EDITORIAL: Police need better pay, but sketchy bonus plans undermine everyone’s credibility

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Aurora lawmakers have the right idea in providing better police pay as a way to shore up and reform the beleaguered Aurora Police Department, but council members struck out Monday on how to execute a much-needed plan.

With virtually no discussion, research or analysis, Aurora lawmakers Monday night agreed mostly along party lines to give police officers $8,000 each in “retention” bonuses, spending about $6 million in federal pass-through funds made available for cities as part of the congressional pandemic relief funds.

The Sentinel stands behind efforts to permanently raise police pay and benefits in an effort to recruit and retain the best police force possible, composed of the best police officers available.

In exchange for that, however, city taxpayers have every reason to expect superior police officers to perform to a far higher bar than other civil servants, and to be able to demonstrate and prove their expertise, abilities and willingness to serve in a reformed Aurora Police Department.

That hasn’t happened — yet.

City police leaders, management and even city council members really have no idea why so many officers have left the Aurora Police Department. They don’t know who they were or whether their departure bodes ill or for good for the department and the city.

What everyone does know is that the Aurora Police Department has suffered a bevy of ghastly, humiliating and dangerous disasters in the past few years, including the wrongful death of Elijah McClain and others. Aurora has been saddled with drunken cops passed out in squad cars, videotaped cops abusing people of color, recorded racist rants, including a repulsive citizen-provided video of white officers forcing young, crying black girls face down on a hot parking lot during a bogus stolen-car call.

Three police department officers were caught creating and passing along a depraved re-enactment of the horrific death of Elijah McClain, cementing APD’s lurid notoriety.

There has been no solid research into why, since all of these disasters have occurred and been made public, that police officers in Aurora have left the force over the past two years at an unprecedented rate.

It could be that officers now understanding that the public and the state are done with these repulsive acts and willing to root out other bad cops from the force had the insight to get out while their getting out was possible on their own accord.

It could be that quality officers, sickened by what their colleagues had done and the reputation it’s imposed on APD fear for their careers and have left for departments not seen flailing from one mess to another.

It could be just better money someplace else, or serving in a community with fewer challenges than those in Aurora.

It could be none of that.

Aurora police union officials have provided their own insights on departures, but their “research” and comments about this and other matters have been laden with politics, clearly created to make a change on the city council to lawmakers who offer unyielding support to the police unions.

That happened during the Nov. 2 election. A block of city council candidates pandering for police support got it, and three of them were elected.

With no research into the propriety, effectiveness or impact of these very large bonuses, the move, created only by a letter from newly elected Councilman Dustin Zvonek, and signed primarily by Republicans on the dais, looks like quid pro quo at its worst.

Shady governing like this not only undermines the public trust in the police department, something the department desperately needs, but it also undermines the credibility of Zvonek and members of city council who are attracted to conducting the city’s business by tweets and letters, outside of public meetings, staff review and public input.

Standard city procedure is to draft a bill, publicly discuss it in an informal session, allowing for questions and input. Measures like this are then sent to the city council floor for full debate and public comment, sometimes creating even a second floor vote. That didn’t happen here.

The measure may make good sense, but the public can’t conclude that from how these bonuses were rushed through outside of the normally transparent and accountable protocols created in Aurora for the sole purpose of thwarting actions like this.

Aurora city council members should immediately ask city staffers and other outside experts to examine what they’ve just done, and whether it will make for a more safe or less safe city.

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GeneD
9 months ago

Feels like extortion: ‘Pay me or I leave.’ If the pay scale is equitable and in line with other similar cities, save the pay raises – not bonuses – for those officers who merit them.

DICK MOORE
9 months ago

Another silly editorial. To state that no one in City Management knows why the policemen are leaving APD in droves is really inaccurate. They all know and it’s not what you state or imply in this editorial.

Who wants to work for a thankless boss much less a whole line up of thankless bosses. Dig deeper and that’s what you will discover.

Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown
9 months ago

Dave, You say the Sentinel stands behind efforts to permanently boost officer pay. Doing so would require the city do boost revenue to cover the added expense and I know of no efforts to do that.

The only viable path to boosting revenue is to attract far more visitors to Aurora to spend and thus increase the sales tax the city collects —and do so without giving away the farm with tax incentives.

Unfortunately, both the Republicans and Democrats on council are in lockstep agreement that Aurora shall remain a place where no one goes for fun or to spend.

Even though Aurora’s retail sputters 14 percent below the state average and 58 percent behind Denver when compared per capita, the conservatives on council remain blindly committed to doing nothing to boost retail.

Likewise, the Dems can’t bring themselves to confront state party leadership in Denver and demand that the $7 million in sales tax collected for culture and the arts in Aurora each year, STAY IN AURORA (yes we vote every 10 years but the fine print of how the money is split is set at the Capitol beforehand).

Auroras the third largest city in the state and second largest in the SCFD but after over 30 years of paying in, we still have no venues large enough for our school graduations. We’ve been played and we have the dems and republican lawmakers to thank.

Radically pragmatic independents, your city needs you!

Don Black
Don Black
9 months ago

As a retiree from APD and a police instructor, I have spoken to many officers who have left sand those still present. The reasons for the officers leaving are not a mystery. They just don’t fit the present narrative created by the media, including the Sentinel. No one in government makes an effort to delve into facts. They simply do what looks good. While with the department, I found it and the city management to be completely disinterested in ways to do policing better and to protect both the citizens and the officers in a fair and ethical way. The top management of APD has always been interested only in their own positions. They did little to deal with officers who behaved badly and often covered for those they liked. They used internal affairs as a tool to get even with those who spoke out. They gained their positions through political maneuvering and a broken promotional system. The Chief was able to groom those he liked and to make them look “well balanced” by giving them assignments that would reflect favorably upon them in the promotion process. A few of them went on to become chiefs in other places. You could ask anyone in the department what kind of officer they were. They could tell you that often they were brutal, sometimes racist, almost always dishonest and unethical. But, they were always political and never spoke up when something was wrong. The tradition of the political chief who never spoke up or tried to improve the department continued with Chief Wilson. When you know that the Chief is solely motivated by political ambition and demonstrates no.ethical approach to leading officers, it is demoralizing. However, as an officer, you just want to go out and do your job with the hope that the politicians in charge will not affect that. Then the wave of sympathy for the criminals began. The police agreed that what happened to George Floyd was wrong. Some of the cases that followed were distorted by the media and everything became racist. The Colorado legislature then stepped in and passed a reform bill that basically paralyzed and punished the police. Prosecutors began charging officers for things that should not be criminal. The political chiefs did not stand up and still remain silent about the vague wordings and unreasonable guidance in the reform bill. So, now officers who knew what it was like to do good police work, could no longer do so. The bad officers were not leaving. Many of them are lazy and know that now they don’t have to do much. If you don’t do anything, you don’t have to worry about being fired. So, with no leadership, no protection from civil suit or criminal charges, and a media blitz that tarnished all officers and depressed their families, why stay? There will always be people who break the rules in any large organization. It is worse when the bosses don’t show that they are committed to demonstrating true ethics and a commitment to real improvements. The things proposed by the activists, including the attorney general, are not based in solid ideas and the police know that they are just more political theatre. The police, except for their political bosses, are muzzled. The activists and the politicians do not really want to hear the truth. So, we continue with this charade that leaves the public poorly protected. There are no adults in the room who will examine issues honestly and seek real answers. So, officers are left with a choice. Do nothing or leave. There are still a few places where they haven’t buckled under to the racist cop narrative. One thing for sure, locally we are going to play this same politically acceptable charade for a long time. No one has the courage to openly discuss the horrendous damage done by the police reform bill. The emperor has no clothes and they won’t admit it.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
9 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

This guy jas been living off the public dole for years and potificates to those that have real jobs. Pathetic.

BlueBird
9 months ago

Well, SOMETHING had to be done quickly. Hopefully the bonus partnered with the continuing expulsion of bad cops will lead to a much stronger police force.

FactsOverFeelings
FactsOverFeelings
9 months ago

Republicans: We can’t afford any social programs or providing any food or shelter assistance for the homeless! There’s no money for it!

Also Republicans: Hey, you voted for us! Have six millions dollars we just had sitting around!

sugar
sugar
9 months ago

republicans said they now CONTROL Aurora – look for more behind closed door agreements to come.
Mark my words.

Doug
Doug
9 months ago

Exactly!!

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
9 months ago

Reward good work, but if you leave because the APD corruption and systemic brutality and racism are exposed and transparency demanded, we are better off without you. NO BONUSES AT THIS TIME. The APD has terrible reputation and needs transparency from top to bottom. When good performance is exhibited, that can be rewarded. APD, Keep up the new system modeled after Denver STAR program–No shootings or deaths in responding to diverted mental health and wellness calls.

s c
s c
9 months ago

Enjoy the rampant crime and a police force of report takers!

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
9 months ago

IOW, the beatings will stop when morale improves. Gotcha.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
9 months ago

centuries have shown you can’t buy integrity, decency and professionalism

s c
s c
9 months ago

You will not keep quality officers when you thrown them under the bus for doing rhier job. Enjoy your crime Aurora!

GeneD
9 months ago
Reply to  s c

Who did that happen to? Facts and references, please. Don’t contribute to the fear-mongering.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
9 months ago
Reply to  s c

crime against POC by Aurora police is centuries old, and you cannot buy a change, you have to get rid of many and recruit decency, integrity and professionalism