Denver could permit noncitizens to be police officers and firefighters

By Brian Michel on February 14, 2024

In Denver, two council members are suggesting the idea of permitting noncitizens to serve in the roles of police officers and firefighters within the city.

As reported by Axios, on Monday, Council President Jamie Torres and Member Amanda Sandoval put forth a proposal to remove specific language from the city charter that currently prohibits the hiring of noncitizens in Denver’s police and fire departments.

If approved, this change would enable individuals with valid work authorization to be employed by these two agencies. Council President Torres mentioned that noncitizens, including legal permanent residents and DACA recipients, are presently eligible for employment in nearly all other departments within the city.

The citizen requirement, which is exclusive to these agencies, is outlined in the city’s law, stating that applicants must be U.S. citizens. Proponents argue that implementing these changes would enhance the diversity within both agencies. Furthermore, it is believed that it would positively impact the police department’s community policing initiatives, recruitment and retention efforts, and contribute to a reduction in discrimination.

Currently under the city’s charter:

  • Police Department: As of today, Denver’s city charter specifically forbids the Denver Police Department (DPD) from hiring non-citizens. This has been in place since the city charter was adopted in 1902.
  • Fire Department: Similarly, the city charter also excludes non-citizens from being hired by the Denver Fire Department (DFD).
  • Denver Sheriff’s Department: Interestingly, the Denver Sheriff’s Department (DSD) is not subject to the city charter restriction and can hire non-citizens. This stems from a 2016 federal settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after they found the DSD illegally discriminated against non-citizen applicants.

Under the proposal:

  • Would allow non-citizens with work authorization, such as permanent residents and DACA recipients, to be eligible for these positions.
  • Currently, the proposal is still in the early stages. It hasn’t been formally introduced as a bill yet, and there’s no guarantee it will be passed.

Of note:

  • Other Colorado cities like Aurora and Boulder do not have citizenship requirements for police or fire departments, requiring only lawful permanent resident status.
  • The state of Colorado itself also does not have any citizenship restrictions for law enforcement positions.

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