Aurora 3J: Police, firefighters probationary period approved

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Aurora voters have agreed to tweak the city charter in an effort to give new police officers and firefighters more training, according to preliminary election results.

As of 11.47 p.m., Tuesday — and with 49 percent of the counties reporting — ballot question 3J had received 66 percent of the votes in support against 34 percent against.

Currently, cops and firefighters in the city are considered to have a probationary employment status for one year, starting the moment they officially get hired. The new charter amendment will start the clock on probationary employment once a recruit completes the required training academy with the police or fire department.

Increased training requirements for police officers and firefighters has resulted in rushed academies and insufficient time for officials to train on-assignment by themselves, according to city documents. The amendment will grant cops and fire officials more time to observe recruits before officially appointing them to department positions. 

The charter update will have no financial impact on city taxes or fees.

Cops and firefighters begin earning a salary upon being hired and starting the training academy. Irrespective of probationary status, they receive a raise after being employed for a full year, according to city staff.

Probationary status allows fire and police officials to determine if a recruit is a proper fit for the respective departments. After the probationary period is over, it becomes much more difficult to fire employees, as there are several procedural safeguards that work to prevent haphazard dismissals, according to city documents. Under probationary status, recruits can be fired for a number of reasons, including “unsatisfactory performance,” according to police documents. The department chief has final say over who gets fired during the probationary period.

Currently, new police recruits spend about six months at the police academy, three months in field training and three months under evaluation while working on their own. If voters approve the change, officers would get an extra three months of solo training in the field, while still being regularly evaluated, according to police documents. Lateral hires, or recruits that come in with some level of prior law enforcement experience, will also be subject to the policy change, although their training requirements are slightly less than those for true rookies.