Self-care mental health care for officers who are stressed on academy graduation – The Durango Herald

Thirteen cadets graduated from Southwest Regional Law Enforcement Academy on Saturday

Pueblo Community College’s 2022 Southwest Regional Law Enforcement Academy cadets will graduate Saturday and are ready to join area law enforcement agencies. Graduates are, from left to right: Jacob Hampton, Skylar Nash, Maurice Cheeks, Misael Garcia, Lucas Roderick, London Bartholomew, Brandon Holgate, Melony Hemphill, Sean Burkey, Jacob Rudolph, Brett Revoir, Michael Rivas and Jermal Ball. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Captain Ed Aber of the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday gave advice to the 13 cadets graduating from Pueblo Community College’s Southwest Regional Law Enforcement Academy: Adapt and embrace change.

Aber said there will be more cops killed by suicide by 2022 than cops killed on the job, and he said that’s a shame. He told the emerging officers that the fate is preventable and urged them to talk to relatives and loved ones about the traumas he is sure they will encounter.

“The things we need to see are not meant for human eyes,” he said. “…Don’t let PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or cumulative PTSD be the end of your career.”

Aber said there are two things police officers hate the most: “The way things are and are changing.”

He said an officer’s career is full of change, whether it be changes in leadership or changes in the administration of justice that are enacted weekly. He said law enforcement is a profession that requires adaptability and can embrace change.

Captain Ed Aber of the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday warned graduate cadets of the Southwest Law Enforcement Academy to embrace change during their careers and take care of their mental health in what can be a traumatic profession. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

“You can fight it, but it’s a fight that will take place for the rest of your career,” he said. “Or you can accept it and embrace it. And trust me, that’s a much healthier option.”

Aber had a sombre message to graduates on Saturday. But the ceremony was also a celebration.

Friends and family attended the graduation ceremony, which was held at Durango High School. Graduating cadets Melony Hemphill and Brandon Holgate handed their classmates custom T-shirts, mugs and personal tokens of camaraderie based on their experiences over 18 weeks of study and training.

Academy Director Douglas Parker said the course is “highly a collaboration and team effort” and many lessons can be learned from it. He said the academy graduates started out as strangers to each other with the common goal of becoming police officers, and that they left the academy as comrades.

Sean Burkey, a graduate of Pueblo Community College’s Southwest Law Enforcement Academy, addresses the audience at the academy’s graduation ceremony on Saturday. Burkey joins the South Fork Police Department. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

“One of the lessons we try to teach during the academy is leadership,” he said. “Not only formally, but also informally. All of you in the business and those of you who support the craft know that without leadership and without teamwork we cannot do our job.”

Class Sergeant Michael Rivas addressed his fellow graduates in a short speech celebrating their achievements. He said it is a difficult time working in the police force right now and praised his classmates for “wanting to do the job that no one else would.”

He said that when he entered the class he was told that students don’t always get along. But this class made sure that the divisions did not get the upper hand.

“With the ups and downs we’ve had, we’ve made sure to stick together as a team and not as individuals,” he said.

He challenged his fellow graduates to always remember why they signed up for police work.

The graduates are:

Jacob Hampton, Skylar Nash, Maurice Cheeks, Misael Garcia, Lucas Roderick, London Bartholomew, Brandon Holgate, Melony Hemphill, Sean Burkey, Jacob Rudolph, Brett Revoir, Michael Rivas and Jermal Ball.

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