Aurora police chief hopes for more say in hiring of new officers

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AURORA, Colo. — Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson says she would like to see changes to improve how new police officers are hired following the incident with former Officer John Haubert.

“I do believe there should be change,” Wilson said.

Denver7 Investigates first reported how Aurora city leaders are pushing for improvements after learning a previous Civil Service Commission, who oversees hiring of all new police officers, made the decision to hire Haubert despite his criminal record.

“It’s shocking to a lot of people because the way it works doesn’t make sense,” said Aurora City Councilman Juan Marcano.

“It should have been flagged on a background check,” said Aurora City Councilman Curtis Gardner.

Haubert was seen on body camera video last month 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.

Wilson said she didn’t learn about Haubert’s record until the morning before she released the video.

“It just was a bit of salt in the wound, I think, for the community. I think it was shocking for them,” she said. “I don’t believe on its face that any crime of violence or anything that’s dealing with a weapons offense should be something that we end up giving the ultimate power of being a police officer.”

Which is why Wilson said she would like to have more involvement in the civil service process when it comes to hiring new officers.

“As a CEO of the law enforcement agency, I don’t think that anyone that’s hiring for a position would be comfortable with not being able to sit down and actually interview the people that you’re bringing on,” she said.

Currently in Aurora, the chief doesn’t meet any new recruits in-person until their first day on the job.

The police department also does not review applicants background or have any say in new hires. All those responsibilities fall on the Civil Service Commission, a five-person board made up of community members who are appointed by council. The commission also has no interaction with the city’s human resources department.

“It’s a challenge,” Wilson said. “I think it (the Civil Service Commission) has a place within our city. I believe that we can all work together — the police department, HR — and make it a better system.”

In a statement, Ryan Luby, a city spokesperson, said Aurora is evaluating the background process and “recognizes that all hiring processes, in Aurora or elsewhere, always have room for improvement.”

The city said it is still working with the commission to determine what those change look like.

“Collectively, we have not yet determined whether changes could be implemented through policy and practice revisions and/or a change in the City Charter, which would require a vote of Aurora residents,” Luby said.

A report outlining 99 recommendation for improving the Aurora Police Department also included recommendations for the Civil Service Commission.