Week 6—Recruit Steinmetz

This week was a breath of fresh air. After an amazing performance by the class on our 5th test, we learned about liquor code on Monday. Even though this information might, on the surface, seem less important than other aspects of what we need to learn, it goes to helping us become well-rounded, intellectual law enforcement officers.

Tuesday brought our first real interactive work with our handguns. We spent the whole day learning nomenclature, safety rules, and other important gun features.  I take this learning very seriously because I know how important it is we respect and understand the tools we carry. 

Our lecture on gun safety was paired with a full day of learning on Thursday which focused on firearm safety, specifically on appropriate ways to check if a weapon is loaded.  All of the recruits have different backgrounds when it comes to gun knowledge, and this means our instructors have decided to teach as if we all come to these lessons with no firearm experience.  

I appreciate this teaching stance and way of learning for two reasons. First, it allows everyone in the class to become equally familiar with handguns regardless of earlier experience. Second, I have the opportunity to add something new, even something that is truly a nuanced take on what I think I already understand, to my own background knowledge.  There should always be an opportunity to learn more, and this especially true in law enforcement.

This week also offered us our first experience in arrest control which, simply put, is learning the ways to make encounters with the public safe for everyone concerned – law enforcement personnel and the public at large.  Some students have self-defense experience but I do not. Because of this, the lessons we learn during these portions of the academy are incredibly important for me.  

I, along with all of the other recruits, want to make sure that every situation during which I have to use force I do properly, never at the expense of my or anyone else’s safety.

While this week was filled with many introductory lessons, the importance of them was definitely not lost on me.  These beginnings are the foundation upon which we will build our careers.  

Week 5—Recruit Bellio

Week Five was the most eventful of the academy thus far. Our week consisted of officer survival, search and seizure, report writing, criminal code, TASER and OC (pepper) spray.

Yes, you read that right- TASER and OC spray in the same week! Given all of the hands-on scenarios this week, we all learned a great deal about our reactions to intense pain and our ability to think on our feet.

We also were entertained by the first frozen recruit uniform shirt of the academy. (If you are reading this recruits- lock your lockers!)

During our second officer survival course on Monday, we continued to review specifics regarding officer safety. While this is a serious subject, our instructors provide plenty of room for humor. For example, we were all treated with an incredible dance (krump) performance by Recruit Schneebeck who thoroughly impressed us all. 

Later during our afternoon scenarios, we had the opportunity to watch each other react to simulated threats. The most memorable reaction goes to Recruit Saunders, who we all thought deserved an award for his dramatic performance shouting “GUN! GUN! GUN! BANG! BANG! BANG!”

Next, on Tuesday we were given cases in which we prepared arguments for either the defense or prosecution in a fictitious court room setting. We all were caught off guard with Recruit Thorsen’s enthusiastic impression of Director Baca, which left the room laughing hysterically. Recruits’ Devito and Monell also gave stellar lawyer-like performances in defense of their cases. As mentioned, each week we learn more about one another, including each other’s unexpected talents.

The week (literally) ended painfully with our TASER and OC spray training. During TASER exposures, we were all able to see the different responses depending on the individual and placement of the probes. A few recruits had entertaining verbal comments, while others reacted with less apparent pain than others. Honorable mentions to Recruits Medina, Sykes, and A. Smith (among others) who took it like a champ!

Like TASER, many recruits also did very well during the OC exposure. Personally, I can admit that being sprayed with OC was the absolute worst pain I have ever experienced. The ability to gain composure and fight through it was a struggle. However, I was overwhelmingly impressed with my fellow recruits’ focused composure and camaraderie during this difficult process.

Saturday evening my fellow recruits and I received an incredibly inspiring email from Recruit Marshall (Arvada PD). I would like to conclude this post with some of his thoughts.

“2016-1, Like some of you, I've sacrificed a lot…to get here…Never before have I had to dig so deep to accomplish a goal. I came into the Academy with clenched fists - braced for a struggle the whole way. I anticipated a bunch of egos with everyone stepping on one another just to get ahead…Then I met you band of misfits…I discovered a ton of support and encouragement in the midst of a group of people just as determined as I was…This past week really brought clarity to the seriousness of what we do. There's something about suffering together that creates a union. We have a common enemy, a common battle, a common cause.
“Getting TASED and pepper sprayed alongside one another develops a peculiar bond between people. In those horrifying helpless moments, priorities get cleared up real quick…Call it after effects of the pepper spray...I just had a few thoughts I wanted to share with my brothers and sisters. So, study hard. Put in the work. Learn to be slow in a hurry. Be sharp. Plan ahead. Chop your own wood. Grind out this process inch by inch. Embrace the suck. Here we are at the beginning of week 6...almost a quarter of the way through. We still have a long haul ahead of us...and I'm honored to walk the path with you.”

Week 4—Recruit Steinmetz

Week 4 ended as quickly as it arrived. The start to this week was great with our first complete pass of the Monday exam – all of the recruits had proficient scores, including a number of recruits who passed with a 100%. 

It’s a great sense of accomplishment to be able to pass a test, but it’s even better when we can accomplish it as a class, leaving no recruit behind. We’ve not only committed to our respective departments to becoming POST-Certified and succeeding in the Academy, but also to each other. Our goal is to finish as strong; 50 in, 50 out.

This week also brought us a number of unique experiences: we learned about ways to successfully interact with special populations (such as people with mental health disorders who are a risk to themselves or others ), how to write a report, the essentials of criminal code (specifically Articles 6 and 7), specifics about search and seizure, verbal communication, and interrogation techniques. Learning about crimes against children in Article 6 is incredibly hard to handle, but absolutely necessary if we want to be able to do our job.

For me, the most important lessons came from two different lectures. On Wednesday we were afforded the opportunity to hear from both a representative from Special Olympics Colorado and a Special Olympics athlete. As law enforcement, we help contribute to a majority of fundraising for the Special Olympics through the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR). Just last year the Colorado Law Enforcement Torch Run raised over $800,000. It is incredible to see how much of an impact we have on organizations like this. I am honored to know that I can be a part of something so positive.
Another important day of lecture came from the first block of officer safety. This is arguably one of the most critical sets of lessons we’ll learn in the Academy. Since we began, we’ve heard over and over again about officer safety. After the first five minutes of this lecture we all understood exactly why it is so important.

The bottom line is if we don’t protect ourselves, we’ll be unable to protect others. We learned how important it is to be alert and aware of our surroundings, and how if we fail to do so, it can lead to disastrous consequences.

We ended the week on an extremely high note enjoying a potluck put together by our Class Leader, Recruit Nguyen. Sharing lunch as a class helps create lasting bonds and comradery, something for which I’m incredibly grateful. After lunch we had verbal communication practice during which recruits were chosen at random and given three minutes to tell three stories from their lives: two truthful and one fictional. 

The goal was to examine the body language and mannerisms of the presenting recruit and decipher which story was untrue. This practice was designed to help us determine truth but it also had a rather amusing effect as most of the stories had our stomachs sore with laughter. One thing is for sure: this class of recruits seems incredibly comfortable speaking in front of people, which is something we will use throughout our careers.

As mentioned before in an earlier blog, many of the recruits have families. This week Recruit Castillo and his wife welcomed into the world a baby boy! Celebrating special joys like this is another way we cement our commitment to each other as future law enforcement officers.    

Week 3—Recruit Bellio

Monday morning began bright and early, with test anxiety for most. We were ready to get the second exam out of the way for the week. Many recruits improved significantly from the previous week, while some still struggled. We all provided support for one another, regardless of each individual recruit’s outcome.

Even some of the recruits who passed the test were still dissatisfied, simply because we are all striving for perfection. Even though we arrive each day as 50 individuals, we succeed and fail as one coherent team. At the end of the day we all have to keep in mind that struggle is the evidence of progress.

Immediately following our exam Monday, we were relieved to find out that our OC spray training and practical had to be rescheduled. Although many of us were prepared to get it over with, disappointment was not overwhelmingly apparent. Our week was filled with more frequent “motivational moments” due to errors on our behalf. Luckily I think we are all aware that it is best to work through mistakes now during training, rather than later. The more we can refine our day-to-day performance, the better peace officers we will be as a result.
An instructor this week also emphasized the point that life is not fair, and it is best to remove that particular word from our vocabulary altogether. Fairness applies to many things in life, but quite honestly does not apply among us or within law enforcement as a whole. Beginning on January 11th 2016, our individual standards and expectations were raised by joining this profession.

This week we discussed crisis negotiation, criminal code, preliminary investigations, victim rights, search and seizure, use of force, and the judicial process. My personal favorite was our class on preliminary investigations. The instructors went into extensive detail on securing crime scenes, priorities for first responders, as well as different types of evidence.

Another interesting and immensely important class from this week was the use of force. Included in our use of force class was an incredible personal story from a Lakewood detective. The narrative began with the detective’s experience as a new officer, including his initial feelings and adrenaline dumps when responding to calls. He continued by explaining the complexity of situations, and how it only takes a split second for something to happen. For example, this detective had the unfortunate experience of being shot on duty. He took us through the play-by-play, including the dispatch tape. It was amazing how stressful just listening to that tape was.

While waiting for help to arrive, and on the way to the hospital, the detective never lost hope or gave up. It takes a high degree of mental strength to remain composed in a life-threatening situation like his. In the years following the shooting, this detective dealt with unimaginable challenges including the loss of an immediate family member, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, not to mention numerous surgeries and continuous pain in his leg. We were grateful to have the privilege to hear this experience first-hand from the detective.

A tremendous dose of reality was served that afternoon; a split second can change someone’s life completely.