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Former Olympian wants to be Boulder police officer, but college requirement stands in his way

Lee Troop said he was so affected by the King Soopers shooting, that he applied to be a Boulder police officer at the age of 48.

DENVER — Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley was one of 10 people killed in the King Soopers shooting in March of last year.  An 11-year veteran of the department, Talley was highly praised and widely admired, and his death was a gut punch to the Boulder community. 

But It was also an inspiration for one Boulder resident.

"I think it was a rude awakening to everyone that we're not immune to anything like that," Lee Troop said. "[Officer Talley] put himself on the line to protect people."

Troop was a three-time Olympic marathon runner from Australia, having competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Troop retired from competitive racing in 2014 and now coaches running and organizes races in Boulder, where he lives with his wife and three children.

Troop said he was so deeply affected by the King Soopers shooting, and so moved by Talley's death, that, a few months after the shooting, he applied to be a Boulder police officer, at the age of 48.

Credit: 9NEWS

"I did a lot of research on Officer Talley and realized that he had joined the force at a later age and it gave me hope that at my age there was a possibility that I could become a police officer," Troop said.

Troop's application appeared to be moving along until Boulder Police realized that he didn't have the required 60 hours, or two years, of college credit, or the equivalent in military service.

"I would have thought that being an athlete for 20 years shows the greatest contribution that's required, with dedication, commitment, hard work, trustworthiness," Troop said. "I have every quality that I think a police officer would need." 

Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold did not disagree, saying she believes Troop would be a good police officer.  But Herold said she also believes police officers should have at least two years of college education, and she's not willing to make exceptions, even though her department is 30 officers down from its authorized strength of 190 officers.

"It's very hard for me as a police executive to understand why we wouldn't want policing to have some sort of formal education," Herold said. "I don’t know why we would think police officers shouldn’t be as educated as other professions. The important part to me about college, or the military, is that you are working with people on problems, you are seeing different perspectives and you are trying to work with people."

The Lakewood and Arvada police departments both require four years of college to join, while Denver and Aurora police and the Adams County and Arapahoe County sheriff's offices do not require any college credits. Years ago, Arapahoe did require college credits, but the department said the requirement was dropped because it made recruiting new officers extremely difficult.

Herold said she does not believe the college credit requirement has hurt Boulder's recruiting efforts. In fact, she believes it has helped attract candidates who are looking for a department with high standards.  

"I think for too long, we’ve set the bar too low, and I think our expectations need to be higher in policing," Herold said.

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