaires contribute to society (many times anonymously) with their philanthropy.

They are also seen as leaders in technology, medicine and the arts. Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, Philip Anschutz and Mark Zuckerberg come to mind.

There are good reasons and perhaps not- so-good reasons to mock billionaires, but if we really want to change how capitalism creates wealth, we are having the wrong conversation.

Gary Rauchenecker, Golden


What about the victim of the pardoned immigrant?

Re: “Polis’ pardon of a Colorado mother should spare her from deportation,” Dec. 29 editorial

The story of Ingrid Latorre received an entire column in the editorial and the victim of her crime received one sentence.

Latorre used a stolen Social Security card, which caused an American citizen to be denied federal benefits, thus showing Latorre put her selfish needs above the law and the rights of the citizen.
The governor has granted her a pardon and he urges Homeland Security to “search their hearts” in deciding her fate.

I believe that Homeland Security should treat her case exactly the same as others who have done what she did and she should face the consequences.

Joan Jones, Denver

Tesla’s Chinese factory just delivered its first cars

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Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Tesla has delivered the first cars produced by its Chinese Gigafactory, just under a year after the company broke ground on its first factory located outside of the US. Reuters reports that the Model 3 vehicles were delivered to 15 of Tesla’s employees as part of a ceremony. The deliveries were made well within schedule by the company, which had previously said it wanted to begin delivering its Chinese-made cars before the Lunar New Year on January 25th. The locally-produced cars already offer a large price saving over imported models, and a Bloomberg report recently said the company could lower prices further as it cuts costs and uses more locally-sourced components.

The deliveries mark an important milestone for Tesla, which hopes to…

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In memoriam: All the best tech that died in the 2010s

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Technology is always evolving and advancing, at least in theory, and that means old tech is often bumped out of the way to make room for new. Sometimes perfectly good gadgets or services that still work as intended are taken out back, unceremoniously shot, and buried in a shallow grave. Sometimes you can accept that […]

Please blockchain, prove me wrong and get your shit together in 2020

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I’ve been covering the nascent — and often weird — world of cryptocurrency and blockchain since January 2015. During this time, I’ve seen banks dismiss the digital currency but declare their undying love for its underlying blockchain technology, and more recently open up about plans to possibly launch their own version. I’ve witnessed the wild conspiracy theories, the proofs-of-concept, the crime, the hype — you name it, I’ve seen it, and probably even written about it. Blockchain is clearly not the only emerging technology that’s gained momentum in recent years. Advancements in artificial intelligence or the internet-of-things, for example, have…

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How to (Hypothetically) Hack Your School’s Surveillance System

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This week, hacktivist and security engineer Lance R. Vick tweeted an enticing proposition along with a gut-punch headline: “Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands,” read the Washington Post link. The report revealed nearly instantaneous and…

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