NMLEA enrolls largest cadet class in recent history

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SANTA FE, N.M. – Dozens of new cadets began training Sunday in Santa Fe with the hopes of becoming police officers. This class at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy is set to help some short-staffed departments.

64 cadets reported Sunday afternoon to the law enforcement academy in Santa Fe – Estrella Brown from Alamogordo is one of those 64. 

“So my aunt was a police officer in Chihuahua, Mexico. Sadly, she was killed on duty, and I just want to pass that baton on to myself,” said Brown. 

Benjamin Baker is the interim director of the academy, and he says this is one of the largest classes in recent history.

“We are we’re pleased and very proud of the number of cadets that have negotiated the entry process and have been accepted to training, and are checking in for their first day,” said Baker.

Cadets came from 24 agencies all over New Mexico to start training, and for some, it’s a familiar feeling. 

“I was in the military in the Army. I served in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that’s pretty good. So just kind of following that same kind of chain of command and like structure, and wearing a uniform, and serving, and things like that,” said Nicholas Varela, a cadet from Pecos. 

And training started right away. They had 20 minutes to find their dorm, change and report back. Cadets were running through the halls of their new home for the next 17 weeks, then it was time to start learning.

Cadets will learn every aspect of law enforcement, including paperwork.

Law enforcement’s use of force has been under scrutiny for years in the state. As the leaders of many departments say reform is a top priority, Baker says there’s an emphasis on use of force policies in their training. 

“We brought a nationally recognized expert right here to this academy, just inside those doors, to teach 80 students from all over the state to come in, and learn how to instruct on how to better use de-escalation techniques, to reduce the necessity of using force against the population we serve,” said Baker. 

Many around the country are still reacting to video of the death of Tyre Nichols, who was beaten to death by Memphis police. That includes groups in Albuquerque who gathered this weekend.

Baker says the training also focuses on preventing that type of escalation that has led to tragic incidents like that one.

“It is professionally insulting to me when one of those members of the profession that I hold very dear and very sacred here, abuses that authority in a way that is criminal,” Baker said. 

Some of those cadets have already been working at law enforcement agencies, they can do that for one year in New Mexico before they have to report to the academy.