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Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office launches police academy amid nationwide struggle to recruit, retain

Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office launches new police academy
Posted at 6:46 PM, Aug 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-13 12:39:06-04

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — Struggles to recruit and retain have become setbacks for law enforcement across the country. This summer, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office launched a police academy to help bolster its own department and potentially help others across the state.

Marco Viramontes is one of 25 people in the academy's first recruiting class. During the sweltering August heat, he and others gathered at a gun range to learn the basics of gun handling.

"It's always been a dream to be a part of this," he said.

Viramontes immigrated to the United States at only 10-years-old. He took inspiration to join the ranks from several of his family members who worked in law enforcement, but he also credits the kindness of those in Arapahoe County.

"Just the way that the county, you know, took in immigrants, they really took care of people. It's something that really stuck with me," Viramontes said.

The 23-week program's curriculum is vast and includes education on casualty care, use-of-force scenarios and Colorado statues. All graduates will be P.O.S.T certified, a requirement for officers in the state.

Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office launches police academy amid nationwide struggle to recruit, retain

The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office launched the police academy on July 11 following two years of work to get it up and running, according to Sheriff Tyler Brown. The launch comes as staffing shortages plague most departments across the country.

In the Denver metro, the Denver Police Department is short 168 officers, but there are 64 recruits in academy. The Aurora Police Department has 40 vacancies, while the City of Englewood is short five officers. The Lakewood Police Department said it couldn't provide a total for this report. A spokesperson for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office said the agency has 40 deputy spots to fill.

Totals from the Colorado Attorney General's Office also painted a similar challenge in terms of new-officer recruitment. In 2020, a total of 959 basic P.O.S.T certifications were issued. In 2021, 919 basic P.O.S.T certifications were issued.

"It's a long road ahead of us, for sure," said Joe VanHook, an instructor with Arapahoe County's new police academy.

VanHook believes the academy's launch will help the shortages.

"By increasing the number of academies, we can obviously get more recruits," he said.

The majority of the academy's first recruiting class will work for ACSO following graduation. However, future classes could help out with department shortages across the state, according to Brown.

"If there are some vacancies, and there's some room for us to get a deputy or law enforcement officer trained from somewhere else in the state, we're willing to do that," he said.

Brown also believes the new academy will keep his department's own staffing robust.

"The way I look at it is, if we're going to start training people let's just train them to the P.O.S.T standards from the beginning, then we don't have to worry about them applying other places and leaving our great agency," he said.

Those interested in joining the academy can apply through this link. The deadline to apply is Aug. 15.

Those who don't apply by Aug. 15 will need to fill out a job interest card. To fill out a card, click here.

The new academy is being funded through money already allocated to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office in the current fiscal year.