Who gets to wear a badge

Sidebar by Ray James

Law Enforcement – April 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

Cops, lawmen, police, deputies, guards and other terms (but “sir” or “ma’am” work well when addressing said people in person) all equal “peace officers” in Colorado. And, like most everything else these days, “peace officer” is defined by state law.

Since 1968, the state has provided the definitions, standards, and training requirements for law officers under the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board (POST) administered by the Department of Law, according to Chuck Campton, a former Buena Vista Police Chief who is currently an investigator with District Attorney’s office in Fairplay. Campton also teaches in the POST-approved program at Colorado Mountain College.

Until the early 1990s the state provided training for prospective law officers at the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy at Golden. With the abandonment of that program, individuals seeking training must pay for it themselves; find an agency to pay for training; or receive training from one of the state’s larger police forces.

Some other two-year schools offering academic training in law enforcement are Trinidad Junior College and Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs. Larger police departments, such as Denver and Colorado Springs, provide training for prospective officers in their own forces, and under contract with smaller police agencies.

In order to become POST-board certified a candidate must complete at least 409 hours of training, 269 academic hours and 140 hours of skills training. Academic topics include: administration of justice, basic law, human relations, patrol procedures and preliminary investigation techniques. Skills training includes weapons use, defensive pursuit driving, self-defense, and communications skills. Other required skills are first aid and CPR training. At least 40 hours of on-the-job work are always required before officers become “fully commissioned.”

There are two levels (I and II) of basic peace officer in Colorado, however two limited reserve levels also exist. Level I officers are POST-board certified; Level II are other peace officers such as wildlife and correctional officers who enforce certain laws by virtue of their jobs.

Level A limited reserve officer status requires completion of 36 hours of academic training; level B requires completion of Level A then an additional 72 hours of academic work plus skills training as mentioned above.

Level I peace officers can carry weapons on or off duty. Essentially they are always “on-duty” and can effect arrests at any time if they follow proper police procedures. Level II peace officers cannot carry weapons off-duty (except as permitted by other laws), and cannot wear their uniforms except on the way to and from work.

Review of the POST statutes is under way and some revisions of reserve criteria and creation of “posse” status and training standards could come soon.

–Ray James