Retired Weld law enforcement officers become extended family for one another | MyWindsorNow.com
Tommy Simmons
tsimmons@greeleytribune.com

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Retired Weld law enforcement officers become extended family for one another

Colorado Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, center, holds a banner with Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner, left, and Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, right, Friday morning at a gathering of retired law enforcement officers at the Greeley-Weld County Airport, 600 Airport Road. The group of retired officers has been meeting together at the airport since 2011.

Pat Carey knows a good community makes a good police department.

It's a truth he learned during the 23 years he spent as a police officer in Kersey, and it's one he stands by today. He weathered a few changes at the Kersey Police Department during his tenure. When he started, the department had two officers; now it has four times as many, with part-time employees included. The town itself grew from just less than 900 people to more than 1,400 by the time he left the department. He'd leave work at 4 a.m. some shifts and get back in the station two hours later. It was hard, but his belief in the community remained strong.

That sense of community was apparent Friday morning at the Greeley-Weld County Airport, 600 Airport Road, when about 40 retired local law enforcement officers gathered for coffee and to catch up with each other.

"We probably have well over 1,000 years of law enforcement experience here, all together," said Bill Spalding, a retired Weld County Sheriff's deputy who helped organize the event.

The informal Friday morning coffee group is nothing new — Spalding started it with a friend when he left the sheriff's office in 2011 — but Friday's meeting saw the group pose for its first annual portrait, just outside the airport.

That photograph included former Weld County Sheriff's deputies, Greeley police officers, Colorado State Patrol officers and others, like Carey, from some of Weld's smaller departments. Anyone involved in law enforcement is welcome to join, Spalding said, and the group also has welcomed firefighters and paramedics.

"There are no rules," he said. "We know each other's families. We bring our wives. We have fun."

Spalding said the group initially called itself FOGG — or Fantastic Old Guys and Gals. He joked in recent years that acronym changed to signify Forgotten Old Guys and Gals, but that moniker seems inaccurate, given the high attendance at Friday's meeting and appearances from dignitaries such as Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams and Colorado state Sen John Cooke, R-Greeley, himself a former Weld County sheriff.

"I haven't seen some of these guys in probably eight, nine, 10 years," Cooke said. "It's a great time to get caught up."

The mood Friday morning was boisterous and friendly, full of handshakes, old jokes among friends and good-natured ribbing. Beneath the easy mood, though, there was a quieter, more somber tone of respect for the work the members of the group spent their careers doing.

"Many of these people pioneered good law enforcement in Weld County," Garner said. "It's important to acknowledge that. It remains a dangerous job today, and they did it when it was even more dangerous."

It's that danger, as well as bonding during difficult times, that makes the group so close, they said. Spalding said the group has given blood to help fellow members and they've attended funerals together.

"We're a family," he said.

A moment of silence

The group of retired Weld law enforcement officers who meet every Friday morning has its genesis in 2011, when Bill Spalding retired from his position as a Weld County Sheriff’s deputy. In the time the group has been meeting, though, he said some of its members have died. Before the group photo, the retired officers bowed their heads in a moment of silence to commemorate law enforcement officers from across the nation who have passed away.