Monday Profile: Answering the call to serve
Officers Hampton and Wagstrom are the youngest officers at GSPD who have sworn to serve the people of Glenwood.
In situations of chaos and in moments of fear; who do we often call?
911— a lifeline to the first responders and police in our communities who have made it their duty to answer these calls for help.
The current national mentality and feeling of distrust between the public and the law enforcement officers who have sworn to serve and protect has left many wondering why anyone would choose this profession.
But that hasn’t stopped Glenwood Springs’ two youngest officers from answering the call to serve.
Alicia Hampton was born and raised in the Roaring Fork Valley and graduated from Coal Ridge High School in 2014. After a short stint in Minnesota she returned to the valley and went to Colorado Mountain College for Elementary Education before working at Valley View Hospital.
“I loved the kids but my heart just wasn’t in it so much,” she said.
While working security at Valley View, she got to know the Glenwood Springs officers and get a glimpse into police work.
Hampton didn’t grow up thinking she wanted to go into law enforcement., But seeing the work the Glenwood officers did inspired her to seek out this new opportunity.
“It wasn’t until I started seeing who the (Glenwood) cops would bring in while working security and how they handled it that got me interested and thinking ‘what happens before they bring them here,’” Hampton said.
“I started doing some ride-alongs… and I just loved it,” Hampton said. “It was always something different. There were never ride-alongs that were exactly the same. It was always something new; every traffic stop was different, every call was different. It just excited me.”
She applied and was interviewed at the Glenwood Springs Police Department and though she wasn’t selected the first go- around, the department suggested she attend CLETA (Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy) at CMC and reapply after.
“So that’s what I did, as soon as they told me no I signed up and paid to go to the academy myself,” she said. “Glenwood held their word and offered me the position.”
Hampton graduated from CLETA when outrage toward law enforcement was beginning to grow and become more widespread. Regardless, Hampton knew why she chose that path.
Serving the community
“During my oral board interviews, I told them that ‘this is the time to be a cop’. It really kind of pushed me forward. If I wanted the job to be reflected well, why shouldn’t I do that? I know my values and my beliefs,” she said.
Some of those values include having a great sense of caring and love for the people and the community she has sworn to serve and protect. Hampton strives to do that everyday while on the job.
“That’s who we do this for, is our community. We don’t get a lot of personal gain out of anything that we do,” she said.
“I love people. I’m lucky to work in a place with a very supportive community. I have had several people go out of their way to tell me thanks, especially during recent events,” Hampton said. “That’s what helps on hard days.”
In recent weeks, there have been numerous police officers nationwide leaving the field due to what they see as a lack of support from the communities they are risking their lives for. Hampton appreciates being surrounded by a community that supports local law enforcement and the sacrifices they make every day when holding that thin blue line.
“I don’t blame those that are walking out because their community isn’t supporting them. It’s hard to make change in a community that doesn’t support you,” she said. “Things are hard right now for cops and there are people walking (off the job) all over, and it’s honestly easy to understand. I’m just lucky to work in a community that supports us.”
Hampton mentions that no amount of training will fully prepare you for real- life situations. Every interaction with an individual is different and decisions are made instantaneously.
“You can train all day, every day on scenarios but until you are in real life, handling those in person situations it’s never going to be the same,” she said. “It’s a person who is doing these things and you can’t predict the way they are going to react or how they will respond. It’s a fluid situation.”
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras mirrors this thought on training and the harsh realities and numerous responsibilities that 21st century police officers are facing.
“Officers are being asked to be subject matter experts in fields where they have little training, experience or formal education; mental illness crisis is an example. They are expected to address societal and economic conditions with very limited resources,” he said.
Deras goes on to mention that every workforce has a limited number of bad employees and law enforcement is no different, except that the implications of their behavior have devastating consequences on people’s lives, freedoms and confidence in the system.
“This is an extremely low number compared to the number of officers and contacts in the United States,” Deras said. “The impacts are so great that the overwhelming numbers of good and positive acts by our law enforcement professionals are overshadowed by the few mentioned above.”
Regardless of the current mentality towards law enforcement Hampton sees herself working with GSPD and serving the city of Glenwood for the long-term.
“I absolutely love my job and don’t see myself leaving anytime soon,” she said. “I sometimes wish that people realized that we are human, we have feelings and we have people we love.”
Evan Wagstrom has had a window into the police world for most of his life. His father retired as a lieutenant after being with GSPD for nearly 20 years, as well as working for Rifle and other police departments.
“I kind of had an idea of what the job entailed,” Wagstrom said.
Wagstrom’s father Neil mentions that while Evan was growing up he made it a point to not go into great detail of his daily life as a police officer.
“It wasn’t something that we discussed while he was growing up; he knew I was a cop but I didn’t come home with stories and stuff,” elder Wagstrom said. “I didn’t talk about being a police officer. The reason I did that was because I wanted him to make up his own mind.”
Similar to Hampton police work wasn’t a lifelong goal that started at a young age.
“While I was working at the sheriff’s office, I got a glimpse into law enforcement from the jail aspect. I knew I didn’t want to continue in the jail but the patrol aspect and the schedule and pace was what appealed to me,” he said.
Wagstrom worked in the Garfield County Jail as a deputy before attending CLETA at CMC and being hired at GSPD in 2016.
Outrage in the wrong direction
When asked his thoughts on the current state of distrust and calls from society to defund the police he feels the anger is being directed in the wrong direction.
“It’s difficult to give a brief answer —, I realize there are reasons why people feel the way they do. I think it is unfortunate that sentiment is culminated in something where people are calling for the defunding of police departments or police across the nation,” Wagstrom said. “I think a majority of it would just be classified as a misguided anger that gets directed at law enforcement overall.”
Wagstrom’s father said that although his son’s career choice comes with inevitable worry, he feels more comfortable with the fact that Evan is working in a rural community as opposed to a larger metropolitan area.
“I know that there are some good things that he can do, I trust that he is going to be good for the citizens of Glenwood Springs,” he said.
Wagstrom mentions that the long hours and hard work he has experienced in his nearly five years in law enforcement are motivated by an exceptional level of caring. He notes that the profession of law enforcement puts them at odds at certain times with the public because they are the enforcers; it is their job to enforce laws at its very core.
“I wish I could convey to people that all of that enforcement and all of those hours behind a desk, or in a car, or wherever that may be comes from a profound amount of caring for society; for individuals that most of us don’t even know,” he said.
“As far as why I continue in police work, I think at its core it’s one of the few professions that give you a chance to actually really impact somebody’s life and actually impact a community; I don’t think there are a lot of positions that give you that sense of fulfillment,” he said. “I think generally that’s why most officers become police officers; the sense of fulfillment and the sense of self worth because at its essence it is about helping people.”
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