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Church & State



At roughly 24,500 people, Lafayette is (surprisingly) one of the smaller cities in Boulder County. Demographically, it’s as diverse a city as somewhere like Denver, but unlike the isolation that often comes with a bigger metropolis, Lafayette is a tight-knit
community. Sergeant Stoneking of the Lafayette Police Department would agree. The city he dedicates his life to serving is what he describes as “a tiny community within a community,” just like the police force here.

Lafayette is divided into two districts—north and south—with one officer assigned to each. As sergeant, however, Stoneking patrols all over, which allows him to know the diverse city well. He’s seen it grow considerably in the 15-plus years he’s been here, sprawling out and filling up with an assortment of people, including a large Hispanic population. The road we’re driving on—Public Road—was only in the early stages of being built when he first joined the force. Now, it’s a main thoroughfare linking neighboring towns and those commuting south to Denver. In recent years, the Old Town District has been revitalized with community art projects and shops unique to the town. Companies have found homes in what were previously empty big-box stores. Not even the police department has been immune to growth—now housed in a newer, more spacious building than previous.

As we drive around, Stoneking lets me in on the “life lessons” Lafayette has taught him from years on the job, and reflects on how what he does and where he chooses to do it shapes his views of society. He doesn’t watch the news anymore—“everything is doom and gloom and I see enough of that,”—and he doesn’t much like Hawaii Five-O-type cop shows. But despite all that he’s seen, he concludes that the majority of people, especially Lafayette-ers, are truly good. It’s a faith in humanity that he insists is shared by all people who, like himself, are in the business of serving the community. And it can be seen by the way that they all, including the officers, paramedics, and firemen treat each other as an extension of each other’s family. Which, I realize, they are.

“We’re a small enough town that we [the police] have to deal with everything,” he says, “you get to know people well.”

A camaraderie exists in Lafayette. A shared empathy and concern for one another that resembles a (very functional) family—which is a big incentive for officers like Stoneking to work there. “In a larger city I’d be considered just a number in an agency. I don’t want that. I like knowing the people I work with and for.”

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