Rifle’s newest officer values community
Over the past nine years, Stephanie Straw has fostered 36 children with her husband, Paul, at the Don Kriz Youth Farm just outside of Rifle. That number does not include the couple’s eight children.
The desire to help those in need by playing an active role in the community led Straw to enroll in the police academy with the Rifle Police Department last fall. She officially completed her training May 20.
“It falls right along with my beliefs and values,” Straw said of her new career. New may not be entirely accurate — Straw has been going on patrols since January. However, that was always with another officer. Now, it is just her.
Her time with Rifle Police Department has been an eye-opening experience, she said.
“You think you know what policing is all about until you’re actually doing it,” Straw said. “There’s a lot more to it than I realized.”
Such as paperwork, said Sgt. Mike Kuper, Straw’s supervisor. They joke about it in the movies, but the actual amount of paper work police are required to do on a daily basis is shocking, he added.
Outside of the regular police duties, Straw said she has learned some equally shocking things about the community she has called home for the past 19 years. The prevalence of methamphetamine in the area is something Straw said she did not fully understand until she started going out on patrol.
“I never locked my doors or anything before becoming a police officer,” she said. That is no longer the case.
In her role as an officer, Straw said she is eager to further the department’s mission to be a strong member of the community.
Her background as a foster parent will serve her well, particularly with young adults, Police Chief John Dyer said.
“She’s a great addition to the police department,” Dyer said. “Officers are a mix of people, and they all have strengths.” For Straw, that strength is her compassion and desire to make Rifle a better place to live, he added.
Unlike in other areas, the relationship between residents and the Rifle Police Department is a very healthy one, Kuper said, attributing that fact to the support from the community. That’s not to say that Rifle does not have its problems, and so far Straw has not hesitated jumping into her new role.
“Her demeanor lends itself well with getting information,” Kuper said of Straw, who is currently the only female officer out on patrol. Some people are simply more comfortable talking with a female officer, Kuper noted. “That opens so many doors for us.”
Straw credited the support from her family, as well as support from her colleagues and leadership within the Rifle Police Department with allowing her to transition into her new career. The job has its tough days. Straw recalled the fatal car crash on Interstate 70 that killed 15-year-old Ricardo Gomez in April. Straw said she held the boy’s hand in an effort to comfort him as he passed.
“I now that’s why I’m here,” she said.
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Students from Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools were asked Friday to transition to online learning and quarantine for 10 days, Garfield County District Re-2 announced.