Recruits put to the test in 1st Denver Police Academy in 5 years

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DENVER -- The Denver Police Department is hiring for the first time in five years.

The first class of 30 recruits has spent the past two months at the Academy, and they have four months to go.

They are being tested and pushed to the limits every day, and FOX31 Denver has exclusive, unprecedented access to the training these men and women are going through.

Police Chief Robert White said, “This is hard. Being a police officer’s not easy, so getting here was not easy. Getting out of here’s not going to be easy. And doing the right thing every single day can sometimes be challenging, but nothing less is expected.”

The recruits are clearly up to the challenge. They represent a new era in policing. Captain Rhonda Jones oversees the Academy. She said, “You have to be passionate about law enforcement profession. It’s not all what you see on TV, driving fast, chasing people, gun battles. It’s really about being compassionate and wanting to take care of your community and wanting to make people feel safe in their home.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said these recruits will have to recognize the importance of working with the community. “Every officer that is trained in the city of Denver has the ultimate responsibility to give citizens the positive interaction with the police department. They are our greatest ambassadors. We all call on them it is usually in our most anxious moment and in our darkest hour.. we need officers to keep in the back of their mind to be courteous as much as possible and respect everyone you come in contact with,” Hancock said.

Chief White told the recruits their primary responsibility is to prevent crime, adding, “Our success is really the willingness of the community to work with us.”

The 30 recruits in this class include people from all walks of life. They represent the diversity of Denver. Alexis Aranda said, “I grew up in the Hispanic community, I`m Hispanic myself, a lot of times where I'm from, they don't really trust police, but I want to change that with my community.”

Some have previous law enforcement experience. Gregory Montanez said, “I've always wanted to be a Denver police officer, serving as a reserve officer for the past four years has gotten me ready for this. I'm good to go.” Eric Morales was in the Air Force before applying to become a police officer. He said, “I kind of prepared myself, basic training style for the military.”

Others, like Brenton Sellars, come from the financial industry. He said, “Honestly, I have three kids and one day I plan to have grandkids and honestly I just want to make this a better place.” Alexis Aranda was also a banker. She said, “I always liked the detective work,” she said. “I like the excitement and the adrenaline.”

Due to budget cuts, the department hasn’t hired any officers since 2008. There are currently more than 100 openings.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the passage of Measure 2A allowed the city to hire new officers this year. “A smart city is one that strives to prevent crime, and thanks to Denver voters, we can put more officers out on the street to better keep Denver’s neighborhoods secure and protected,” Hancock said.

But first, they must pass the academy. It is 26 weeks filled with learning in the classroom, meeting physical requirements and dealing with high stress. “We just try to get on them right away, just to get them used to that anxiety and working under pressure,” Sgt. Kevin Bray said. ”Academically, they`re going to spend a lot of time studying. There’s a lot of laws to be learned, policies and procedures they need to understand. Physically, it’s going to be trying for them. And then just emotionally.”

Not everyone will make it through. Captain Rhonda Jones, who oversees the academy said, “This can be the best of the best, but it is up to them to make it that. We can’t do it for them. It has to come from inside.”

Brenton Sellers said, “This has to be something you’re actually called to do because a regular person wouldn’t put themselves through this, emotionally, physically, spiritually. It doesn’t work unless you’re called.”

FOX31 Denver is documenting the academy. Watch for stories on the recruits, the instructors and the training in the coming weeks.

The Denver Police Department is tentatively planning to accept applications for new recruits again in January 2014. Follow this link for more information and a recommended self-assessment.

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