Got Psychological “Red Flags?” Don’t Worry, You Can Be A Cop In Colorado!
Because of more relaxed standards in some parts, passing the psych evaluation will barely be an inconvenience
Due to the levels of frustration and sarcasm present in what you are about to read, I think it's important to begin with a disclaimer: I don’t hate all police officers. The experiences I’ve had completely prevent such a thing.
Having worked for different government agencies with varying degrees of security needs throughout my adult life, I’ve seen some of the boys in blue do incredible work when they were used as our security forces. Their level of professionalism and ability to deal with criminals who were not only guilty as sin, but who were also incredible assholes in the face of their own wrongdoing, was always noteworthy.
Conversely, I’ve also had to deal with those in law enforcement who were just generally inhuman. My favorite example of this was the time a racist cop put a bead on me with his taser because I tried to help my black friend whom he'd just put in cuffs and threw to the ground when we were pulled over for mistaken identity concerning a nearby robbery.
So, with all of that said, I understand that the police are human, nobody is going to be on their A-game all the time, and mistakes will get made. Where I draw the line is when the mistakes being made are either totally egregious (i.e., REALLY fucking obvious), reek of ineptitude, or are a combination of both. And for completely unknown reasons, various locations in the Centennial State have decided to adopt these garbage forms of police “accountability” tactics.
The first city I’m going to look at is Aurora and its recent decision to lower the psychological hiring standards when it comes to recruiting new police officers (according to emails obtained by Denver7 Investigates). You read that right, the city has decided that the psychological profile of someone with a license to kill isn’t all that important.
For police officers, part of the hiring process includes a Job Suitability Assessment, which includes a written test and a meeting with a psychologist. Prospective officers are given a grade ranging from 1A to 5F. Grades 1A to 3C are typically deemed acceptable to move forward with the process, while 4D and 5F are usually disqualified.
In between 3C and 4D, however, is a 3C- grade, which typically indicates that a candidate has some red flags, according to an expert. Though that grade can result in a candidate being disqualified, a 2020 email from a civil service analyst shows that the commission thought otherwise.
“Brower Psychological originally advised the commission that most agencies consider a 3C- to be unsuitable. However, the commission chose to keep it as a suitable rating,” the email stated.
Brower Psychological is the firm that provided the evaluations for the commission between 2018 and 2022.
When asked about these lowered standards, Civil Service Commission Chair Desmond McNeal tried to spin his response in such a way as to make these new lower benchmarks out to be something positive. “We’re a group of citizens trying to do the best we can with the information we get,” he said. “I don’t feel like we’ve lowered the standards. I think we’ve changed the standards to get a wider view of our candidates." Essentially, he's claiming that by lowering the psychological requirements, we're opening up the talent pool.
Though there is no proof that those lowered requirements were somehow standardized when Officer Jordan Steinke basically locked a human in a cage on a set of train tracks in Colorado last year, his actions lead me to believe that they were in full force. Either that or the department never looked at his psych eval in the first place.
For those of you that have forgotten, on the evening of September 16th, 2022, officers with the Fort Lupton Police Department pursued Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, 20, of Evans, after an alleged road rage incident involving a firearm in Fort Lupton earlier that evening.
The two officers pulled up behind her vehicle just off U.S. 85 near Weld County Road 36 at 7:49 p.m. Rios-Gonzalez pulled to a stop on the county road just past the railroad tracks. One of the officers, later identified as Platteville Police Sgt. Pablo Vazquez, stopped his vehicle directly on the train tracks.
After arresting and handcuffing Rios-Gonzalez, Officer Steinke put her in the rear caged portion of the car; making her unable to open the back doors from the inside or climb into the front seat. The worst possible outcome came true when a train hit the car. Luckily, she survived and has gone on to file numerous lawsuits against the officers and departments.
Much like the enabling done by McNeal when it came to spinning a good yarn for accepting the lowered psychological standards for recruiting new officers, it seems that both Officer Steinke and his incredibly dangerous actions have an enabler as well in the form of The Weld County District Attorney’s office. Where they, in February of this year, dismissed the second-degree felony assault charge against Officer Steinke. Though he still faces other charges, this was easily the most serious … and easiest to prove. He knew the car was on the tracks, he knew the tracks were active, and knew that the suspect would have no way of getting out of the car if a train came—which it did.
All of this information leads to one question: is there ANY hope when it comes to curbing this enabling of bad law enforcement?
It appears so.
At the end of last year, I wrote an article about how former officer Francine Martinez was facing criminal charges due to the police accountability act known as SB-217—an act that was signed into law by Governor Polis in 2020. In the law, you’ll find that if an officer is witnessing another officer harming a suspect and does nothing, then the inactive cop can be charged criminally as well. This is exactly what Martinez was found guilty of in April this year after jurors found she did not step in when another officer choked a man and beat him with a gun during an arrest in 2021. In my article, I questioned if SB-217 would realistically lead to some form of real accountability for the police officers who were guilty of wrongdoing; this conviction seems to show that we are headed in the right direction.
But it’s only one step.
Between the lax mental standards that our city leaders are enacting, to a justice system that seems to turn a blind eye when it comes to the illegal actions of their primary enforcers, the picture of the ever-smiling milkman version of a police officer no longer exists. In fact, if we were to get an honest reflection of what law enforcement would look like using the realities of what is written above, the painting would have to be done by Jack Kevorkian.