Week 11—Recruit Bellio

I am happy to write that we have made it through the busiest week of the academy yet! Between a snow storm, night shoot, ground fighting, and two full days of scenarios, I think it is fair to say that we were exhausted by the time Friday evening arrived. Even though this week was tough to get through, each experience was unique and every mistake made is now committed to memory to avoid in the future.

Monday morning after our exam, we completed our first physical fitness session at Red Rocks. It was absolutely perfect weather for a workout! We ran the bleachers, stairs, and climbed the planter boxes in teams. The intense workout and beautiful scenery was a great start to the week.

At this point in the academy all of our skills are beginning to mesh together more cohesively. We had another day filled with in-progress call scenarios. We also had our building search practical, which was really fun to physically execute. 

It was impressive to watch the JeffCo SWAT team demonstrate how to complete a methodical search with effortless precision. We were also able to see the police K9s that work with the SWAT team in action. Recruits got to wear a padded sleeve and take a bite from the dogs, which was literally a unique point of view.

We trained at night during firearms this week, which was incredibly fun! Given my personal lack of shooting experience prior to the academy, I did not realize how bright the muzzle flash is when it is dark. We also completed our first training sessions in the computer-based simulator at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. 

The simulator projects a scenario that allows participants to interact in real time. Many of us realized that our reaction time, while decent, was not nearly as fast as we thought it was. Working with this tool allowed recruits to identify critical areas for improvement.
Additionally this week, we completed our ground fighting portion of arrest control. There are a few recruits who have previous experience wrestling, but overall this was a new skill for us to learn. 

After about seven hours of practicing escape techniques, we spent six minutes grappling with a skilled instructor. This proved to be extremely difficult, but really made everyone aware of how a short amount of time in a stressful situation can feel like forever. Similar to our physical training, I would argue that such training is entirely dependent on mental preparation and stamina.

The completion of Week 11 marks the half-way point for class 2016-1! Eleven more to go!

Week 10—Recruit Steinmetz

Week 10 is done and for me it was the most exhausting week so far. The week started a little different because we did not have an exam. Then, on Tuesday, we were back to normal schedule as we were able to review the arrest control techniques we have been learning. At the gun range we continued practicing our combat and technical reloads. We also got to run through the test we will need to complete for the POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) exam at the end of the academy. While the test has no room for error (all 25 shots must be on target) most of the recruits passed on their first try. 

Wednesday was a great day.  After a morning of classroom lecture we faced our second round of the fit test. This was the first workout we ever did as an academy class and completing it a second time showed us how much we have improved. Congratulations to Recruit Alonso for making the biggest improvement. 

After our workout we were released so we could return later in the evening for Family Night. It was very strange leaving the academy in the middle of the day and getting home five hours sooner than normal.

Amidst the many hours of criminal code, arrest control, gun range, and all of our other lessons, one thing I have definitely learned is that law enforcement, as a whole, is one big family. From starting out as strangers in the beginning of the academy, we have all become brothers and sisters. This is why Family Night was so important to me. It gave us a chance to meet the families that make up the other recruits. I would like to thank Dr. Nicoletti for coming to speak to everyone of what it means to have law enforcement in the family and ways to handle some of the stress that comes with the job. 

On Thursday we were faced with scenarios in which we were tested with everything we have learned up to this point about contacting pedestrians, making arrests, and discussing about what charges to impose.  These days are critical because we need to fail. Saying that may sound weird, but when we fail in a controlled environment we can immediately learn from our mistakes. The biggest thing I took away from the day was that I need to be more decisive and confident in myself and my abilities.

We wrapped up the week with a good ole’ Colorado weather change as the snow storm in the morning caused delays all over the state.  As we all arrived safely and tried to warm up before class we were able to enjoy a breakfast put together by our Class Leader Recruit DeVito.  We finished the day with a lecture on serious crimes that I found incredibly interesting.

While most people will be huddled around their television this weekend watching March Madness, I (along with many other recruits) will be studying for the upcoming exam on Monday, practicing reloads, and shining my boots.  Week 11 marks the halfway point in the academy.  It is amazing how fast everything has gone but I am excited to continue to learn every day and keep grinding it out till the end. 

Week 9—Recruit Bellio

Week nine is in the books. I would describe this week as equal parts challenging, fun, and memorable. Some of the major highlights of the week include one-handed shooting, the beginning of arrest control take-downs, and pedestrian contact scenarios. There is never a dull moment at the academy; this week however, was particularly exciting.

Arrest control is an essential tool to have when a situation requires a hands-on approach.  As mentioned in an earlier blog post, we need to take this training seriously because it will one day save our lives, or the lives of others. Repetition is the best way to ensure we are mastering each skill. I have found that I really need to break some of the more complex movements into smaller steps initially.

Various instructors have explained that when the time comes to use these skills, deputies are able to act immediately without even realizing it because of the countless hours of training. I am excited to become proficient in these skills so that they eventually become subconscious actions.

During firearms, we learned how to shoot one handed, with both our strong hand and support hand. Many of us were nervous to shoot with one hand, especially our non-dominant hand. Luckily, no guns went flying in the air after pulling the trigger. In fact, we found that most of us were more accurate using only our support hand because we had to really focus on all of the fundamentals, resulting in quality shooting.

We also learned how to shoot kneeling, and from behind barricades as concealment. I actually found this practice particularly helpful, as it was not quite as easy as it looked. Sometimes it seems like you might be fully behind concealment when in fact you are not, which is why the form they are teaching us is imperative.

Lastly, we began pedestrian contacts this week, where we were taught through role-playing scenarios how to approach a variety of situations which involve contacting people. The instructors for these classes in particular always challenge us and make us step outside our comfort zone. Many of the challenging moments during scenarios left us literally speechless, trying to quickly find the right words to say. 

We had successes throughout the day as well, and were appreciative of the opportunity to learn from the instructors and more importantly from one another. The really imperative mistakes as well as the major accomplishments in these scenarios will not be forgotten moving forward. It is unforgettable weeks like this one that make me grateful for the opportunity to enter this profession, as well my time here in the academy with my fellow recruits.

Week 8—Recruit Steinmetz

Week 8 started off great. The entire class passed the test on Monday and we went straight into learning about identity theft. Following our normal schedule, we had arrest control and gun range practice on Tuesday and Thursday. 

The thing I like most about these days is not necessarily shooting our duty weapons or rolling around on the wrestling mats (however I must admit both are outrageously fun). I appreciate each of these days as they are opportunities for me to learn key aspects of what it means to be able to do our job safely. 

Each instructor has different methods of teaching arrest techniques and firearm practice, but there is one thing that remains constant.  We are learning from the best officers each participating department has to offer.  When my best friend asked me what I thought of the academy I told him, “We are learning at the Ivy League of academies.” 

Simply put, we are receiving the highest level of education there is. I am incredibly grateful to be learning from such experienced and intuitive instructors.

On Wednesday we had another round of report writing where our scenario was to respond to a situation where a person might need to be brought in on an M-1 hold (mental health hold). These situations involve determining if a subject is a danger to themselves or others or if they can even take care of themselves.  If it is determined the person is in need of assistance, then we follow procedure to get them help. As we continue to see a rise in mental illness in our society I think the lessons we learn in class will most undoubtedly be useful in the future. I related to this class on a much deeper level due to a family member recently being diagnosed with a mental illness. Learning how to cope with people we encounter on the street will also be helpful for me and my family.

Friday I got to do something I have always wanted to do: become CPR certified. The certification process may be something of second nature and monotonous for some people. I, however, found it fascinating. I think it is so useful to be able to know how to perform a procedure that could save someone’s life. I also think it is another powerful tool we can add to our belt as we become well-rounded law enforcement officers.

As we continue to push forward every day, we become more and more confident in what we are doing. It is remarkable to see some of my classmates--who I met just a short two months ago--begin to develop into charismatic leaders. When I think about what our society needs from law enforcement, I see my fellow classmates. These are the people who will make positive impacts on those they have been entrusted to protect and serve.

I look forward to next week when we begin making pedestrian contacts, practice talking to people and develop our ability to interact with civilians.

Week 7—Recruit Bellio

This week recruits began wearing their ballistic vests. Placing my vest on underneath my uniform shirt on Monday morning gave me a much different feeling than I previously had the last six weeks. I thought about this a lot on my drive to the academy. Upon arriving that morning, Sergeant Swavely informed us in roll call that a Denver Police officer was just involved in a shooting. As the week progressed, the news continued to get worse regarding officer involved shootings in Colorado. These tragic occurrences are a continuous reminder of the danger involved in this line of work.

Officer safety was a continued theme during our first full week of arrest control training. Our lead arrest control instructor, Agent Beers, stressed the importance of repetition and precision when practicing search techniques. We need to be accurate and pay attention to detail so that we are prepared when we do find weapons when searching. Going through the motions is not enough.

Speaking of attention to detail, this week was particularly challenging for our class as a whole. We had far too many “motivational moments.” All of the mistakes made this week were small errors, but are absolutely inexcusable. I think the biggest factor contributing to these mistakes is our change in schedule. This week we started our skills portion of the academy which includes firearms and arrest control. 

We all just got our routine down pat, and this week it intensified. Various different things are needed for skills days including different uniforms and equipment. In addition, on skills’ days we have to travel from each location in a timely manner. Our new schedule will become more manageable in the coming weeks as we adjust. In the meantime, we must focus. Focus. Coincidentally our theme of the week.

Officer safety is the most important subject we will learn in the academy. It also intertwines throughout everything else we are learning. We began talking about officer safety four weeks ago. However, last weekend specifically I really noticed these concepts becoming subconscious habits for me personally. One evening as I stood in line to pick up food, someone got in line behind me and kept their hands in their pockets the whole time. Even though standing with your hands in your pockets might be a common posture for most people, I could not help but feel uneasy since this is a huge factor in officer safety. Later on that weekend, I was at a family birthday party when I noticed my sister staring at me. When she noticed my eye contact, she said “Gosh, you even stand like a cop now.” I couldn’t help but laugh a little, but really took a second to appreciate these habits being instilled in all of us.

Our week ended on an interesting note when we learned about narcotics. During this class we were able to see a K-9, named “Boo,” in action. I was really impressed with the dog’s ability to locate hidden drugs so quickly. Many of us were also surprised as to how friendly and energetic Boo was. Later Friday afternoon we had a challenging physical training session to finish off the week. Overall this week was very challenging, but weeks like this build character.