Hickenlooper salutes ‘unsung heroes’ at CMC law enforcement graduation
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Outstanding Student: Gregory W. Griffin
RIFLE — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday welcomed 19 new officers into law enforcement careers as they graduated from Colorado Mountain College’s Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy.
The CLETA program is based at the Spring Valley campus outside of Glenwood Springs, but with the governor set to speak, the ceremony moved to CMC Rifle’s campus because of the large number of alumni and current and past faculty attending.
“I’ve had the great pleasure of working with so many law enforcement officials over the years,” Hickenlooper told the crowd filled with officers from across western Colorado.
“Everybody talks about the front lines as if in some distant country, but you guys really are the soldiers on these front lines,” he said. “The unsung heroes who are protecting Colorado communities and making them whole.”
The college’s CLETA program began in the mid-1970s in the Eagle and Vail area and moved to Spring Valley in the late 1980s, according to CMC, which is celebrating its 50th year throughout 2017. The academy has graduated more than 1,400 officers and placed graduates in more than 100 Colorado law enforcement agencies.
“The strength of the program has always been the partnerships with nearly all the agencies in the region,” Assistant Director Stewart Curry said in a college press release. “We have about 25 to 30 adjunct instructors, and they are all active officers that represent the entire geographic area.”
Law enforcement officers from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, New Castle, Vail, Snowmass Village, Aspen, Pitkin County, the Garfield County and Eagle County sheriff offices, and a retired Colorado State Patrol trooper were among those who taught classes this year, according to Curry.
At the ceremony, Hickenlooper received an honorary CMC diploma in recognition of his leadership in public safety within the state.
“From this day until you retire, your decisions will be in the public eye,” he said. “Actions that you take or don’t take will be subject to scrutiny. Monday morning quarterbacking, it’s a fact of life. For someone with a few years in the public eye, who has made far more mistakes then could be imagined … you will save lives, but you will also make mistakes. Don’t let your failures beat you down.”
Among the 19 graduates was Quinton Wheatley, who will be following in his parents’ footsteps.
“Most of the other kids knew what my parents did,” he said. “Especially my mom, because she was a school resource officer. I just told the other kids that their parents all had jobs, too; mine were just a little more public.”
His mother, Penny Paxton, and father, Kirk Wheatley, were in the same class in the fall of 2001. Paxton was the first female police officer and sergeant with the Basalt Police Department and now works for Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. His father was an Eagle County Sheriff’s deputy and is now an Aspen police officer.
Wheatley has accepted a position as deputy with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
The celebration included a standing ovation for program director Kevin Brun, who will retire at the end of the year after helping 45 classes of officers begin their careers.
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