Another 11 recruits should put the Thornton Police Department closer to the staffing level it set last year, Chief Randy Nelson said.
It could be a few months, however, before the newest recruits, December graduates from the Adam’s County Sheriff’s Department Flatrock Training Center hit the streets.
“By the time the get through all the training and all our in-service training and field training, it takes about a year,” he said.
Nelson’s department added 11 new recruits to his department when the Sheriff’s Academy graduated Dec. 7. Those graduates make up 37 of the 50 new officers announced a year ago. The Thornton Police Department received approval from the city to hire 50 new officers in January 2017, the largest expansion in the department’s history. That was designed to increase the department’s number of sworn officers to 243.
With an estimated 136,000 residents, Thornton is the Colorado’s sixth-largest community and this expansion will bring the city to a ratio of 1.7 police officers per 1,000 residents.
“ The good thing for us is that Thornton is becoming a jewel in the metropolitan area,” Nelson said. “We expect to be over 140,000 people next year, and you have major commercial developments all along the I-25 corridor and Amazon coming in. Every where you look, you have growth popping out of the ground.”
That studies showed police spending almost half of their shift time responding to calls for service, not interacting with residents or following up on calls. It’s made the department more reactive and the additional officers are meant to help the department shift that trend to more community-based policing. The city is building a new police and fire substation at 132nd and Quebec and hopes to add a new police district along I-25 to handle increasing calls for service.
“It would allow us to work with building and property managers to learn about the problems they have and create more sustained service and find out what is making them not safe,” he said. “I think the other thing is it lets us be more proactive. Our people can spend more time dealing with community issues.”
From the Dec. 7 graduation, Thornton’s new recruits will go to the city-specific Thornton In-service Academy for 10 weeks more of intensive training. Students master things like defensive tactics, crisis intervention strategies and report writing training.
Next, they’ll be sworn as officers and begin a field training program where they will be paired with experience officer begin patrols.
“They enter into a 14 week program that evaluates them and begins turning over the operation of that car and service to the community,” Nelson said. “If they are successful with that, they enter into a shift as a solo officer.”
Recruits come from three sources, he said. Some students work their way through college courses and academy-level training on their own while the department pays to send others through the Adams County program. And Nelson said the department is always looking for experienced officers from smaller departments in other communities.
“Any recruit will go through our in-service training, but the experienced officers may be able to move through it more quickly,” he said.
Nelson said the department is sending recruiters around the country looking for officers. So far, they’ve looked for new recruits in Texas, California and Washington state. In December, he said recruiters were meeting with potential recruits in Kentucky.”
“In all, we have 37 people moving through that process right now,” he said. “So we are really close to that 243 number, but we know we are going to lose a certain percentage. So we keep looking and working to build our pool of applicants.”
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