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Avon policeman to train officers in Iraq

Christine Ina Casillas/Daily Staff Writer
Vail Daily/Coreen SappAvon police officer Steve Ford is leaving for Iraq in less than a week to train Iraqi police officers.
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The Avon Police Department might be short one man for a while, but the opportunity awaiting officer Steve Ford was too good to pass along.

In just a few days, Ford will begin his training so he can train Iraq police officers for the International Policing Program for the U.S. State Department. Ford leaves for Iraq March 3. He will spent two weeks in Virginia first for orientation and conditioning, then venture to Texas for additional training. After Texas, he will travel to Iraq.

He will be one out of 300 law-enforcement officials hired to train police officers in Baghdad. Thousands of police officers applied for the spot for the International policing program. Only the top cops were selected.



“The program is a little hush-hush but I know we’ll be working with the police department and recruiting police officers,” Ford said. “We train other countries in need of expertise with policing experience.”

Ford has never traveled to Iraq. He only knows what he has read in the newspapers or seen on the television. But he’s not worried about it. It’s part of his job. He understands life might not be perfect but he’s determined and dedicated to the program.



“I know it’s not going to be a picnic,” Ford said. “But I have to make sure I keep a good attitude, a wary eye and take care of myself.

“I’m nervous but I’m not fearful of going over there and getting killed,” Ford added. “For some reason, I just don’t have that worry.”

Avon Police Chief Jeff Layman said Ford is a good fit for the job.



“We’ll be down a body,” Layman said. “He leaves a significant void for us, but he has lots of training and he will be a real asset to them.

“It’s a job that has to get done,” Layman added. “I admire his sense of duty and drive to help the Iraqi people.”

“I’m not worried about most things,” Ford said. “I firmly believe the Iraqi people want us their to help them get back on their feet.”

Ford has been in law enforcement for 21 years, working in the Vail Valley for nearly two years.

Ford first came to Colorado in 1978 – on a dare. His brother was living in Pueblo at the time. Ford was only 25 years old, and a firefighter in Indiana.

“My brother said, “Hey, if you don’t have anything to do with yourself, why don’t you come to Colorado,'” Ford said. “I said, “OK.’ And here I am.”

But when he arrived in Colorado, he realized his brother painted quite a different picture. It was nearly impossible for him to work as a firefighter because jobs and positions in Southern Colorado were limited. He eventually accepted a spot as a security guard at the Pueblo Mall just to make enough money to return back home to Indiana.

He said he didn’t mind the work as a security guard but it wasn’t a lifelong goal. One day, he was standing in the middle of the mall – “looking stern” – and a man approached him, told him he looked authoritative in his uniform and asked if he was interested in becoming a police officer. Ford shrugged his shoulders. The man told him to drive to Florence, about 45 minutes west of Pueblo, and attend police academy classes.

“The next day, I drove to Florence by 9 a.m., and I’ve been in law-enforcement ever since,” Ford said. “I guess, you could call it luck.”

Ford floated around the state, working in Summit County for a number of years and found a niche in the ski industry.

“Everyone in law enforcement desires to do something wonderful with their career, something they can look back on and be proud,” Ford said. “This will be the pinnacle of my experience and career.”

It was his experience and career that caught the eyes of the U.S. State Department who hired him. The hiring process for the job, Ford said, was “unbelievable.”

“The application … I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ford said. “The background check alone was rigorous. They called everyone on the resume.”

Ford saw a posting for the job at the police department and sent a resume. Within 24 hours, the state department shipped the application form his way.

He likened the application to a “standard military process,” although he has never been in the military. The next step now for Ford will be whether he can pass the physical exams, he said.

“I was quite honored and surprised when I got the call,” he said. “I have the chance now to teach others what I know today.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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