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State issues 7 sanctions against Pueblo police law enforcement academy training program

Law enforcement academy placed on "probationary status" until 2023
Pueblo Police
Posted at 6:14 PM, Mar 25, 2022

PUEBLO — This week, News 5 learned that the Pueblo Police Department's "Arrest Control Training" program was not in compliance with state standards. This "ACT" program is taught as part of the law enforcement academy recruits attend.

You can read the news release from the PPD here.

"I wish I could say this finding was wrong, but after our internal review, it was not only correct, but was the only finding that POST could make," Chief Chris Noeller said. "Due to concerns with the strike heavy curriculum in the FBI Defensive Tactics and concerns with SB 217, I gave guidance early in 2021 to instruct additional defensive tactic techniques to limit the issues related to punching people, especially in our current environment. I am committed, as I know the Training Unit Staff is also committed, to moving forward, learning from this, and figuring out a way to get a POST approved Defensive Tactics Program that addresses my concerns and provides our officers with the skills necessary to safely take resistive persons in custody without the need for strikes in most circumstances."

On March 21, 2022, the Colorado Department of Law issued a compliance order addressing the violations and issuing 7 different sanctions.

"The Pueblo Police Department Law Enforcement Academy (PPDLEA) is currently non-compliant and in violation of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board Rule(s)," the letter states. "Upon further investigation, it appeared that PPDLEA was utilizing a non-POST approved arrest control discipline in their training with recruits."

The letter also addressed an issue with the academy's lead instruction, Sgt. Gabe Maldonado.

"It appeared that since lead instructor Sgt. Gabe Maldonado took over the ACT program with PPDLEA'S 63rd academy class on March 24, 2021, Sgt. Maldonado added numerous maneuvers outside the scope of FBI tactics to PPDLEA's ACT curriculum," the letter states. "It was noted that a couple of years ago Sgt. Maldonado met with representatives of the POST ACT subject matter experts (SME) committee, specifically including the Chair, and asked to change to a hybrid ACT program. At that time, Sgt. Maldonado was made aware of the requirements to make such a change, but he has not submitted a new program to POST.

As a result of this state investigation, POST implemented the following sanctions effective immediately:

-The law enforcement academy "ACT" program shall cease instruction for future classes

-The graduates from Class 63 shall either agree to a temporary suspension of their POST certification effective immediately or POST may take emergent action against their certificates through the Office of Administrative Courts. The suspension of the graduate's certificates will only be lifted by successfully completing a POST approved basic arrest control tactics program, or by successfully completing a POST ACT test out.

-Cadets in class 64 (this week's class) shall not graduate or be administered the written POST exam until they have successfully completed a POST approved basic arrest control tactics program, or by successfully completing a POST ACT test out.

-The lead instructor, Gabe Maldonado, is prohibited from teaching curriculum or skills at any POST academy until further notice.

-This program must be re-submitted with a POST approved course for the ACT discipline and it must be compliant with all POST Rules.

-A new academy schedule must be resubmitted by March 29, 2022 to account for the change of schedule required by the pause of ACT training

-The Pueblo Police Department's law enforcement academy is placed on probationary status until April 1, 2023, resulting in increased compliance monitoring by POST.

You can read the full state compliance letter here.

You can also read the full POST inspection report for the Pueblo Police Department's law enforcement academy here.

Prior to publication, News 5 sent both documents to the Pueblo Police Department to verify the validity of the information we obtained.

"We are good with the documents you have received, as well as the information that is included in them," Officer Meagan Chapman said via email.

5 current Pueblo police officers on patrol have been temporarily removed from their duties pending completion of state-approved testing.