Zero Policy Could Slash Recruit Pool

Zero Policy Could Slash Recruit Pool
Posted by FoM on March 06, 2000 at 05:23:02 PT
By David Migoya, Denver Post Staff Writer 
Source: Denver Post
Nine current Denver police officers and firefighters never would have been hired if Mayor Wellington Webb's new zero-tolerance policy against past cocaine use had taken effect in 1998.And if the ban included all narcotics stronger than marijuana - which Webb's office said could happen - a total of 23 firefighters and police officers wouldn't have been hired.
Webb announced the new policy last week, saying it will apply to all future recruits. But any past cocaine users among the current academy classes will be exempt, Webb said. To do otherwise would be "too disruptive." That means seven public safety hopefuls won't be shown the door despite having admitted to using cocaine, some of them extensively, according to applications filed with the Denver Civil Service Commission.Among those seven: controversial police recruit Ellis "Max" Johnson II, who was accepted into the police academy in November despite an extensive history of drug use and theft, and over the objections of former Police Chief Tom Sanchez."Ellis will complete the academy," Webb said. "The view was he was so far into the program that it would be disruptive since he's already in. There's enough change going on within the institution that we need to deal with the next class rather than go in retroactively." While Webb's zero-tolerance edict initially was billed as applying just to police recruits, it also will cover future firefighters and sheriff's deputies, Webb spokesman Andrew Hudson said.If Webb had to abide by his own cocaine-free policy, he would pass the scrutiny "with flying colors," the mayor said. Manager of Safety Butch Montoya, who will enforce Webb's new rule, said he'd pass, too.The ban also could extend to other narcotics if that's what a blue-ribbon panel reviewing the Civil Service Commission's hiring practices recommends, Hudson said."The mayor thought the cocaine was a starting point," Hudson said. "The cocaine ban could be modified to other drugs, but at this point the mayor felt it was important to start with cocaine." The issue stems from the controversy over the 40-year-old Johnson.Despite Johnson's history and the objections of Sanchez, Montoya hired him.Sanchez was forced to step down last month and called his resistance to Johnson's hiring "the beginning of my Waterloo." The seven-member panel appointed by Webb to study the commission's hiring practices is charged with determining whether the current criteria for recruit eligibility are fair and consistent with those of other cities.The Denver Post reviewed fire department applications for the last five academy classes and police department applications for the last four classes, both dating back to 1998.If the past is indicative of the future, The Post found, Denver could find itself tossing applicants on a regular basis, especially if the cocaine ban grows to include most narcotics.Since March 1998, for example, the city has hired 14 firefighters and police officers who never used cocaine but experimented with drugs other than marijuana.They admitted to using narcotics as harsh as LSD, speed and amphetamines, or admitted that they illegally sold steroids.An additional four are currently in the police academy awaiting graduation, records show. None of the current recruits in the fire academy has admitting to experimenting with drugs other than marijuana or cocaine.When limited to cocaine, the numbers are just as high.Ten of 119 fire recruits would not have been admitted had the cocaine ban been in effect when they applied.And the last four police academy classes would have been without six of their 111 recruits, commission records show.If the city were to insist on a completely drug-free past, just 88 police and fire academy recruits since 1998 would have passed muster, records show. But 141 - twothirds of whom admitted only to smoking marijuana - wouldn't have.Currently, the Civil Service Commission's guidelines allow recruits to have used any illegal drug up to one year before applying for a public-safety job with the city.While recruits submit to random drug testing, the police and fire departments cannot test an officer or firefighter randomly without probable cause, city officials said.And if an officer is caught using drugs, or tests positive, that person is relieved of duty with pay pending an internal investigation, Deputy Police Chief David Abrams said. If there's to be a criminal prosecution, the officer doesn't automatically lose his job until the case is decided, he said."Frankly, if it was up to me, I would recommend that any officer who uses drugs be terminated immediately," Abrams said. As the five-member Civil Service Commission begins to sort through hundreds of applications for the next wave of testing, its members are wondering if they should toughen the standards on recruits and include all narcotics, according to commissioners who refused to be quoted.The problem is how to determine which drugs are OK and which aren't, they said. And if they make the standards too tough, they'll risk not having enough candidates. The police and fire academies each average about two classes every year."Statistically, if you take everything and ban it, then you'll end up with nothing," said commission executive director Paul Torres. "This is not easy." Montoya said the review panel will help solve the dilemma."The blue-ribbon panel is to be looking at all the standards, and I suspect they'll look at other drugs as well, not just cocaine," Montoya said. "I think it's up to the commission and the panel to review what the standard will be." Published: March 6, 2000Copyright 2000 The Denver Post.Related Articles:Cops May Face Uphill Battle in Hiring of Cops Will be Hired Before Overhaul Over Hiring Cops Who Once Used Drugs
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Comment #2 posted by Puritan on March 06, 2000 at 20:00:57 PT
Zero tolerance
Hypocrites all...look at the current crop of presidental candidates and then tell us that zero tolerance is realistic. But then again, some animals are more equal than others...right?????
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on March 06, 2000 at 07:33:22 PT:
Oh, the irony of it
This generation of police hopefuls are the generation that has heard, from kindergarten to high school, Nancy Reagan's admonition of Just say No! They were the first to endure assinine "After-School Specials" on major networks that assumed children had received lobotomies at birth, and had no higher resaoning functions. This is the DARE generation. This was the generation that was hoped for by the antis to be the first true anti-drug generation, who would march to their graves without ever puffing a joint, chanting with their last gasp, Just Say No!And some went ahead and did it, anyway. That some would go ahead and apply for a police(!) position is proof enough that the kids never took Just Say No seriously. And that begs a question: Why? Why didn't they take it seriously when their whole futures depended upon their wee-wee staying uncontaminated?Perhaps the reason was that they saw right through their elder's hypocrisy on the WoSD?The real irony is the timing: Many of the applicants for these positions had been students in the classes that DARE officers taught. Many of those DARE officers will now find themselves working with the very people they lied to about drugs. As anyone who ever worked in a bureaucracy can tell you, there is no such thing as confidentiality; the word gets around. People talk. There are bound to be some very interesting conversations in those squad cars from now on. 
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