Police departments in the Colorado are changing their attitudes towards recruits past marijuana use. Last year, the Aurora Civil Service Commission adopted a policy that requires applicants to its police and fire departments to be marijuana-free for one year instead of three.
The changes in policies reflect evolving attitudes toward marijuana use in society, and some police departments are changing their standards because they fear they might lose otherwise high-quality recruits who have experimented with the drug because it is legal for people who are 21 or older to use pot in Colorado.
Although marijuana is legal in Colorado, employers are allowed by state law to prohibit their employees from using it. Changing police polices are not exclusive to Colorado, or even to states where pot is legal. In Colorado, there is no statewide standard. Instead, individual agencies, or their commissions that make hiring rules, and sheriff’s offices make their own policies. The Colorado State Patrol drug screens its applicants.
“It’s just individual cities or departments are deciding their own preferences,” said Duane Oakes, president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and chief at the Alamosa Police Department. In Colorado Springs, police and fire applicants are disqualified if they have used marijuana in the past 18 months.
“Thirty-five years ago when I started it was you never could have smoked it,” said CSPD spokesman Lt. Howard Black. “That was a question on the polygraph.”
Departments are changing the rules to remain competitive recruiters. Police departments across the country are finding it difficult to recruit officers. A surging economy brings more employment options that often pay better and bring less stress than law enforcement, and the current climate for policing is discouraging others from pursuing the profession.
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