Trinidad State News

Trinidad State Law Enforcement Training Academy graduates serve the San Luis Valley well

Valley Campus / November 7, 2014

Where do law enforcement officers come from? In the San Luis Valley the answer is usually right here in Alamosa. About 90 percent of the students who graduate from the Trinidad State Law Enforcement Academy in Alamosa (known as LETA) pass their state certification exams on their first attempt and are hired to work locally in the San Luis Valley - usually at police and sheriff’s offices.

The home grown approach has worked well since 2008 when Trinidad State hired Karl Kramer to coordinate the two-semester program. In 2009 when Kramer left the valley, Duane Oakes, who is now Chief of Police in Alamosa, assumed Directorship of the program and continues in that role.

Oakes attributes the program’s high success rate to students who are serious about this career move. “We don’t make a lot of money, “said Oakes of peace officers. “You have to want this. We have had people leave good paying jobs to train in law enforcement.”

Aside from the driving portion of the class, which is taught in one 44-hour week, the academy meets Monday through Thursday evenings from 6-10 and on some weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

POST (Police Officers Standards and Training), which operates out of the Attorney General’s office, is the state agency that governs and approves academies in Colorado. POST approved this academy which is housed at Cole Park in Alamosa.

After graduation from the academy in 2011, Kristi Duarte, another Alamosa Police Department (APD) employee and the only female in her class, was promoted to Civilian Police Manager. She continued working with the department for another three years after completing the training. “Before the academy, Duarte was our property and evidence technician,” said Oakes. “After the academy, she became our crime scene technician expert and went to crime scenes to identify, collect and catalog evidence. With the chain of custody staying with one person, the integrity of the evidence was much stronger. If we have a big crime scene, I would probably call her even now, though she is the Alamosa City Clerk and no longer works for the police department,” said Oakes. In addition to her full time job, Duarte is now a volunteer Reserve Officer.

Duarte took the class, not because she wanted to become a police officer, but because she had worked for the department for nearly 20 years and wanted to gain a greater understanding of what the officers regrets, though it was challenging to balance family, work and studies,” said Duarte. Each year at graduation, special recognition is awarded to the top students in arrest control, academics, firearms and driving. In her class Duarte received the top academic award. After completing the academy, Duarte trained as a crisis negotiator and is certified by the FBI along with three APD employees.

“Every student is unique,” said Oakes. “Every student has a story.”

It’s usually several years before an officer is ready to take on the challenges and responsibilities of being a detective, but Dana Nauer, a female graduate, was promoted to that position after only two years with the police department. “I would love to bring on more female officers,” said Oakes. “They are a huge resource especially in major crimes like sexual assault. Females will open up better to a female officer.”

Holman now understands “the finer (law enforcement) details that I didn’t know about.” Six other females graduated with Holman. Holman, now a certified police officer, is also the Project Director for the San Luis Valley Victim Response Unit. Her specialty is forensic interviewing for crimes against children. She interviews children who may have been victims, to gather information for law enforcement and the Department of Human Services in a child friendly way.

“We use everybody within law enforcement across the valley as instructors,” said Oakes. “Where they have a specialty, that’s what they’re teaching. That’s what I love about my job with the academy. I have direct input on the type of officers that we’re putting on the streets – safe, knowledgeable and professional.”

“Having local instructors, along with offering the course locally gives the graduates a good resource base to draw from and enhances the collaboration efforts of all concerned with law enforcement in the San Luis Valley,” said Holman.

To learn more about the program call 719-589-7025.