This is part of an ongoing series in which we chat with someone who's making Colorado a more interesting place to live.
Aurora deputy police chief Terry Jones took over as interim police chief on May 30.
Name: Terry Jones
Job: Deputy police chief and current interim police chief of the Aurora Police Department
Terry Jones has just about seen it all in his 35 years with the Aurora Police Department. He started with the agency in 1979, but last month, the deputy police chief took on a new—and at the same time, not so new—title of interim police chief. For the second time in 35 years, and in wake of ex-chief Dan Oates' decision to take up a different post with the Miami PD, Jones will take over as commander for the 760-officer force.
We sat down with Jones to talk about the city he helps protect, his expectations as the temp police chief, and how his agency and town has changed over the years.
5280: You also served as interim police chief in 2005. How have the city of Aurora and the department changed since then, and how much did chief Oates have to do with that?
Terry Jones: The big difference for me is that we were in a bit of a crisis back then. When I say that, it was really one thing after another. There was internal strife within the agency and the political waters at the time were a little different.
[Chief Oates] certainly added a different flavor of things because he came out of New York. I mean, the man, he’s nonstop. He exponentially increased our meetings. The flow of information out to the organization I think significantly improved. He is one of those engaging individuals that likes to be briefed and know what’s going on. That aspect of his personality and personal behavior was something that he brought with him when he landed here. Chief Oates would probably tell you that when he took over, it wasn’t a broken agency, we just needed to tweak some of the things we were already doing.
5280: As deputy police chief, you worked closely with the chief on many things. How will your duties and involvement change in coming months?
I’ve done this before, back in 2005 when Chief Oates was selected to be the chief. I’m just getting up to speed with where he is on certain aspects. Some of those include the social programs that he has begun, like ACOT [Aurora Community Outreach Team], the law enforcement side that assists in picking up the homeless; obtaining grants for those types of endeavors; working with youth a bit more. That's something the chief was passionate about: trying to avoid young men from getting into the gang culture. Am I taking on new things? Not really. It’s the same things that we’ve always been concerned about: the crime, quality of life, and traffic complaints that we get in. I’m trying not to minimize it, but it's business as usual. Taking care of the community, and doing our best.
5280: What are some of the biggest challenges that Aurora faces right now?
Aurora has a growing homeless population. We have extremely limited resources as far as where we can take the individuals that are homeless, destitute, or between residences, because Aurora is exceptionally unique in that we are a city, but we aren’t a city and county. We have to rely on Adams and Arapahoe to assist in that regard. In some instances, it is woefully behind the times, as far as the ability to take in homeless, feed them, shelter them, and put them up for an extended period of time.
5280: While every police chief bears heavy responsibility, Oates had a particularly harrowing challenge in July 2012. Under his leadership, the Aurora police received a lot of praise for their response to the theater shooting. How has all of that affected the department?
The theater shooting itself is still paramount in everyone’s mind, and still at the forefront of our consciousness in the police department. It put Aurora in the limelight, based on the fact that the officers that responded that night did such an exceptional job and made some critical decisions that, theoretically, saved a lot of lives. That is something that…you don’t forget things like that. The image that the theater shooting had with officers, that’s indelible. The officers around here will carry that with them their entire careers, especially if they worked that particular evening, or even that week after the event occurred.
5280: Thirty-five years is a long time. What were your most rewarding and most difficult positions?
The ones on the street were the most rewarding—dealing with the day-to-day activities of the people that you come into contact with, taking the bad guys off the street—that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s the difference that I think law enforcement makes. You know, it’s looking out for the underdog. The unsolved crimes…those are the most difficult. Not seeing justice served is the most difficult.
5280: Does the interim have a deadline?
They are not in a huge rush. Everything is working well within the city and within the police department. In other words, we are not in a crisis mode. With Dan’s departure, the city has some latitude as to how fast they find a chief. My best guess is [they'll select] someone between now and the first quarter of 2015.
5280: Do you have any interest in taking over as chief permanently?
No. In 35 years—as you mentioned early—I’ve kind of seen a lot. There is still life left in me, and at this point it is to keep us going in the right direction and to maintain what we’ve been doing, continue with the programs in place, and then hand over the reins to someone else.
Follow digital assistant editor Jerilyn Forsythe on Twitter at @jlforsyt.