Aspen’s newest cops hit the streets
Sharp-eyed followers of the Aspen Police Department might have noticed a few new faces patrolling the streets of our fair burg in recent weeks.
That’s because the short-staffed department has hired four new officers who have begun training with experienced officers and will shortly be heading out on their own to help keep the peace in town, said Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra.
“(Four) is a lot for our department,” she said. “We’ll see if they make it.”
Kristine Accordino, 35, is the oldest and most experienced of the bunch.
The Long Island, New York, native first moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2006 to ski.
“I was raised to ski,” she said. “My intention was to be here one year.”
But like many before her, Accordino remained in the valley after that ski season and continued waiting tables at Ajax Tavern, she said. Eventually, she began pursuing a physical education teaching career and coaching soccer.
However, on a trip back to New York in 2012, Accordino decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and took a test to become a New York police officer, she said. She was hired in July 2014 and was posted in midtown Manhattan.
“I really liked it,” Accordino said. “But I had embraced the mountain lifestyle (by that point) and city life didn’t cut it (anymore).”
So she applied for a job with the Aspen Police Department, which her dad initially didn’t appreciate.
“The NYPD is in his blood,” Accordino said. “At first he didn’t handle it well. But he eventually understood.”
She said she’s happy to work in a community without big-city problems.
“I like it here that the community respects officers,” Accordino said.
Jeremy Johnson, 34, is a former Audi mechanic from Worcester, Massachusetts, who moved to Boulder in 2008. But after a few more years of working as a mechanic, he said he needed a change.
“I didn’t want to work on cars anymore,” he said. “It wasn’t fun to go to work anymore.”
So he quit, sold all his belongings and went to Europe for three months, Johnson said. When he returned, his girlfriend at the time wanted to move to Aspen and, with nothing better to do, Johnson agreed to come, too.
He worked at Whole Foods in Basalt and volunteered with the Basalt Fire Department, which provoked dreams of becoming a wildland firefighter, Johnson said. But he soon realized that wildland firefighting was brutally hard work and required being away from home for lengthy periods of time, he said.
That’s when he first got the notion to become a police officer, he said. As a volunteer firefighter in Basalt, Johnson said he began to realize how much police officers are able to help out in different situations.
“The opportunity to help people really interested me,” he said. “People are really willing to chat us up about anything. I really like that.”
Mark Anderson, 26, grew up outside Rockford, Illinois, and previously worked in a manufacturing plant in Iowa for a year.
“We made the egg products for all McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches,” he said.
The job did not dissuade him from eating at the fast-food joint, he said, but it wasn’t for him. Instead, Anderson moved to Aspen in 2014 and worked in the city of Aspen’s capital asset department until May.
Being a police officer was appealing to him because he it makes him feel good to do the right thing, Anderson said.
“You wake up, come to work and you’re glad you’re there,” he said. “It makes you feel good to be out there making a difference helping people.”
John Woltjer, 23, said he feels the same way.
“I’ve wanted to be a police officer since I was a little kid,” he said.
Woltjer majored in sociology with an emphasis on criminal justice at Colorado State University in Pueblo. While in school, the Pueblo native worked in the school’s admissions office, which was a good job because it showed him what he didn’t want to do, he said.
“I couldn’t stand that,” Woltjer said.
So far, the job is everything he’d hoped it would be.
“I love it so far,” he said. “It’s a good change.”
Woltjer also said he’s enjoying living in the mountains as opposed to Pueblo.
“In Pueblo, it’s just desert,” he said.
The new officers will spend the next 18 weeks or so patrolling with a training officer before they are allowed to go out on their own, Consuegra said.
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