Week 15—Recruit Bellio

Week 15: Driving! The week we were all most excited for went by way too fast (no pun intended). Sunday began bright and early with quite a few inches of snow on the ground. Unfortunately we could not get on to the driving track that morning, so we had to wait until Monday to start the week. After getting word that we had the rest of our Sunday off, a brief snowball fight ensued, and then many of us got breakfast together.

On Monday and Tuesday we started by working on fundamentals. We began with simple procedures like forward and reverse serpentines, shuffle steering, parking, and braking. After a few hours of practice, most of us had a good understanding of the size of the car and were able to complete the drills easily.

A valuable lesson we all have learned at some point throughout the academy is that we should give it our all, and learn from our mistakes when they occur. At no other time will we have the opportunity to push our limits and drive the way we have during academy training. 

One recruit in particular experienced his limits firsthand this week, which resulted in the patrol car spinning out of control and going off the track not once, but twice. During the second spin-out, this recruit managed to hit a small white shed placed a little ways off the side of the track. And of course, this shack was literally the only structure in sight. After confirming that the recruit was not injured, we all had a good laugh about it, which will probably last at least until the end of the academy.

Prior to this week, I had never driven a car that went anywhere near as fast as the police interceptors. The interceptors have a lot of power, but have equally reliable braking and solid handling. My favorite exercise from the beginning of the week simulated accident avoidance. We were required to steer abruptly to the left around a hypothetical “object” while lightly braking, then coming to a complete stop all within about 50 feet. It was exciting to complete this exercise at almost 70 miles per hour.

Later in the week we drove at night and did a vehicle pursuit. In two-person teams, we pursued a fleeing suspect vehicle around the track with lights and sirens. The primary vehicle called out the initial stop to Dispatch, then followed the suspect car closely. The secondary vehicle proceeded to cover the primary car while airing the details of the pursuit to Dispatch. Driving with lights and sirens at night while having to talk frequently on the radio definitely challenged our ability to multitask.

On Saturday it was time to put our training to work and test our skills. Instructors had us complete the P.O.S.T. course backwards twice to mess with our orientation of the track. After those two laps, we were given the opportunity to finally complete our final P.O.S.T. driving test. Almost all recruits passed on their first try. It was great to see everyone’s hard work and focus pay off.

Week 14—Recruit Steinmetz

Week 14 was by far one of the most fun weeks I have had through this point in the academy. On Monday we spent the day in the class room as we learned about Rapid and Immediate Deployment (or RAID for short) and High-Risk Traffic Stops. While it is a lot like our lessons on building searches, the strategy behind RAID tactics is simple; swiftly locate and stop a threat to society. 

The development of RAID has been brought on by several heinous acts our state and country have endured. Like many things we learn in the academy, I am grateful to have this knowledge and tool to add to my repertoire, but pray that I never have to call upon it. That being said, I am confident that every single one of my fellow recruits and current officers would not waiver when answering the call.

Tuesday brought a normal work day as we split in our groups and spent half the day either at the gun range with Deputy Hoffman and Sergeant Greer or practicing arrest control with Agent Beers. It is amazing to see the kind of progress we have made as a class in both of these incredibly important aspects of becoming an officer.

On Wednesday, we were able to utilize what we learned on Monday about traffic stops and practice pulling over cars, communicating to dispatch on the radio and contacting drivers. Turning on the lights and sirens of the squad cars was exactly as exciting as I had expected. Even though communicating on the radio at first proved to be awkward, practicing all day helped me to become much more confident in my abilities.

Thursday was new as the whole class gathered on the gun range for a full day of firearm practice and competition. While half of the class spent the morning practicing our normal skills, the other half either competed against each other on the tactical range or learned how to properly exit a vehicle and engage a threat. On the tactical range we were paired against each other to see who could knock down the most steel targets the fastest. 

Up to this point we have primarily worked on accuracy, so it great to see recruits take out targets quickly.  While I personally cannot ever beat Recruit Stiltner head to head, as a team we proved to be unstoppable. A special congratulations to Recruit Lovato who--never touching a gun before the academy--kept practicing and giving all her effort in order to pass the POST required test on her final attempt. It is this kind of diligence and focus that embodies the kind of officer we are all striving to become.

As a side note, I would like to thank Volunteer R. Okada. On our time at the range, we have had many instructors who have helped us develop our skills and confidence but none who have brought the kind of joyfulness he has to what is otherwise a very stressful environment. Thursday marked his last day helping us and I am honored to have spent time with him.

On Friday, we teamed up with Jefferson County SWAT and practiced RAID techniques in an abandoned building in Westminster. The members of SWAT have been incredibly supportive and encouraging during our time together, and this was again apparent as we ran through scenarios during the day.  As I mentioned before, the type of instruction we receive in the Combined Regional Academy is of the highest caliber and JeffCo SWAT certainly exemplifies these qualities.

Next week, we are all excited to spend the entire week learning how to drive in the squad cars!!    

Week 13--Recruit Bellio

Week 13 of the academy offered recruits the opportunity to acquire new skills, as well as test ourselves on more familiar skills we have learned and improved over the past 12 weeks.

On Tuesday during arrest control, we were trained to use our collapsible batons. This training consisted of two different methods of using the collapsible baton, closed-mode and open-mode. When learning these methods we practiced striking the bags that our partners would hold. It is important to see first-hand how much force our batons generate.

Additionally on Tuesday, we had an interesting day at the range given the wind speeds approaching 50 miles per hour. Squad A, who shot earlier in the day, was able to shoot for a little while, in between targets being violently ripped off the frames and traveling miles down the road. Later that evening Squad B attempted to post targets, but after about 30 unsuccessful minutes of chasing paper targets around, our night shoot had to be rescheduled. Our second day of shooting however was incredibly rewarding, as almost all recruits passed the POST qualification course on the first try. I am overly impressed with our progress as a group.

One aspect I like most about the academy is the amount of quality scenarios we have. Sometimes the scenarios are geared towards report writing, while others test our verbal communication skills in addition to other abilities. Thursday’s scenarios, however, tested our arrest control skills. We broke up fights, talked to suicidal parties, arrested combative individuals, and addressed domestic situations involving children. Each of these situations is truly eye-opening to the variety of things we will be dealing with on a daily basis.

Before concluding this post, I want to explain the role of class leadership, which has not been mentioned much yet in our prior blog posts. Every two weeks, five recruits are selected by staff as members of class leadership who function as part of the chain of command. We have four squad leaders who report to the class leader. The role of the class leader is to be responsible for the class, as well as be the central point of communication between staff and recruits. If something goes wrong, it is the class leader’s job to correct it. I was selected as class leader for weeks 11 through 12.

Like all of the former class leaders, I was not incredibly excited to be selected initially. Even though each class leader has made it through their two week duration successfully, being class leader results in added responsibility and pressure. Both staff and fellow recruits have high expectations of each class leader. As I mentioned in Week 11’s post, that was a very busy and unpredictable week, which challenged me. Even though the position is initially dreaded, I think every class leader is as appreciative as I am for the opportunity to lead, learn from mistakes, and celebrate class accomplishments.

Week 12—Recruit Steinmetz

 Week 12 was a great week. We started off with another exam, which went really well. Tuesday and Thursday were our normal days of arrest control and firearms training. Each time we go to the gun range we have the opportunity to run through the POST exam, and I must say, the improvements our entire class is making is easy to see. Everyone has been practicing their combat reloads and misfire manipulations and it shows. Our speed is up and our movements are becoming more and more efficient.

The week’s arrest control training offered our first lessons in fighting. For some of us, it was our first experience sparring with a punching bag. We also focused our attention on the importance of gun retention. We learned ways to keep others from grabbing our guns and how to take guns away from someone else. While I certainly understand the seriousness of what we’re learning, it felt a bit “James Bond-like” practicing these particular skills.

On Wednesday, we all reported in our Class A uniforms for the first time. While each department has different uniforms, and some need to be tailored, we all looked and felt extremely professional. After Director Baca gave us a thorough inspection, we spent the rest of the day busy in the most realistic and beneficial scenario we have had yet to date.

We started by answering an initial call--an armed robbery in progress. Then, as we worked to complete the paperwork involved in this first scenario, we had to respond to various other calls. It was clear that the day’s purpose was to practice what it was like to write an accurate report while continuing to perform our normal duties – one of which required that we drive a marked squad car. Now that was truly awesome. It was a tough exercise, but it was great to way for us to put everything we’ve learned together. It demonstrated how law enforcement definitely involves multitasking! 

We wrapped up the week with classroom lectures on traffic code, computer crimes, and fraud. While these classes are not as exciting as driving a patrol car or practicing specific arrest control techniques, they are still very important. These sessions build our overall knowledge for the law and remind us that our job will be a great deal of routine punctuated by moments of great excitement.