Week 19—Recruit Bellio

Almost daily Director Baca emails recruits a quote of the day. In the morning during formation we are asked to explain what the quote means to us. Wednesday’s quote was “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character” by Albert Einstein. This quote really speaks to the previous 19 weeks of the academy. All of us have had times when we had to work through challenges and put our mind over matter. Various obstacles challenged us both physically and mentally, but keeping a strong positive attitude has allowed character to build character that we will take with us throughout our career.

Speaking of physical obstacles, this week we completed the infamous Red Rocks Challenge, a milestone in our physical training program. Monday it was cold, foggy, and lightly raining during our early morning workout. We completed the challenge in a series of exercises to include box jumping the seats, running side to side down the rows, and climbing the planter boxes, just to name a few.

However, I think most of us found the bear crawl down the rows (yes, all of them) to be the most challenging part of the workout. I was impressed with our teamwork and encouragement for one another. Congrats to Recruit Derek Thorson (Arvada PD) who won the challenge, finishing in 45 minutes and 5 seconds. He absolutely earned it.

This week also included one of our more memorable topics: standard field sobriety testing (SFST). The training for SFST was one of the most intensive learning blocks we have had thus far. The information we learned on Wednesday was put to the test Friday evening when we administered sobriety tests on intoxicated individuals (who volunteered to help us learn).

There are three roadside tests that we learned to administer including horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and one leg stand. It was really interesting to see how some individuals could drink quite a bit and still successfully complete the walk and turn and one leg stand. The commonality in all instances was the horizontal gaze nystagmus, which showed an involuntary jerking of the eye after intoxication. As they say, “the eyes don’t lie!”

We had an amazing guest speaker from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). She truly put all of this in perspective by sharing the story of the night her daughter was killed by a drunk driver. No one should ever have to experience the pain that she felt when her daughter was killed. A rewarding aspect of this job is keeping the community safe, and our SFST training is just another way we can accomplish that.

Week 18—Recruit Steinmetz

This week was an entire week filled with a topic that most people recognize from television: Crime Scene Investigation. While many people believe that popular TV shows depict practical applications of Crime Scene Investigations, in real life, it is much different. Some of the more interesting lectures we had this week included blood-spatter analysis, developing fingerprints, and testing for different types of drugs.

Participating in a practical after every lecture, we were able to practice what we had learned about and refine our own skills. My favorite class included learning how to dust for fingerprints and then transfer the fingerprints I found to a paper to be submitted for possible identification. While we learned how to dust for fingerprints, we also learned how to properly record someone’s print by using ink and each other’s hands. 

Part of the reason why this lecture was so interesting to me is the fact that no two fingerprints are alike.  Each person is, in a way, coded, with their own identification and this code will follow us for our entire lives. 

After learning about crime scenes, how to develop them, protect them and interpret them, we had criminal code review with Director Baca on Friday. As we get closer to the end of the Academy, we each anticipate taking the state exam. I appreciate any extra time I get to review with the class and study for the exam.

After studying with Director Baca, we had a very important workout with our PT instructors. The workout, which is called “Murph”, is done in honor of Michael P. Murphy, a former US Navy Seal and recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in the War in Afghanistan. While the workout is physically demanding, the message behind it is to never give up and always fight on. 

We completed the workout as a class, supporting each other every step of the way, never giving up and fighting till the end. As I was trying to catch my breath, I looked around and was incredibly proud of my fellow recruits. We have all come a long way and to be able to finish this workout as one is a true testament to how hard everyone wants to achieve the goal of becoming POST-certified.

Week 17—Recruit Bellio

For the second time during the academy, we began our week up at Red Rocks Amphitheater. After all the snow over the weekend, we were happy to see clear skies and warmer weather Monday morning. Also for the second time in the academy, we were dressed in our Class A uniforms to take our academy group photo. Red Rocks made for a beautiful backdrop for our photos. With only five weeks left, having our uniforms on this week really made the light at the end of the tunnel apparent.

To receive our P.O.S.T. certification, we must pass a written exam, as well as three training programs for driving, arrest control, and firearms. This week we completed our written and physical testing for arrest control tactics (ACT). For most of us, this was the most anticipated of the skills tests in the academy. The ACT program ran for 11 weeks, which meant we had quite a bit of information to study. Everyone passed both the written and physical tests after plenty of studying and practice leading up to test day. Confidence is imperative to being successful in everything that we do. All of the hard work we put into our ACT training showed this week on test day.
Friday we attended the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony. During this ceremony, four fallen officers from the past year were honored, including Jefferson County Sergeant Sean Renfro. 

This was the first time we were able to attend a ceremony like this as a member of the law enforcement community. Even though we will all go to our separate agencies upon graduation, we attended as one unified family. This unity was also apparent among the other sworn personnel from across the state, standing side-by-side as a cohesive group.

Mr. Stan Hilkey, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety spoke about the fallen officers and shared some of his experiences from the past year. When Cadet Trooper Taylor Thyfault was killed last year, Hilkey explained how impressed he was with the responding officers’ demeanor, sincerity and care for Trooper Thyfault and his family. These words really hit home for me. The bonds we create in this profession start in the academy, and continue to develop from there on out. Knowing that the brothers and sisters we work with are not simply coworkers, but family, makes me even more proud to be joining the law enforcement community.

Week 16—Recruit Steinmetz

Week 16 was a very entertaining week as we wrapped up our time at the gun range and went through our most intense scenarios. On Tuesday morning, we gathered at the range for a full day of work with different types of guns other than our duty weapons and to take our written test on gun safety and nomenclature required by POST. 

While it was very fun to shoot different types of guns that we would not normally have access to, it is more important that we learned how to safely handle them. On patrol, we will come across a variety of different weapons for a variety of different reasons. The best tool we can utilize in those situations is our knowledge on how to make those weapons safe. It was incredibly useful to learn how to unload and disable each gun we handled.

After everyone passed the written portion of the POST test, we spent the second half of the day in an exciting competition to determine which recruit was the best shot. The test was simple; knock down all of the steel targets while completing different reloading skills before the person next to you did. The competition was set up much like a tournament, allowing each of us two losses before we were knocked out. 

While the best shooters moved on, the rest of us stood around cheering on our classmates.  After a couple hours of intense matches, the finals consisted of Recruit DeVito (from Lakewood Police) and Recruit Saari (from JeffCo). While they both have proven to be incredibly strong shooters, Recruit Saari just edged out Recruit DeVito for the win and title of Top Shot. 

As we walked to our cars and tried to warm up, we all had smiles on our faces. The day not only proved how far we have come since beginning at the range, but also showed just how strong our comradery has grown. On a side note, Agent Marshall showed us all that when we struggle shooting the steel targets, sometimes you can be just as successful by throwing a rock.

On Wednesday, we mixed up our usual schedule by taking one of our academy tests. After learning that everyone passed, we began class lecture on vehicle searches. Lessons on searches and seizures are some of the most important we can have. Incorrectly searching can lead to violation of 4th Amendment rights resulting in loss of evidence and possibly loss of a case. I am once again thankful to be receiving the high level of instruction that is consistent throughout the academy.

Thursday brought us a tough day as half the day was spent in high-risk scenarios. In these scenarios, we faced the possibility of weapons, hostile suspects, and dangerous situations. We were challenged physically as well as mentally to utilize everything we have learned in arrest control to safely and effectively solve each problem. 

It is easy to see that everyone has progressed and become much more confident in dealing with these types of problems. The second half of the day was spent either practicing searches on cars or using paintball rounds to compete against each other at the gun range. While shooting the fake rounds at one another created a rush of adrenaline, it was awesome to see everyone maintain their resolve and stick to the tactics and fundamentals we have learned.

For the end of the week we practiced high-risk traffic stops. First moving at a slow crawl, by the end of the lecture we were all confident in the different positions and commands needed to successfully complete a high-risk stop. As a treat, the class was able to watch as the K-9 unit showed how extraction from a car is made by using one of the dogs. The one thing I am sure about after watching the dog remove a volunteer (in a safety suit of course) from a car is that I am glad the dog is on my team. The four-legged fearless animal is a well-trained tool that makes our job safer and easier.

Sixteen weeks down, only six left!!!