Denver police officer builds ties with community

Teresa Gillian said becoming a police officer was her calling

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Five weeks before the 300-mile Tour de Force 9/11 Memorial Bike Ride in Washington, D.C. in 2017, Teresa Gillian had never ridden a bike more than 10 miles. The race benefits the families of police officers who lost their lives in the attacks on Sept. 11. Although she had never done the race before, she helped friends raise money for the event before becoming a cop herself.

The deadline to register for the race had long passed, so when a friend asked if Gillian would join, she joked and said she would - if they could get her in.

They did.

Five weeks later Gillian completed the 300-mile trip from Washington, D.C. to New York City on a borrowed bike.

“My legs were just feeling like they were shutting down. It was such a deep ache, and I can’t explain it any other way,” she said. “But after the first day, the second day was easier, the third day was easier and the fourth day you’re almost done.”

Now, Gillian said she has been converted into a bike rider. She did the race again this year and is on the waiting list to race in 2019.

Growing up near Durango, Gillian had always been athletic. She joked that at one point she wanted to be a jockey - before she grew past 5-feet tall that is. After that, she thought she might want to be a coach or a teacher, adding that she was always drawn to jobs where she could help people.

Gillian eventually went into personal training and wellness. She first moved to Denver 17 years ago to attend school for massage therapy. She worked with athletes, and said she loved to work with people to better their lives.

Her father had been a fireman and police officer in her hometown. Around six years ago she decided it was time to follow in his footsteps.

“I always had a deep appreciation for that role. There weren’t a lot of women in either job at all back home,” she said. “One day I just realized that was what I wanted to do and truly what I felt called to do.”

After working as a patrol officer in District 6, Gillian has come to know north Denver pretty well. District 6 currently covers East Sixth Avenue over to East 25th Avenue. On the east and west side is goes from York Street over to the South Platte River in some areas. While District 6 is one of the smaller areas geographically, it has one of the largest populations in the city, Gillian said.

Her love for helping people has transferred into her new role as a police officer. A month ago, Gillian became the community resource officer for District 6. She works with members of the community to help address complaints. Resource officers can also act as liaisons between the residents and business owners of the community and the police officers working in that district.

“Any issues they have, if it’s important to them, it’s important to us,” she said. “It’s a lot more of building those relationships.”

Gillian has also worked with homeless youth to help mentor them and give them an opportunity to do fun, and sometimes silly activities like dancing. Participating in programs like that helps to “humanize the badge,” she said.

“You can be the voice for somebody who can’t speak up for themselves.”

Gillian said she enjoys getting out into the community and getting to know the people of Denver. She has learned a lot from long-term residents and business owners about how the city has grown and changed over the years, she added. While her new role as a community resource officer has meant spending more time connecting with people and addressing issues online, Gillian said it’s still important to her to get out and meet people.

“Sometimes just physically being there, you can come up with other ideas to help protect them and their environment,” she said. “You want to be responsive and you want to be on top of things.”

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