Let elected officials control public safety

A Front Range lawmaker wants to give police and firefighters throughout the state a right to collective bargaining rights — something that voters in Grand Junction soundly rejected for their own police and firefighters almost a decade ago.

While Assistant Senate Majority Leader Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, sounds committed to introducing the legislation to allow police and firefighters collective bargaining rights, we hope other lawmakers in Denver will listen to the likes of Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, who said law enforcement agencies working under such agreements often have a more difficult time getting rid of employees who are unfit for law enforcement.

Or they might heed the concerns raised by Grand Junction city officials and residents back in 2000, when a proposed amendment to the city charter to allow collective bargaining by police and firefighters was overwhelmingly defeated by city voters.

Among the issues raised then by opponents of the measure were both pay and staffing levels. And many of the opponents, including this newspaper, made the quite reasonable argument that the city’s elected representatives should decide those issues, not an outside arbiter, as would have been allowed under the proposed city charter. A draft of the legislation Tochtrop is considering includes a similar provision for organized arbitration when the two sides aren’t able to reach agreement.

It also includes a provision prohibiting strikes by police or firefighters. But, like the Grand Junction proposal from 2000, it sets forth no punishment for those who violate the provision.

There is little evidence that a collective bargaining right is desperately needed by police or firefighters in Colorado to boost their wages or protect their jobs. But there is a need to allow elected representatives of cities and counties the authority to set wages, staffing levels and other requirements for their departments.

We agree with state Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction. The Legislature needs to strike this idea.


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