Former Citizen Telegram editor sworn in as Rifle police officer
Kyle Mills couldn’t have been more than 8 years old when he first came across a law enforcement officer.
He said his father Rodney was driving him and his brothers home from a baseball game back in his home state of Idaho when a couple of teenagers t-boned their vehicle.
It was a bad crash, but everybody was OK, Mills said. But it was the Idaho State Trooper letting him and his brothers play in his squad car after the wreck that really left an impression.
“They say most people only have one encounter with a police officer in their life,” Mills said. “And if it’s a good encounter, it kind of changes the way you think about law enforcement in your life.”
From that point on, Mills would keep in his back pocket the idea of becoming an officer. Now, after 20 years working as a professional journalist as well as a former editor for the Rifle Citizen Telegram, Mills’ lingering dream became a reality.
Last week, Mills was sworn in as a Rifle police officer.
“There are some really good similarities,” Mills said of journalism compared to law enforcement. “Knowing your community, knowing where stuff is at — that’s a big thing. And also, there’s a lot of writing in law enforcement.”
“The more detail that we put into a report, the better chance that we’ll get of getting a conviction,” he added.
It’s taken quite a long journey for Mills, 44, to get to this point.
Beyond his desire to become an officer, Mills always wanted to take photos when he was growing up in his hometown of Jerome, Idaho. This led him to obtaining a degree in commercial art photography from the College of Southern Idaho before attending Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
After graduation, Mills said he’d take up a couple internships — one of which was in South Bend, Indiana.
“I’m a big Notre Dame fan, so it was kind of the holy grail of jobs for me for almost a year,” he said. “I got to cover one Notre Dame football game and countless basketball and hockey games.”
Mills recalls covering the Fighting Irish on the ice vividly.
“The best thing about covering hockey, you’re right on the ice, in between the penalty boxes, and there’s no plastic in front of you,” he said. “So you just hang out and shoot photos.”
After the internship, Mills would take up his first full-time job as a staff photographer for a daily newspaper in Lewiston, Idaho. He said he thought the job would originally last maybe a couple years before he moved on.
He ended working there for the next 17 years, he said.
It was there, however, he ended up meeting his current wife, Angela.
Angela would eventually get a job offer in advertising for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. And, in the summer of 2017, the two moved to Silt.
From there, Mills worked for FedEx while freelancing under former sports editor and current editor of the Craig Press Josh Carney. Kyle and Angela Mills also began fostering kids and they eventually purchased a house in Rifle.
Eventually, Mills was offered the editor position for the Citizen Telegram, a job that requires long hours and a lot of time spent away from his family, he said.
But last year, things took a dramatic turn for Mills. His father Rodney, a former longtime potato farmer back in Idaho, passed away from cancer in the bladder.
“Last year was a pretty rough year for me,” Mills said. “Losing my dad kind of made me realize what I really wanted to do.”
So, through his various interactions with the Rifle Police Department by way of local journalism, it inspired Mills to take the leap.
Starting police academy in your early 40s does have its challenges.
“That was pretty difficult because I was not in the best shape of my life,” Mills said.
Around August 2020, four months of intense training laid ahead for Mills. Driving classes in Grand Junction, firearms training at a Pitkin County shooting range in Snowmass, arrest control and defensive tactics.
“A week into defensive tactics, I tested positive for (COVID-19),” Mills said. He had to join in on the remainder of the class via online. “It was pretty difficult because my daughter brought it home. It was nothing that I did.”
But one of the most grueling examinations of all, Mills had to familiarize himself with about 2,000-page textbook highlighting Colorado statutes and laws.
Still, Mills persevered. Now, finished with the academy portion of training, Mills is undergoing another three months of on-the-job training, where he’ll ride with a fellow officer before he finally takes the helm.
With that, Mills was asked what his father would think right now.
“My dad was a really strong man and it was kind of hard to watch him go through (cancer). He was a leader of his community,” he said. … “My father protected me and my brothers all my life. I’m just trying to kind of return the favor. I’m trying to protect my community.”
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