Drugs In Past Of Most Cop Cadets

Drugs In Past Of Most Cop Cadets
Posted by FoM on December 16, 1999 at 13:41:09 PT
By Susan Greene, Denver Post Staff Writer
Source: Denver Post
More than two-thirds of Denver's current crop of police cadets have admitted to past use of illegal drugs.City safety officials revealed that statistic Wednesday in an effort to defend the controversial recruitment of cadet Ellis "Max'' Johnson, a confessed thief with an extensive drug history.
Of 34 cadets currently training at the Denver Police Academy, 23 - including Johnson - acknowledged using illegal drugs or misusing prescriptions more than one year before applying to the department.And other cadet classes show similarly high numbers. Fifty-nine percent of candidates eligible for the March 2000 training session admitted past drug use, as did 61 percent of applicants being considered for the July 2000 class.The recruits characterized their drug use as everything from "youthful experimentation to more prolonged and sustained use,'' according to Denver's Civil Service Commission, which oversees police hiring."The commission understands the liability of candidates' drug use but considers the totality of the candidate's file,'' said commission member Paula Sandoval. "That being said, I want to assure you that each and every recruit currently in our police academy has earned the right to be there.''Johnson, 40, acknowledged using illegal drugs 150 times prior to 1987. He fared poorly on psychological evaluations, admitted to stealing from two former employers and acknowledged having shoved his ex-wife and girlfriend, according to a background report obtained by 9News.He reportedly had applied to and was rejected by 19 law-enforcement agencies in Colorado before entering Denver's training program Nov. 1.That, Sandoval said Wednesday, "demonstrates his true interest in public service.''Johnson repeatedly has refused to comment on his hiring.Denver Safety Manager Butch Montoya - who oversees the police and fire department - overrode Police Chief Tom Sanchez's suggestion not to hire Johnson, agreeing with a 3-2 vote by commission members recommending that he approve the recruit, sources say.In a tape-recording of a conversation between police Capt. Jim Collier and civil service executive Paul Torres, which was obtained by 9News, Torres indicated that Johnson was being hired because he had a contact on the Civil Service Commission.That contact is believed to be commission member Kristopher Colley, who claims to "casually'' have met Johnson "for five minutes'' early in 1998 after a martial arts workout."He's not a friend,'' said Colley, who nevertheless acknowledged having supported Johnson's application to the police academy.In any case, Montoya was widely criticized for his decision to pick Johnson over dozens of other applicants with less-questionable pasts. He remained quiet about the controversy until a news conference Wednesday, when he insisted that he OK'd the recruit not because of cronyism but out of a desire to give Johnson a break."I made what I thought was a fair decision to give a person who has made dramatic changes in his life a second chance,'' Montoya said. "No one applied pressure on me to hire this individual. His personal relationships played no role with my decision.''But some took umbrage with Montoya's comments, saying the police force shouldn't be used as a means to help Johnson nor other Denverites reinvent their lives."Sure, Mr. Johnson should be allowed a second chance, but in another career,'' said Mike Stack, president of the Denver police union."We've got standards for new officers, and the administration should stick to those standards,'' Stack added. "They should be looking for exemplary candidates, not people who need a new lease on life.''Sanchez joined the rank and file Wednesday in reiterating his opposition to Johnson's hiring."My view was that he didn't meet the minimum threshold for acceptance to the Denver Police Academy,'' he said.Although Montoya and Sanchez both said they're working relationship hasn't been marred by their disagreement over Johnson, tensions between the safety manager and the police chief seemed apparent.Montoya said he found "inaccuracies in the actual background report'' on Johnson conducted by the police intelligence unit.Sanchez said he stands by the report's accuracy. "I am satisfied that the background investigations were thorough and accurate.''Montoya said that, given the 67 percent admitted prior drug use among current cadets, Johnson shouldn't be singled out.Sanchez countered that "there's a major difference between someone who has used (drugs) in high school or early life compared to unbridled drug use,'' as he described Johnson's history.Published: December 16, 1999Copyright 1999 The Denver Post. Related Articles:Cop Cadet in Center of Political Storm - 12/11/99 Use Common For Cop Hopefuls - 12/09/99
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