Brighton police commander remembered for love of life, sense of humor

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Brighton Deputy Police Chief Matt Dominico took a minute to recall something his daughter said shortly after the death of Cmdr. Frank Acosta.

Acosta died suddenly Sept. 23. He was 56.

“I was talking with my wife, and I told my daughter that one of daddy’s friends at work had died,” he told the audience at Acosta’s Sept. 29 funeral services at Orchard Church. “She had this sad look on her face, and she said, ‘Oh. He was that big guy who welcomed me with open arms.’”

Acosta grew up in Leadville and graduated from high school in 1984. He joined the U.S. Army and was a member of the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He spent eight  years as a trooper with the Colorado State Patrol. When he died, Acosta was a commander with the Brighton Police Department.

“Everyone here know what Frank was all about,” said outgoing Brighton Police Chief Paul Southard. “Everyone knows he could be the crazy little brother in the room. I appreciated the man he was.”

That included a stint as acting police chief when Southard battled through COVID-19.

“That was a serious deal, and I had to decide who was going to be in charge,” Southard said. “I tabbed Frank, and he managed to steer the department through a difficult time. That’s the kind of man he was.”

The other theme of the service was Acosta’s sense of humor, sometimes at inappropriate times. Dominico said Acosta had a “larger-than-life” personality and a “knack for lighting the mood.” That was true during a recent command staff meeting at the police department.

“We were out of hand, led mostly by Frank,” Dominco said. “Several members of the DA’s office were there too and laughing hard as well. Once our guests left, I stood up and said that we needed to be more professional, especially when we have visitors.

“Frank was the large part of this discussion,” Dominico continued. “After I finished, Frank stood up and said, ‘Yeah, you guys.’ That was my last effort at making those meetings more strict.”

The department changed its annual awards program so that family and children could attend the picnic-style event. Each member of the command staff presented awards after reading prewritten nomination forms, including Acosta.

“He read a graphic nomination from a particularly heinous sex crime,” Dominico said. “I’m sure the parents answered a lot of sensitive questions from their kids about what they heard. When Frank realized what he’d read and his audience, he said – without missing a beat – ‘I’m not the one who wrote it. I’m just reading it.’

“It got to a point where we had to issue a warning when he was speaking at a public event,” Dominico added.

Southard and Acosta worked security during the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

“We’d been on this for six days. We were a little punchy,” Southard said. “Frank drove us home. We took some side streets, and he wound up driving the wrong way down Eighth Avenue. We laughed about it the entire time. We laughed about it afterward. This is what he brought to the table.”

Acosta earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Regis University and a bachelor’s degree in management from National American University.

“He was able to create a special relationship with everyone he knew,” Dominico said. “I’ve had a chance to reflect about Frank and what he meant. He was sure to make your day better. When people from other city departments came by, one of their first stops was Frank’s office.”

“He’d want us to learn from his mistakes,” said the Rev. T.J. Roberts. “He’d want us to be OK after his passing. He is sending us love from the other side.”

At the conclusion of the hour-long service, the Brighton Police Department honor guard removed the flag from Acosta’s casket and presented it to his family. Survivors include his parents, Toney and Cleo; his wife, Kandy; a sister, Laura; children, Timothy and Michelle; grandchildren, Isaih, Jeremiah, Grace and Caleb; and nephew and niece, Tyler and Katelyn.

In reading from a family eulogy, Roberts said Acosta was with the angels “and I’m sure, you’re a boss of the angels.”

“We were so incredibly lucky for your love, your kindness, for making the most out of life,” Roberts read from the eulogy. “You will be missed dearly every day.”

“We shared laughs. We shared much heartache. But he always remained grounded,” Southard said. “This was a man who gave his all. He was definitely a person who could light up a room.”

“Frank’s importance to the city is clear,” Dominico said. “Frank loved his family fiercely. Each one of us is better for having known him.”

Brighton Police Department, city of Brighton, Paul Southard, Matt Dominico, Cmdr. Frank Acosta

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