WASHINGTON – The Colorado Department of Public Safety has earned the Homeland Security award given by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The award was given Sunday for a program that trains civilians to recognize threats of terrorism.
The Colorado State Patrol along with the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab, or CELL, developed a program to train volunteers at the annual USA Pro Challenge bicycle race to be on the watch for possible terrorism threats at the beginning and end points of the race.
The race, which takes place in the third week of August and draws international bikers to Colorado, shifts locations every year.
In 2012, the race began in Durango.
The program, now called the Community Awareness Program, takes volunteers through a training process that teaches them to be aware and vigilant, said CSP Capt. Jeff Goodwin.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have officially vetted the Community Awareness Program.
Since its implementation with the USA Pro Challenge, the program has trained more than 6,000 Colorado residents, according to a CELL news release.
“We teach them to not be afraid to report something suspicious,” Goodwin said. “Each volunteer is given a lanyard at the end of their training that has a number they can call if they see anything.”
The Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and sent at least 144 others to the hospital last year, served as the motivation for the new program, Goodwin said.
“The events of last year are, of course, going to influence us,” he said.
The program is intended to continue annually with the race, as well as expand to other events, Goodwin said.
“We want to improve the system and make it more comprehensive as we go along,” he said.
Suzanne Gaber is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. She can be reached at email@example.com.