A Changing Tune At This Year's Denver Police Academy Graduation

Pomp and circumstance remained, but mood was noticeably different. "These are unprecedented times with these types of challenges," said Police Chief Paul Pazen in his address to the graduates.

Video Transcript

- And 21 new police officers joined the Denver Department today. They graduated from the Academy as America takes a close look at how police departments can better serve their communities. Well, this Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning will take a look at the changes happening pretty quickly now in policing.

CBS 4's Michael Abeyta talked with one of those Denver graduates. Michael, she wants to change the way her community looks at police officers and thinks she has a way to do it.

MICHAEL ABEYTA: Yeah, Jim. She says just by being a part of the community, you know, these recruits went through the toughest time of their professional lives during a pandemic and a social justice unrest. But they say that didn't change their mind and make them not want to become police officers.

A changing tune at this year's Denver Police Academy graduation. Pomp and circumstance remained, but the mood was noticeably different.

- These are unprecedented times with these types of challenges.

MICHAEL ABEYTA: Cadets of class 20-2 learned how to be an officer while calls for changes in policing echoed throughout the nation and in the halls of the Academy.

- 2020 pushed many officers to retire early, for applicants to withdraw from hiring processes across the country, and for many to question if this is the career for them. If not me, who?

MICHAEL ABEYTA: These cadets stuck it out. One of them is now officer Marissa Henry, who says, like her peers, she never second guessed her decision.

- No, not at all.

MICHAEL ABEYTA: But that doesn't mean the national conversation didn't change the way she looked at her new career.

- It's on my mind. You know, I'm trying to figure out a way that I can actually just go into the community and be of some change.

MICHAEL ABEYTA: She says it's a challenge she and her classmates are ready to accept.

- Well, I'm looking forward to that change. I'm looking forward to that slope up and actually being a part of that.

MICHAEL ABEYTA: Because she says police aren't good or bad. They're just people, and she trusts herself and her fellow officers to bring DPD into a new era of community trust.

- You know, just kind of explain it to people. Myself and the rest of my classmates are the ones who are going to go out there and say, hey, this is how it is.

MICHAEL ABEYTA: Now because of the COVID pandemic, these new officers didn't even know if an Academy would take place. And then when it did happen, it was half the size it usually was. But they still endured, and now they're the newest members of the police force. In Denver, Michael Abeyta, covering Colorado first.