Why we wrote about cadets hoping to become police officers in 2021

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Aurora Police Academy cadet Maiwand Ahmadzai takes a break during a driving class. July 31, 2021.

Hi, I’m Allison Sherry, CPR’s Justice Reporter.

I’ve covered crime, policing and justice in Colorado for years now, but in the last year and a half, since George Floyd’s murder sparked a national grappling with police violence, that coverage has felt more crucial than ever before.

On a beat this broad, we have to make pressing coverage decisions nearly every day. But since last summer, I’ve narrowed my focus to primarily look at the practice of policing: how it’s been and how it’s being forced to change in this new climate, with new demands and new laws.

I’ve sat in patrol cars with commanders and heard what they think about when they pull people over. I’ve talked to more than a dozen people in a single neighborhood about what they want from the cops who serve them. I spent two months talking to police officers of color about what it’s like to have a foot in both camps of this reform moment. I’ve been at the state capitol while victims of police violence tearfully testified in favor of sweeping reform laws.

And, this last summer, I decided to get to know a class of cadets who, in light of all the tumult and calls for change, opted to become law enforcement officers at this moment in history. I sat in a number of their classes. I hung out with them at the driving range and recorded them in boot camp working out. (Some gave me crap for not banging out some burpees alongside them and they had a fair point there.)

I found 13 extremely diverse young people. Some knew they wanted to be in law enforcement for a long time. Some were spurred to apply after watching the protests last year. Others fell into it, following a strong calling towards helping people.

None of them seemed particularly fearful about the current environment, which is riskier for them right now on a lot of levels. All of them said they were doing this because they wanted to serve the community and help people every day.

Here is my two-part series. I hope you listen as well as read, to hear the voices of the four cadets I spent the most time with, Jay, Kristen, Victor and Maiwand. 

They graduate from the academy later today.

Thanks for listening and reading,