Aurora inmates may be sent to Douglas, Broomfield county jails

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AURORA | Inmates from Aurora may be sent to Douglas or Broomfield counties next month after Aurora City Council approved a plan Monday with those counties to house nearly 20 municipal prisoners.

The plan comes after officials at the Denver jail — where some Aurora inmates have been housed since Adams County started limiting the number of municipal inmates allowed in

A deputy at Adams County Jail works with prisoners there. Aurora has been unable to house as many inmates in the jail as it wants. Now, it's looking to Broomfield and Douglas counties for jail space.
A deputy at Adams County Jail works with prisoners there. Aurora has been unable to house as many inmates in the jail as it wants. Now, it’s looking to Broomfield and Douglas counties for jail space.

2012 — said they were running out of bed space.  Zelda DeBoyes, the city’s court administrator, said close to 100 inmates have so far been refused from staying at the Adams County jail. The agreement with the counties provides bed space for up to 18 prisoners.

“We have run into a roadblock with Adams County. It’s a challenge, but there’s more than one way to handle a situation,” she said at a council meeting before the vote Jan. 27.

One of those challenges will be housing female inmates. DeBoyes said Broomfield does not have housing for women, and that Douglass County will be able to provide three beds for women out of the eight it has available.

DeBoyes said Aurora spent $134,698 to house inmates in Denver in 2013. Aurora housed inmates in Denver for $52 a day. According to city documents, the city will house inmates in Broomfield for $55 a day, and in Douglass for $51.45 a day.

Denver initially said that the Aurora inmates had to be out by Jan. 31, but that date has since been pushed back to Feb. 15 under an agreement to give Aurora more time to work on contracts with other jails, according to DeBoyes.

City council also gave  preliminary approval to ask voters whether to make it harder for police officers to successfully appeal their discipline. The change is being pushed by City Attorney Charlie Richardson.

“This is not about Chief Oates or Chief Garcia and it’s not about any pending disciplinary matter,” he said. “It has do to do with the chiefs that I’ve been privileged to work with since 1976. I’ve worked with eight police chiefs and I’ve worked with five fire chiefs. It’s on behalf of that group that I bring this proposal to you.”

Richardson said the current process of police discipline, where the burden of proof is on the city to prove disciplinary actions against an officer, is cumbersome and costly. He said under current rules disciplinary appeals last several days, and sometimes a full week.

“The union lawyers are tremendous lawyers. It is rare the officer didn’t do the underlying act,” he said of most cases where disciplinary action is appealed. He described a culture of picking apart cases until trivial errors were found.

Several officers in recent years have successfully appealed their discipline to the commission and had their punishment overturned. In one case, an officer arrested twice on DUI charges got his job back after the chief fired him In another case, an officer fired after he called a man he shot a “marshmallow head” among other infractions was reinstated.

Leaders of both the police union and firefighters union said Jan. 7 they would oppose any changes to the commission’s rules.

In a memo to city council sent a few hours before the study session, the Civil Service Commission said it opposed the decision. The memo stated the proposed changes would “fundamentally alter the purpose of the Commission and its role in the Disciplinary Appeals process,” and that they would “adversely impact the ability of the City to provide a disciplinary appeal process that is fair to all parties.”

The commission requested that city council ask the city attorney’s office for historical data proving the commission had overturned enough of the police chief’s disciplinary decisions over the past decade to undermine his authority.

In 2006, Police Chief Dan Oates backed several ballot measures aimed at changing civil service rules as they relate to hiring and promoting officers. Those questions didn’t touch on the commission’s role in discipline cases.

After the police and fire unions outspent supporters of the measures by a 300-to-1 ratio, voters rejected the most far-reaching of the four questions, approving two other minor changes.