Navajo County welcomes new peace officers

Sgt. Jay Valenzuela, left, Deputy Vince Palazzolo, Round Valley Police Department’s recruit Thomas Scruggs, Navajo County Sheriff’s Office recruits Ashley Watson, Desiree Rodriguez, Justin Hart, and Officer Les Shumway were sworn in Dec. 15. (Photo/Navajo County)

Sgt. Jay Valenzuela, left, Deputy Vince Palazzolo, Round Valley Police Department’s recruit Thomas Scruggs, Navajo County Sheriff’s Office recruits Ashley Watson, Desiree Rodriguez, Justin Hart, and Officer Les Shumway were sworn in Dec. 15. (Photo/Navajo County)

SNOWFLAKE — The “Thin Blue Line” in Northeastern Arizona is a little stronger with the Dec. 15 swearing-in of four new peace officers. The cadets recently completed the intensive 21-week Arizona Peace Officer Standards for Training (AzPOST) at Northland Pioneer College’s (NPC), Northeastern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy (NALETA).

Navajo County Superior Court Presiding Judge Michala M. Ruechel administered the oath of office to the recruits. Sworn in were new Navajo County deputies Justin Hart, Desiree Rodriguez, and Ashley Watson, who was also designated as the class’s speaker, along with Thomas Scruggs who is Round Valley Police Department’s newest deputy.

Sergeant Jay Valenzuela of the Globe Police Department served as the class’s supervisor. Deputy Vince Palazzolo of the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, and Officer Les Shumway, who recently retired from the Snowflake Police Department, guided the recruits through the academy.

Palazzolo and Shumway presented the Top Firearms Award to Justin Hart, the Physical Fitness Award to Thomas Scruggs, and the class’s Academic Award to Desiree Rodriguez. Ashley Watson took home both the Defensive Driving Award and the David Kellywood Top Recruit Award.

“NALETA is a true partnership with regional law enforcement agencies who assign sworn officers as instructors at no charge to the college,” NPC’s Director of Public Safety Education Chad Kreuger said. Centrally located at the Northeast Arizona Training Center (Jake Flake Emergency Services Institute), in Taylor, NALETA is a fully accredited AzPOST “closed” academy. This means students can only enroll under the sponsorship of a law enforcement agency.

The spring NALETA Class 2024-1 is scheduled to begin on Jan. 29, 2024. If you are interested in becoming a certified Arizona peace officer, contact the agency you would like to work with to begin the process as soon as possible, as it can take four to eight weeks to complete.

At a minimum, a prospective recruit must be at least 21 years of age by the end of the academy; and be able to pass a variety of tests, which include physical agility, firearms, written tests, a background investigation, and a polygraph.

More information concerning AzPOST eligibility requirements can be found online at post.az.gov.

Information provided by Navajo County.

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