AURORA, Colo. -- The chair of Aurora’s Civil Service Commission, which oversees hiring for all new police officers, says the board is not perfect and is committed to changes, many of which are already underway.
“We’ve taken a hit in terms of public confidence, and I hope we can restore that,” Chairman Jim Weeks said.
Denver7 Investigates first reported how Aurora city leaders are pushing for improvements to the commission after learning a previous Civil Service Commission made the decision to hire former Officer John Haubert despite his criminal record.
“There’s certainly a lot of transparency that needs to be added to the process,” councilman Juan Marcano said.
Haubert was seen on body camera video in July pistol whipping and choking a suspect. It was also uncovered he had a misdemeanor gun charge on his record after his roommates accused him of being drunk and pointing a shotgun at one of them.
The city also said there was no evidence any of the commission’s investigators questioned Haubert’s roommates before giving him a badge and a gun.
“I don't know what happened there. That would have been enough for, I think, any commission, not just us, to say this is a [disqualifying] situation,” Weeks said.
Haubert resigned from the force and faces criminal charges.
“They were very conscientious and competent commissioners,” Weeks said of the previous board. “They applied their best judgment and there might have been an error in judgment in terms of their final outcome.”
Aurora’s Civil Service Commission is made up of community members who are appointed by city council. The independent five-person board members each serve three-year terms. The board is tasked with hiring all new police and firefighters as well as conducting discipline hearings. No members of the current commission were serving when Haubert was hired.
But Weeks said the problem was the previous commissioners didn’t have all the information.
“I would say that was basically a one-of-a-kind situation, and we have repeated it,” Weeks said. “Every process can be improved. We’re not status quo, we’re not stuck.”
He added that records show in the last five years, the commission has disqualified 52% of applicants, which he said proves the board is not allowing just anyone to wear a badge in Aurora.
“We're not faceless bureaucrats,” he said. “There are 100 applicants out there; 50 aren't going to make it,” he said.
The current commission has also helped bring on 100 new police recruits this year alone.
“It's an unprecedented workload,” Weeks said. “We've got to have the full confidence of the community that the people that are going through the system are going to be good police officers.”
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson has asked for more say in the process of hiring new officers. Under the current framework, she doesn’t meet new recruits in-person until their first day on the job.
“I hope that the chief, whether it’s me or someone else down the road, has that opportunity to know who’s coming in the door,” Wilson said.
A representative of the police department does review applicants’ backgrounds, a change since Haubert was hired in 2018.
Wilson said she didn’t learn about Haubert’s record until the morning before she released the video.
But the commission still has the final vote.
Weeks said the board supports the police department having more involvement and is currently working to reinstate what’s known as oral board, which would allow applicants to answer specific questions and get to meet with the police department before being hired. They hope to have that process in place in the next few months.