By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4) — A changing tune at this year’s Denver Police Academy graduation. Pomp and circumstance remained, but mood was noticeably different.

(credit: CBS)

“These are unprecedented times with these types of challenges,” said Police Chief Paul Pazen in his address to the graduates.

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Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen (credit: CBS)

Class 20-2 learned how to be an officer while calls for changes in policing echoed throughout the nation and its effects rang 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,” class representative Recruit Officer Barrett Packard said in his address.

He says, for himself, when it came to deciding if he wanted to be an officer, one question filled his thoughts: “If not me, who?”

He and his fellow recruits stuck it out. One of them is Officer Marissa Henry, who says, like her peers, she never second-guessed her decision. But that doesn’t mean the national conversation didn’t change the way she looked at her new career.

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“It’s on my mind you know. I’m trying to figure out a way that I can just go into the community and be of some change,” she said.

She says it’s a challenge that she and her classmates are ready to accept.

“I’m looking forward to that change. I’m looking forward to that slope up and actually being a part of that,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

She says police aren’t good or bad in the way people are led to believe by the media. She says they are just people, and she trusts herself, and her fellow officers, to bring DPD into a new era of community trust.

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“You know you just need to explain to people,” she said. “Myself and my classmates are going to be the ones that go out there and say this is how it is.”

Michael Abeyta