PUEBLO — During the debate at the State Capitol over the new police reform legislation, law enforcement groups warned the bill could hamper their ability to recruit and hire new officers. However, those who recruit and train new officers in Pueblo are not noticing a drop in interest.
Matthew Grable is the Chair of the Law Enforcement Academy at Pueblo Community College. He said that while the national unrest following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has been on people's minds, it hasn't translated to a widespread drop in enrollment.
"I haven't noticed much of a difference in terms of I haven't seen people backing out because of anything," Grable said. "We did have one person who decided he wasn't going to do it just based on the climate of everything in the country, but not specifically with the bill."
The academy held graduation for its spring 2020 cadets last Friday. Grable said 16 and 24 cadets typically enroll in the 18-week training program. Their graduates have found jobs with law enforcement agencies from around the state.
"The overwhelming majority of people that work in law enforcement are good people," Grable said. "They're people that are going out there and doing their job for all the right reasons."
The human resources department at the Pueblo Police Department reports receiving around 16 emails and 3 to 4 phone calls per day since June 1 from people interested in joining the force.
"Police work is complex, it's hard, but there's always people who want to do it," said Sgt. Franklyn Ortega, the Public Information Officer for the PPD.
"The reason there are people always wanting to do it is they want to serve their community, they want to make their community better."
The training process to become a Pueblo Police Officer lasts almost a full year. The academy lasts 26 weeks, followed by another 14 weeks of field training.
Applicants must submit a self-reported risk assessment and personal evaluation. Ortega explained that these documents help measure an applicant's character. The candidates also take a polygraph test, a psychological screening, and submit to a background check.
"There's a reason for that process because you want the best person you can get when you call the police department," Ortega said. "You want the best person who can handle that call, who is going to treat people with dignity and respect."
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the current police academy for a few months. Cadets recently resumed training, and Ortega said the city expects to start another academy in early 2021.