On March 24, 2014, the 11-member City Council in Aurora, Colorado will be taking up an initiative on the November ballot that would change the disciplinary appeals process so that fire fighters would be considered “guilty until proven innocent.”
If you think that this initiative being pushed by some on the Council is over the top and is in direct conflict with provisions set forth in the United States Constitution regarding due process, then you agree with Aurora Local 1290 and just about every other American citizen.
Even Aurora’s Civil Service Commission dislikes what their Council is considering. The Commission says the measure “would adversely impact the ability of the City to provide a disciplinary appeal process that is fair to all parties.”
In practice, this un-American proposal would eliminate any review of the Chief’s determination that a member violated a directive. Second, it would shift the burden of appropriateness of discipline from the Chief to the member. Finally, it would eliminate the ability of the Commission to place a wrongfully demoted or terminated officer back in the position they occupied prior to the wrongful discipline.
In every other American city, our Constitution has protected our individual liberties so that the burden of proof lies with the City to prove guilt, and if guilt is found that disciplinary charges are appropriate. However, under the proposed initiative, the burden will shift to fire fighters — forcing them to prove their innocence. And even if they are found to not have done anything wrong, under the new proposal, the discipline can’t be undone. So, not only will fire fighters be “guilty until proven innocent” in Aurora, even if they prove their innocence, they will still be SOOL.
And if that isn’t bad enough, if the initiative passes, fire fighters may not have access to city records needed to defend their innocence. Local 1290 will do its part to help defend its brothers and sisters if/when issues arise; however, depending on the circumstance, more legal support and representation may be needed to launch more effective appeals. This means a fire fighter could incur additional expensive legal costs.
In addition, Local 1290 are concerned that the number of disciplinary issues will rise as supervisors will no longer have a check and balance system.
Finally, Local 1290 believes recruiting and retaining first responders will be problematic if the proposal passes because of the potential difficulty in defending the myriad of baseless charges that could be brought against its members.
And the Council is intent on doing even though, in the past 18 years, Local 1290 members have used the appeals process only three times.
The IAFF’s Legal Department is working with the local, and we will keep everyone updated.
The only saving grace here is that the way the City Council is handling this, if the measure is passed by Council next week, it will be placed on the November ballot for the citizens to vote on citizens who will be reminded over and over again by this union that the American system of justice is founded on the principle that we all are “innocent until proven guilty.”
Rest assured that Local 1290 and the IAFF are watching this closely, and we will make sure that any Aurora Council member who votes for this ridiculous, un-Constitutional, un-American measure will be held accountable the next time they come up for a vote of the citizens.