In a first for Avon, police department to swear in four officers of Latino descent
The ceremony will present two new officers and promote two others
At Tuesday’s Avon Town Council meeting, the police department will be hosting a historic swearing in and badge pinning ceremony. Not only will the ceremony take place at the first in-person Town Council meeting in nearly 14 months, but all four of the officers being sworn in are of Latino decent and three are immigrants.
“One of our main missions or objectives in our recruitment over the last 10 years has been to recruit more Latino, Hispanic recruits to better reflect the demographics of Avon,” said Avon Chief of Police Greg Daly. “Our demographics, census-wise, are effectively 50% Hispanic and 50% Caucasian and other races.”
Over his 13 years at the Avon Police Department, Daly said he has seen an immense growth in the number of Latino and Hispanic officers.
“We are at the highest level of Latino officers on the force, as far as I know, in the last 20 years, if not more,” Daly said. “I’m not aware of any one-time swearing in that we’ve had four officers or Latinx background be sworn in at one time. It’s a pretty big deal, and we’re pretty proud of it.”
The ceremony will present new officers Derek Lopez and Stephany Villegas as well as promote Alan Hernandez to detective and Balmore Herrera to sergeant.
Lopez previously served as a community response officer in Harry A. Nottingham Park last summer. Since then, the department sent him to the police academy and will be joining the department as an officer. Lopez’s girlfriend, Vanessa Mosqueda, will pin his badge.
Villegas, originally from Mexico, grew up and attended school in Eagle County. After attending the Avon Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy — a multi-week program that is designed to familiarize citizens with police procedures and interact with law enforcement — Villegas decided she wanted to pursue becoming an officer. Since then, the department sent her to the police academy, and she will be joining as an officer. Villegas’ father, Orlando Villegas, will pin her badge.
Hernandez, originally from Mexico, also grew up and attended school in Eagle County, participating in programs like the Eagle County Explorers program, designed to introduce young adults to law enforcement professions.
Hernandez has his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Colorado Mesa University and has previously worked as a summer code enforcement officer in Nottingham Park and for the Vail Police Department as a code enforcement officer. He has worked in the Avon Police Department for three years and after completing a detective test against other officers, was selected for a promotion to detective. Sergeant Jamison will pin Hernandez’s badge.
Herrera, originally from Honduras, grew up and was educated in Eagle County. He is a United States Marine Corps veteran. He previously served with the Eagle Police Department before coming to the Avon Police Department, where he has worked for the past four years. After completing a sergeant test against other officers, he was selected for a promotion to sergeant. Herrera’s mother Blanca Stibbs will pin his badge.
The ceremony will take place at 5:20 p.m. at the Tuesday Avon Town Council meeting, both online via Zoom and in person at Avon Town Hall.
According to Daly, these hires and appointments represent not only the department’s push for diversity, but one of the department’s core tenants: community policing.
“Community policing happens on every single contact we make,” he said. “Whether it’s a casual contact where we’re walking around one of the supermarkets and just talking to people and saying hello or even on a traffic stop, that is a community policing opportunity to engage our community. We look for every opportunity we can.”
Outside of interactions, the department also hosts a number of events and programs to engage with all members of the community. This includes programs like the Citizen’s Academy as well as a Latino Academy for residents that speak Spanish; the department’s National Night Out event, which it hosts in Wildridge as well as a Hispanic neighborhood; Kids, Hoops and Cops, where it brings together kids from across the community to play basketball at Avon Elementary School; and more.
With these new appointments, and its deliberate push to hire more Latino and Hispanic officers, the department is pushing toward having a department that reflects the community.
“I think that it’s very important in a smaller town to have that relationship with the people we serve,” Daly said. “We are people from the community, that live in the community, that have kids in schools here.”
Following the swearing in ceremony, the police department will also be hosting its 2020 awards, which honors staff members who have “made exceptional and valiant individual contributions above and beyond their normal duties with the Avon Police Department,” according to Daly’s report to the Town Council.
Master Police Officer Mike Lundblade and Officer Al Zepeda will be honored for actions resulting in the saving of a life.
Deputy Chief of Police Coby Cosper will be honored for his leadership in the pandemic.
Sergeant Matt Jamison, Detective Sergeant Jon Lovins, Sergeant Herrera, Officer Zepeda, Officer Corey Baldwin, Deputy Chief Coby Cosper and Chief Daly will be honored for their teamwork and collaboration in searching for a missing 3-year-old special needs child along the Eagle River.
The department is also issuing a certificate of appreciation to a number of town staff for their work as front-line employees and leaders while navigating the pandemic.
The awards presentation will directly follow the swearing in and badge ceremony at Tuesday’s meeting, both online via Zoom and in person at Avon Town Hall.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at email@example.com.