Feb 13, 2024 - News

Denver could allow noncitizens to be police officers and firefighters

Uniformed Denver police officers stand with their hands held together in a photo that shows them from the shoulders down.

Denver Police Department officers at attention outside the Fallen Officers Memorial in 2023. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Two Denver council members are proposing allowing noncitizens to work as police and firefighters in Denver.

Details: Council president Jamie Torres and member Amanda Sandoval proposed Monday striking language from the city charter preventing the city's police and fire departments from hiring noncitizens.

  • It would allow people with work authorization to be employed by the two agencies.
  • Noncitizens, who can include legal permanent residents and DACA recipients, are currently eligible to work in nearly all other departments, Torres tells us.

The intrigue: The citizen requirement is unique to those agencies due to language in the city's law specifying applicants must be U.S. citizens.

Zoom in: Supporters say the changes would improve both agencies' diiversity, the police department's community policing efforts, recruitment and retention, and reduce discrimination.

Of note: Fire chief Desmond Fulton and police chief Ron Thomas provided letters in favor of the proposal.

  • City law prevents Denver police from hiring DACA recipients despite state a law passed last year allowing them to work as armed officers, Thomas writes.
  • A spokesperson for the union representing Denver firefighters, Local 858, declined to comment but said the union is working to get more information.
  • The union representing Denver officers, the Denver Police Protective Association, did not respond to a request for comment.

Between the lines: The Denver Sheriff's Department can hire noncitizens due to a 2016 federal settlement stemming from a finding that the agency violated federal law by discriminating against work-authorized immigrants.

What's next: Torres tells us she will continue outreach on the proposal, which could be formally introduced as a bill in April.

  • The council will need to put the measure on the November ballot for consideration, since changing the city charter requires a vote.
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