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CSPD recruits forced out for failing the driving test file a federal lawsuit 

Driven to court

click to enlarge Police recruits were ousted over minor driving flaws. - JOHN ROMAN IMAGES / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • John Roman Images / Shutterstock.com
  • Police recruits were ousted over minor driving flaws.
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ive police recruits forced out of the Colorado Springs Police Academy after failing the driving test have taken their beef to federal court. They seek reinstatement as recruits, attorney's fees and back pay — at least $4,166 a month each since they left early this year.

Sadatur Khan, Jason Harsha, Tyler Kelley, Kelly Robinson and Bailey Carpenter — three of whom were quoted in an Independent story about their plight — have filed suit against Police Chief Pete Carey and the city.

The case was filed March 10 by the same firm, Cornish & Dell'Olio, that recently won a federal court decision on behalf of Colorado Springs female police officers who were punished for not passing a physical abilities test that wasn't applied equally to men and women.

All the recruits but Carpenter served in the military; Carpenter was ranked first academically in the recruit class, the lawsuit notes.

According to the suit, the five competed against more than 2,000 applicants for one of 48 slots in the police department's 66th recruit class. The recruits completed 17 or 18 weeks of the 26-week academy before being ousted after they struck, wobbled or brushed up against a cone — one of hundreds set up at a course at Pikes Peak International Raceway that included forward and reverse serpentine, two 90-degree turns, three high-speed lane changes and shuffle steering, among other maneuvers.

The Colorado Peace Officer Standards Training (POST) Board promulgates rules for skills testing, including the driving program, and requires a score of 70 percent. POST allows cities to impose stricter rules, as long as they're described in a training manual; but the lawsuit says the Colorado Springs Academy failed to do so. "Recruits were never provided any standard in writing during the Academy which stated what was required of them to pass the driving test," the lawsuit says.

Nor were the recruits specifically told the rules for passing the test, other than they had to finish it without "hitting" a cone. No definition of "hitting" was given, the lawsuit says, leading to confusion. For example, Carpenter finished the course without tipping a cone, but an instructor failed her because she had "moved" a cone.

Similarly, Robinson and Khan were told they "wobbled" a cone, and Harsha "touched" a cone, according to the lawsuit, which alleges trainers applied the rules inconsistently and arbitrarily and also denied the recruits pre-termination hearings.

The city and police chief, through spokespersons, declined to comment, but in its answer to the suit, the city denies the claims. "The actions and decisions complained of by Plaintiffs in the Complaint were not caused by an official policy, practice, custom, or decision of a final policymaker," the answer states. The city also asks that the case be dismissed and the recruits be ordered to pay the city's attorney costs.

A settlement conference is scheduled for Aug. 31 in Colorado Springs before a U.S. magistrate.

As reported by the Indy, the CSPD has a failure rate on the driving test that's far above those of other Front Range departments, which costs taxpayers. For salaries alone, the city paid the eight recruits who were booted after the driving test a total of $150,000 for 18 weeks.

As Carpenter told the Indy in March, "If they expect to lose 20 percent, they need to do the driving the first week, so they don't waste taxpayer money."


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