AURORA, Colo. — The city of Aurora passed a new rule allowing non-citizens, who are permanent legal residents, to apply to become police officers or firefighters, which the police and fire departments say will bring more representation to their forces, and will allow more people to apply.
The city’s Civil Service Commission passed the new rule this week, which takes effect immediately. The requirement now reads: “Eligible candidates must be a citizen of the United States or a person who is lawfully admitted for permanent residence, in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
“Given that we are such a large and diverse city, not having the representation of the community on the department is problematic for a lot of reasons, but also we were not in compliance with federal law,” Allison Hiltz, Aurora City Council member at large, said. “So it was important for me to bring this forward.”
Leaders of the police and fire departments are welcoming the change, saying recruiting has been challenging.
Aurora Police Department Division Chief Harry Glidden said the department would love to be one that “actually mirrors the community.”
“That’s the goal,” he said. “It’s difficult to do, that’s the goal.”
Deputy Chief Cindy Anderson from the Aurora Fire Department agreed.
“I think anytime you expand your workforce to mirror the demographics of the city you are working in and the service you provide to them will only enhance it,” she said.
City leaders said the previous citizenship requirement unfairly discriminated against immigrants. They also said they previously had to turn away people who served in the U.S. military, but were not citizens.
“We would love to hire people from the military,” Glidden said. “Right now, there are people who come to America, join the military, and that is oftentimes a path to citizenship for people, when they get out of the military, right now we can’t hire them. We would love to hire them. If you can protect our country, you can certainly come help us protect the City of Aurora.”
They emphasized the extensive background check and screening process will not change.
“Those countries if they don’t have good record keeping process or we can’t go and do a background check with them won’t qualify for work here,” Glidden said. “It’s still going to be a difficult process for people to get through the hiring process and get to the police academy because we are not going to lower our standards.”
Hiltz said the city will not be changing its standards.
“It will be the same exact process as it was before,” she said. “The only difference is we are allowing non-citizens to apply, people with permanent resident status, and that will open up recruiting purposes and will help us with having the community represented.”