No freaking kidding. Disgraced Aurora police Officer Chris Falco is back on the force.
The city’s Civil Service Commission, those folks who have continued to bring you a wide assortment of bad cops for years, did it again.
Falco, if you’ve forgotten, was fired by Aurora’s police administration earlier this year, which is no small matter. He was canned because he clearly has anger issues, won’t follow directions, misuses time on the clock and has all the sensitivity and good judgment of a roller derby ref.
Like most police departments, Aurora’s police administration is loathe to fire anybody. Cops here look out for each other, getting them help if they need it, reassignments, long breaks, whatever it takes to make it to retirement with honor and integrity.
So if you get the boot as a cop in Aurora, you have serious problems. Clearly, Falco has serious problems.
The guy had an emotional meltdown one day during a traffic stop, coming unhinged all over some scared 17-year-old girl who couldn’t get her car out of the road. He became so irate and irrational that another cop had to pull him away from the scene.
He had a temper tantrum with a city prosecutor not long after that. He also was caught babysitting his grandson while on the job when he was supposed to be working security at city hall.
The most sadistic thing Falco did was to call a man he shot in the head a “marshmallow head” because he had brain damage.
Falco’s real fame comes from when he started shooting at three auto-part thieves fleeing in a car, killing one thief and critically wounding another. Police have a strict policy against shooting at people in cars, even if the car is headed for a cop, which Falco said was the case.
“Marshmallow head” referred to Yevgeni Straystar, one of the thieves he injured. He told another cop while discussing the case, which city taxpayers have forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle, that “the guy who got shot in the head won’t amount to much.” He told another cop that an internal affairs investigation into Falco not following police policy during the shooting “shouldn’t take very long, there aren’t too many people to interview. One is dead and the other cannot even make a sentence.”
Now I well understand how in a high-pressure business, sarcasm and seemingly cold-hearted remarks are often nothing more than a defense mechanism, but man, that’s cold. That’s bad judgment. Bad, bad judgment.
In my opinion, being a good cop is 95 percent judgment call and 5 percent skill. I would have fired Falco for his behavior if the most dangerous thing he handled was a phone as a librarian to call patrons about overdue books. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates and company were absolutely right to demand the ouster of Falco, who flaunts his bad judgment with a badge, a set of handcuffs and a loaded gun.
Why does the city’s Civil Service Commission not get that police officers must be held to a higher standard than the rest of us? These weren’t missteps made by a meter reader. This is a guy that’s to supposed to uphold the law, and we give him a gun to do it.
I’ve known a lot of cops as a reporter. Just about every single one of them got into the work because they really liked helping people. They really felt strongly about preventing people from being victimized by bullies and criminals. They’re activists for justice.
For the cops I know, it’s the most stressful, satisfying, annoying, thrilling, boring and exasperating job in the world. You deal with people at their worst. But when you can’t keep from telling teenagers to move their car or “I’ll f—— tow it away,” or if at the most critical moment you fire a gun when you shouldn’t, or if you bring a little kid to work when you’re supposed to be doing your job as a cop, potentially putting the kid at risk and the public, it’s time to move on.
By putting Falco back in the force, the Civil Service Commission tells the rest of Aurora’s cops that they don’t have to bite their tongues on crime scenes or in court. They don’t have to follow the rules.
That’s scary stuff.
What’s more, Falco is damaged goods. Rest assured that if he appears at my driver’s side window one day, I’m calling 911 to send for back-up for my protection, not his.
Aurora won’t be able to prosecute a single case Falco works on. Defendants will be only too happy to ask the jury if they believe “my client or Officer Quick Draw McTemper?”
Here’s what needs to happen. Aurora police officers need to make it clear to city officials they don’t like this any more than the chief does. Falco’s reinstatement hurts the entire department of honorable cops who keep it together all the time.
Falco needs to tap into his past honor and resign. Today.
As far as the Aurora Civil Service Commission, this has gone too far. The commission has reinstated fired cops, undone disciplines and made a mockery of police ethical and performance standards for far too long. City lawmakers should draft revisions to the city charter that will ask voters to make changes for the good of the force, and the good of the city.
Currently, civil service commissioners are appointed to terms on the dais and are above the reproach of city council. That’s got to end. The Civil Service Commission’s priority must be to protect the public, not the police. This recent decision undermines public safety, the integrity of the force and the judgment of the commission itself. The only solution is the ensure each commissioner serves at the pleasure of the entire city council, and those commissioners who supported reinstating Falco need to be removed.
In the mean time, if I’ve got to call police for any reason, I’ll be sure to ask them not to send Falco. If you were smarter than the commission is, you’d do the same.
Reach editor Dave Perry at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org