AURORA | The Aurora Firefighters Union is asking a judge to intervene in a recent agreement between the city and state Attorney General’s office remedying public safety personnel claims, saying that the organization was wrongly excluded from negotiations.
The consent decree, a first-of-its-kind agreement from the state, outlines a slew of amendments to the city’s current policing practices surrounding training, stops, use of force and record-keeping, with a series of deadlines set over the next two years. Aurora City Council approved the agreement last month, and it has officially been filed in Arapahoe County District Court.
The consent decree came after the September indictments of three Aurora Police officers and two Aurora Fire paramedics on various charges including manslaughter, second-degree assault and criminally negligent homicide in the Elijah McClain case.
“Despite our efforts to participate, Local 1290 was purposely excluded from negotiations which led to the consent decree. Its terms directly impact city charter provisions, which fire fighters helped enact in the 1960’s and 70’s,” a union representative said in a statement to the Sentinel.
“It also, more seriously, potentially violates the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between Local 1290 and the city,” union officials said in a statement. “This motion will hopefully allow us to get the seat at the table that should have been offered to firefighters by the city from the start.”
In addressing questions from Aurora City Council members on Nov. 22, city staff confirmed neither the fire nor police unions were present for negotiations of the consent decree.
“Everything we were negotiating we think was a management right, the operation of the department is a management right. We had a 60-day window to negotiate this, so we did not bring them to the negotiating table,” Deputy City Manager Jason Batchelor said at the meeting. “We did sit down with them and go through the document in detail to answer any questions they may have… The Attorney General did reach out to them and have sort of a high level sit down without going into the details of what was being done at the negotiating table.”
In the motion 1290 filed with the court, the union says is not “at this time, make any substantive arguments regarding any particular aspects of the proposed consent decree.”
“However, it has been negotiated without any input whatsoever from Local 1290, despite the fact that it could create meaningful changes to the terms and conditions of employment, impede the union’s rights to negotiate over or provide input concerning workplace policies, and contain—now or in its final, approved form—policies that conflict with the (collection bargaining agreement).”
Some of the most notable changes mentioned in the agreement pertain to the city’s civil service commission, the powerful organ that has sole discretion over hiring, firing and disciplining the majority of Aurora cops and firefighters. Recommendations for the body include expanding diversity among recruits, implementing additional oversight from Human Resources, and negotiating faster turnaround times for disciplinary cases.
The attorney general’s agreement further lays out a series of stipulations that Aurora fire officials would have to adhere to if they were to again pursue using ketamine in the city. Aurora fire paramedics ceased using the powerful sedative in September 2020, and city council members have signaled a desire to keep the drug off of local apparatuses for the foreseeable future.
Fire Chief Fernando Gray said medics could still use other chemical treatments, including the sedative Versed. According to the new state agreement, use of all sedatives will be under review.
On Wednesday, a state panel of health experts took exception to the practice of using ketamine in situations where patients encountered, often in chaotic circumstances, are deemed overly excited and out of control, a condition sometimes referred to as “excited delirium.” The designation was cited after the controversial death of McClain in 2019.
At the Nov. 22 Aurora City Council meeting, staff said that as the city moves forward with the consent decree union representatives “will be integral parts in our discussion and our negotiating once we instill the policies that are required by the consent decree.”
“Although generally, state court action is not the Local’s preferred method for working out differences, we hope that this motion can help bring the city back on course to valuing the input of its firefighters through its charter-recognized exclusive representative,” 1290 wrote in a statement. “Local 1290 strongly endorses efforts to continually improve Aurora Fire Rescue and its service to the community but will not allow its members rights and job security to be threatened by city officials who refuse to consider our important interests.”