Southwest Regional Law Enforcement Academy graduated its latest batch of cadets on Saturday at the Mancos Community Center. Eleven new officers received their certifications to applause from an audience that filled the events room.
Brett Deming, Fort Lewis College chief of police, said in his commencement address that society needs law enforcement officers now more than ever. Recent years have been difficult for law enforcement with increased public scrutiny, but graduates on Saturday have the opportunity to change the perception of law enforcement for the better, he said.
“Everything that you say and do is going to be recorded on your own body camera; video is going to be highly scrutinized and played back a thousand times,” he said. “It’s going to take ethical, strong individuals to rise to that challenge. And not only rise to that challenge, but to be successful and thrive in that environment. We need people just like you.
“You also have the opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism,” he said. “Make interactions with the public as positive as they can be and all of us, myself included, we all have the opportunity in front of us to change the perception of law enforcement for the better. So let’s capitalize on that.”
He said the graduating class has unique bragging rights because every cadet passed their POST firearms qualification test in the first attempt – an academy first, to Deming’s knowledge.
Over 19 weeks, the cadets put in intense hours training in firearms, defensive driving, responding to calls of service, CPR and first aid, DUI investigation, crash investigation and many other scenarios, Bobby Brewer, deputy academy instructor, said.
“Out of the 54 academies in the state, our academy does present them with the most mental health preparedness to allow them to handle the rigors of this job and to allow their family members to understand what’s going on with them,” he said. “Giving them tools to address mental health issues when they come up with just the everyday rigors of being a police officer.”
He said the course is challenging on them as well as their friends and family; the cadets made sacrifices to make their commitments. And more challenges lie ahead, the next one being preparation for the POST test and new assignments.
“What brings us together is that it doesn’t matter what shield you have on your chest, it is that we are all part of the same family,” he said. “Understanding that family is how we succeed as police officers, bettering our community.”
Deming said the cadets have been drinking from a fire hose of education for four months nonstop at the academy. And that won’t change just because they graduated.
“Education is what led you here today and education’s what’s going to lead you beyond (here) to do a more professional job on the street,” he said. “... Societal problems are ever-changing, technology’s creating new problems, and we have to adapt and overcome those problems. So (you) are going to be continually learning throughout your career.”
He said if ever a cadet feels like they are done learning, that indicates it’s time to leave the profession.