Aurora Referendum 3J: Yes on longer police and fire probation periods for new hires

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While city ballot Referendum 3J doesn’t fix the untenable problem of Aurora police officials being unable to fire officers who clearly have no business working on the force, it at least helps prevent that dubious embarrassment.

For more times than is just a coincidence, the city has fired police officers for a variety of solid reasons, only to have the Aurora Civil Service Commission force the department to put them back on the force.

It’s a ludicrous predicament that needs the serious attention of the city council, and that hasn’t happened yet.

In the mean time, however, city police and firefighter leaders are asking voters to extend how long new cops and firefighters remain on probation, ensuring they’re a good fit for the job and the department.

This is a no-lose proposal for Aurora residents and police and fire administrators. For newly-hired cops and firefighters, it’s a modest change that would affect only marginal hires or unqualified applicants. It wouldn’t affect their pay or benefits.

Currently, new hires attend the city’s police academy for six months. If they pass that, they undergo three months of field training. If they pass that, they’re put on the streets under supervision on a probationary basis for three months. After that, they’re virtually on the force until they choose to leave.

Firefighters undergo a similar regimen.

Ref 3J would extend the probationary period for another 90 days, allowing the departments to better gauge whether the new officers or firefighters are right for the job.

It’s a solid plan that would help ensure that those who sign on for these critical jobs are qualified to do them.

Unfortunately, the most egregious cases of the city not being able to launch unqualified cops have come from long-time department veterans. While this is a good start toward ensuring the best police and fire departments possible, it’s not a substitute for real reform of the Civil Service Commission or some other way of returning control of the departments to chiefs.