Thursday, July 9, 2009

Coming soon!

Coming soon: new blogs from the next class of academy recruits -- beginning in late July!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Eve of Graduation

Week 20, Day 4

Well…here it is…the evening before graduation. I am still in shock and yet I am so excited. I can’t believe that I did it and that the entire class (all 41) made it. It is a moment we have all waited for and now it is less then 24 hours away.

First, I would like to say to my classmates…congratulations. It has not been easy. We have overcome some really tough days and A LOT of training. I can still remember the first couple of weeks…sitting through all the law classes and figuring out how to read the “Blue Book”. Those were some daunting days and I didn’t think they would ever end. Now you can ask anyone of us about…let’s say…the difference between 1st and 2nd degree assault…and we can give you the elements of the crime and how to fill out the forms. (Especially 1st and 2nd degree burns…that’s a little inside joke)

You could take anyone of us to the firing range, give us a gun and we will confidently hit the targets. We can all defend ourselves in a fight. We can fight through O.C. spray. We can safely drive a patrol car and feel confident and comfortable with ourselves and the car’s abilities. We can direct traffic, conduct a vehicle search, a building search and even secure a crime scene. How about some PT? Because we can do that too. We have done it all and we have done it together.

Class 2009-1, has a lot of different personalities and a lot of diversity. Each and every one of us had some experience and knowledge to bring to the table. I have learned at least one thing from every single person in this class. It is a great feeling to have come so far and to graduate with every person we started with. It is unusual with such a large group, that we didn’t lose a single person.

I want to talk about an exercise we did today, that was interesting and it had people come out of their comfort zones. It was a team building exercise that forced us to dig deep into our emotions (not easy for most people to do, especially this group). We had to reveal how we felt about the police organizations we work for and about a topic we are really passionate about. The best part…we were on our feet, clapping and yelling encouragements to each other. It was cool to see what each person felt and what drives them to put the uniform on every day. I am just sad that it took until today (Week 20, day 4) to hear that about each other.

Graduation day for me will be a beautiful ending to 5 ½ months of sacrifice and hard work. But it’s also the beginning of a new way of life. A new profession that I am proud to be a part of and I look forward to working with my fellow classmates (my new family). I have asked my sister to pin my badge on my uniform during the ceremony tomorrow. My family has been a there for me and has supported me through this adventure. I am looking forward to my family getting to meet my new family…the Deputies of Jefferson County Sheriff Department.

CLASS 2009-1…Congratulations…WE DID IT!!!

The "Right of Passage" run up Lookout Mountain

Up the hill, with Golden in the background

Here we come with a Police escort

Here we are at the top

Deputy Johnson and Deputy Hoffman pushed out 41 push-ups (1 for each of us that passed the POST exam)

This is a "Perfect" place for Deputy Johnson (just kidding, he knows we appreciate all he has done for us)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Can it be true??

Week 19, Day 4

Well, this is one of my last blogs. Can you believe it? I can’t. I never imagined that I would be writing in week 19…and actually live to tell about it. It is all coming to an end and I still feel like it all started last week. One of the things about this academy is…they really packed in a lot of stuff in 20 weeks. I can remember going through the hiring process and getting all my paperwork together…then waiting to hear something. The hiring process in itself seemed to take an eternity. But now that it is all said and done…it was so worth the wait. So if you are thinking of applying for a deputy sheriff position, just be patient it will all happen in due time.

The great thing about Jefferson County Sheriff Department, they are professional, thorough and they will get you through the process. I was looking at our county website today and looked at the application process. I actually had a huge smile on my face…because I did it. I stuck it out and I (with the grace of God) graduate with my classmates next Friday. Right now, it just seems unimaginable. Now that I am done reminiscing…I will move onto what we accomplished since my last blog.

We finished out week 18 with driver’s training and the Colorado POST driving course. I think this was the most fun I have ever had in a car. I wasn’t even stressed or worried about passing the practical driving test because…the instructors worked so hard to make sure we understood everything. Sergeant Baughman worked really hard to make sure we all did well. So thank you Sergeant, I really feel comfortable in a patrol car. And everyone passed the written and practical tests.

Part of the POST course was driving at night and doing a pursuit. This exercise was really fun. We got to work in teams and basically chase down a “bad guy”. It was cool because it was in a controlled environment and I never felt concerned about safety. What most people don’t know is…when a pursuit is going on…there is a lot going on in our patrol cars. We are not only watching the suspect, we are watching the citizens around us, we are watching road conditions, the flow of traffic, the amount of other cars on the road and we are calling out all this information over our radios. So it’s not just a pursuit…there are a lot factors to consider and worry about.

So I guess we have to take the good with the bad. Driving was good…Taser was bad. On Monday, we had the pleasure of getting Tased. Well…I never thought I would say this but…O.C. spray was better. I did not care for the Taser at all. We all took turns (it’s a voluntary thing) to get 50,000 volts put through our bodies. I will say this to anyone out there who reads this blog…if you are ever in a position where you are going to get tased by a police officer for not complying…COMPLY!!! You don’t want to know what this feels like. On the other hand it was good to know what it feels like. I don’t ever want to put someone through anything that I am not willing or have not experienced myself. I am still debating if I will post pictures of this training.

So besides the Taser, we had another BIG event here at the academy. We went through our mock crime scenes. This was fun, exciting and a real eye opener. We were broke up into groups of 6 and given a scenario to go through. The scenarios all started with a call from dispatch, telling us to respond to an address for a crime. These scenarios were to be played out, as if they were real.

My group had an assault case, which dealt with domestic violence. It was chaotic, crazy and it felt like everything happened so fast (common theme in this academy). We handled the suspect…got them into handcuffs and off to jail. We got the victim to the hospital. Then we had to write a search warrant for evidence items, photograph and sketch the scene, collect the evidence and get it packaged for the crime lab and…of course, we had to write a report and all the forms that went with it. We had basically 4 hours to complete the paperwork and package all of our evidence. It was CRAZY!!! My group was great. We communicated very well and worked as a team. So as crazy as it was…we did learn a lot from this exercise.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Once we were done with our reports, forms and evidence, we turned them in for review. Our “mock” scenes are now going to be sent to “mock” trial. So some of the groups will have their day in court and have to testify on the witness stand, to a judge and District Attorney. So if we didn’t write our reports correctly, or fill in the forms properly or better yet…package the evidence within standards…our cases could be thrown out of court. There are a handful of us in this academy class that have testified on the stand (for real cases), and I am sure we can all say it is not a pleasant experience. Even though this is a (mock) court and it’s all a learning experience, I am still nervous. It’s just the thought of having to defend our work and making sure we have covered everything.

Well, we are finishing out week 19 with a DUI lab. This is where we review the DUI laws in Colorado and how to enforce them. We are taught how to conduct field sobriety tests and how to determine when someone has had too much to drink. That’s the first part of the class. The second part is…getting people intoxicated so we can practice these techniques. Let me clarify this…we (the students in the academy class) are NOT the people drinking. The instructors for this class provide people who will get intoxicated, in a controlled environment. This should be fun. I must tell you…just like O.C. spray and the Taser…I volunteered to get intoxicated. I figured I have volunteered for everything else, why not. This DUI lab takes place on Friday and it’s actually my birthday. But I was told NO. Hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying.

Some of the guys take a break from driving to put on a "Real Gun Show"

OOPS!!! Not supposed to hit the cones

How to take a turn at high speed

Recruit Warren asking for directions

High speed pursuit in action

This is my driving partner (the trunk monkey)

Group A with a vintage police car (thanks to Deputy Barnes)

Recruit Meyer takes advantage of some down time before the night driving

Driving lessons in a patrol High speed
Trying to knock the cone off someone's head...PRICELESS!!!

Communication is the key to processing any crime scene

Discussing the crime scene

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Who knew driving could be so much fun!!!

Week 18, Day 3

We have now moved into the driving portion of the academy. This is by far, the best week of the academy. I am sure the instructors have heard this before, but really this is way too much fun. We are learning driving techniques that I never thought were possible. Its fun…it’s demanding…and it is a true adrenaline rush. We are not only pushing ourselves, but we are pushing the vehicles capabilities.

We are developing skills for our final POST driving test. We get an hour at each station and then on Saturday, we will put it all together and test out. If you are one who gets car sick…then this may not be your cup of tea. I was riding shotgun with my buddy Gonzo and almost threw up in his lap yesterday. Not a good feeling.

The best part of this course is the high speed braking. We start out relatively slow (45 mph) and work up to 60 and 65 mph and drive straight at a row cones (signifying a wall). Once we get close to the wall…we slam on the brakes with both feet and steer around the wall, trying not to hit anything. Every time we got faster, the adrenaline goes up. Even though they are only cones…it’s the simulation that it could be a real wall or even a car that has stopped in front of us. These vehicles really do turn and stop on a dime.

Another technique we have learned is…what they call shuffle steering. This is where you place your hands at 9 and 3 on the steering wheel and they never leave the wheel. Sounds easy, but it’s not when your trying to steer a 4000 pound vehicle around a cone. I want to thank Officer Schoepflin from Wheat Ridge PD. He stayed after class to help me with my shuffle steering and get me on track (no pun intended).

The idea behind all of these techniques is to trust the vehicle we are driving.
Now imagine all these driving techniques being taught and practiced…in the rain. Monday wasn’t so bad, but Tuesday was a cold rainy day. The rain made for some interesting braking and vehicle skids. Overall, it was a great day.

One thing I forgot to mention in my previous blog…but I have done a couple ride-a-longs with a friend of mine at Wheat Ridge PD. I rode on a Saturday night during Memorial Day weekend. It was really cool. What’s cool about it is…I get to take everything I have learned in the last 17 weeks and watch it being applied to real life situations. During my ride, we pulled a vehicle over for a traffic violation and it turned into an arrest. I sat in the patrol car and watch this whole thing unfold. From the time we stopped the vehicle to the time the suspect was in custody, took all of 10 minutes. It happened that fast. It’s a great experience if you have never done it…I highly recommend it. Not only for me getting to put it all together, but you also get to see what these police officers deal with on a daily basis. So thank you to Wheat Ridge PD for their ride-a-long program and thanks to SGT. Balafas for letting me tag along.

This is rapid lane changing. What this photo doesn't show is the vehicle is traveling at 30 mph.

A successful lane change without knocking over cones.

If you hit a cone, you have to get out and reset it.

High speed braking.

Concentrating on NOT hitting the cones

It's hard not to smile when you're having this much fun

Bill and Gonzo getting ready to attack the course

This is the Preacher...he's always smiling

The butterfly effect…

Week 17, Day 5

So week 17 was a really short week and we still managed to squeeze in a lot of training. We had our last trip to Red Rocks this week, but not for PT. We went to Red Rocks to have our class photo taken as well as our individual graduation photos. This was a fun day. We took our official academy class photo with the beautiful Red Rocks backdrop, and at the same time…we were being video taped and photographed by several tourist that happened to be up there. This happens every time we go up there. It just solidifies that we are ALWAYS being watched and critiqued.

The fun part of the day was not only knowing that our time is winding down…but we got to relax a bit and just hang out with each other. When we were taking our individual photos, must of us try to look as serious as possible. You know we are going to be cops…so we have to look like a cop. So during the photo shoot, it became a challenge to see who we could get to crack a smile or laugh during their photos. I think everyone broke under the pressure. It really was a great day. I have to give a shout out to Jim from the Crime Lab for being our official photographer. He did a great job and he only attempted to fall off his ladder twice, while taking our class photo.

We also finished up with vehicle stops. This was where part of the butterfly effect came into play. What I mean by butterfly effect…all the butterflies in my stomach as I was confronted with a couple different scenarios. I had a scenario where the person I pulled over for a traffic violation, actually had a gun hidden in the visor of his car. What do I do? Do I pull them out of the car? Do I call for back-up? Do I draw my weapon for safety? All of these thoughts ran through my head, in a span of about 1 second. I worked through it and came out alive and well. But then my mind goes to…I am not ready for this. I have had 17 weeks of training and I am not ready to graduate. We have learned so much in this academy and I know that I speak for a majority of us…will we be ready to do this for real? BUTTERFLIES!!!

Then we moved onto the high risk (felony) vehicle stops. This happens when we have to remove 1 or more people from a vehicle. The instructors through some very interesting scenarios our way and it was cool to see how everyone reacted. The best scenario had to be when one of the instructors was on his knees and he was instructed to get up and walk towards the police car. As he got up, he tore a large hole in his pants. Everyone remained composed and serious through the scenario, but in the end…we laughed so hard. We all heard the pants rip and it was a true test to see how long everyone could go without losing it. Thanks to the instructors for the laugh.

After vehicle stops, we moved on to more simmunitions training. This time we had real life scenarios to work through, with active shooters. This too was a great test to see how everyone would react. The first scenario my group did…well…we were shot in the back by who we thought was the victim. We got better as the day wore on, but the screwed up scenarios stick with you. The last scenario my team got to play the “bad guy” and shoot at everyone. Now this was the other half of the butterfly effect. We had to think like the “bad guy” and outwit our classmates.

It was definitely an intense version of hide and seek. There’s nothing like running, because you’re being chased by your classmates…with guns. By the way…the simmunitions rounds…they hurt. Thanks to Nathan…I still have a large welt and bruise on my abdomen. One of the guys in the other group got hit in the abdomen and it looks like he now has 2 belly buttons. Nice shooting Laura!!!

Overall…it was a great week. Next week, we move onto driving. This should be fun.

Approaching the active shooter scenario

Searching the hillside for a the bad guy

Using cover to avoid getting shot

Getting set up for the class photo

Part of the peanut gallery, making people laugh

Recruits Meyer, Wilhelm and Harris. We refer to them as the AARP recruits.

Ranger takes advantage of Gonzo's intense focus

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The time is winding down…

Week 16, Day 5

Well, we had a really long week and I mean LONG. It seems as our time in the academy gets shorter…the days get longer. I can remember in week one when the instructors said, “You only have 100 days to go”, and I thought that is an eternity. Now I am saying…where has the last 100 days gone? I am really…where has it gone? This last week was so jam packed with tests, practicals and more tests…that week 16 has come and gone.

We had 2 days worth of accident investigations, where we did various things. We learned how to interpret skid marks that could be seen during an accident. We learned how to take measurements of a traffic accident and then wrote an accident report, during a practical exercise. It really was interesting.

This week we also had the practical application of RAID, which means Rapid Emergency Deployment. This is where we learn how to go into a building when there maybe an active shooting. We have been practicing this type of training for the last couple of weeks, but this time we did it with simmunitions rounds. This is basically a bullet casing that is loaded with a paint ball. We did a dry run before the paint started flying, then the scenarios began.

During all of our past RAID sessions we never had anyone shooting back at us. So when we entered the building this time, it was a whole different training session. And like we say in the military…all the best laid plans go right out the window as soon as the first bullet is fired. It was interesting to see how easy it was to get tunnel vision and only focus on one thing. Adrenaline rushes can be a bad thing if you can’t control them. That is why we practice so much and try to get all the techniques into muscle memory. Without muscle memory…it would be easy to freeze up in these situations. We all did really well throughout the practicals and it was a great learning experience. Not to mention the large, red welts from the paint balls.

We also had written exam #7, the written exam for arrest control and then the practical exam for arrest control. I think I was more nervous about the practical exam then anything else. Don’t get me wrong…the other exams were just as important, but the hands-on test was the most stressful. We were tested on everything we had learned in arrest control from week 7, until week 16. That is A LOT of information to cram into this brain. I paired up with one of my classmates and we went into the test.

We both did really well, right up to the point the instructor said, “demonstrate 5 baton strikes.” Now, I heard 5, my partner heard 3. Yes, I continued with baton strikes 4 and 5, as my partner was lowering the pad and I struck him in the wrist. OOPS!!! Sorry John. Well, at least I know I did it right…because John’s wrist was really red and sore. Ever heard the phrase, “pay backs are a …?” John then had to demonstrate 5 baton strikes on me…well…I was hiding behind the pad for strikes 4 and 5. He didn’t pay me back…but I did feel really bad about that. Anyway…just a little story about arrest control.

So that’s week 16 in a nutshell. The best part of the week…well the 4 day weekend, of course. We are off for the next 4 days, due to Memorial Day. I just want to say something about Memorial Day.

I hope everyone will take the time to have a moment of silence for those that have given their lives in the line of duty. In 2003, I was sitting in Iraq on Memorial Day and it gave me a different perspective about this day. Especially when I was so far from home. Anyway, I don’t want to get on my soapbox but…we should be thankful EVERYDAY, not just one day a year. And we should be thankful for not only the military personnel, but the law enforcement officers serving here at home. They are fighting everyday, to keep this country safe and soon…that will be me and all of my classmates. Have a great weekend.

Practicing for RAID

I wouldn't want to see this end of a gun

Looking at skid marks

How to carry out the wounded

Getting ready to go into the RAID scenerio

Going after the active shooter

Working through a scenerio during arrest control

Breaking up a fight, during hands-on training

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

O.C. Spray…what more can I say???

Week 15, Day 5

Well, this academy really knows how to conduct training. I know I have talked about this before, but we are learning and training at lighting speed. There is so much to do during a day and during the week, it is mind numbing. We have progressed through the following areas (in no particular order):

  • law classes
  • arrest control
  • firearms
  • report writing
  • SWAT
  • explosives
  • more firearms and arrest control
  • first aid
  • pedestrian contacts
  • vehicle stops
  • traffic codes
  • firearms qualifications
  • building searches
  • hostage negotiations
  • gangs, to include motorcycle gangs
  • terrorist threats
  • identity theft
  • crowd control
  • traffic direction
  • crime scene investigations (CSI…look out)
  • vehicle searches

Let’s not forget the uniform inspections, the memorial formations for all the fallen Colorado Police Officers and the PT sessions (including Red Rocks). Most of these training classes include hands-on practicals, where we are expected to take what we have learned in the classroom and apply it to real life scenarios. We are really learning to adapt and work as a team. People you never thought you would work with; you now have to count on. You have to be able to trust that they will be right by your side if something happens. These last couple of weeks, the instructors really turned the heat up and I mean that literally.

The last real life scenario we did was on Friday, when we underwent OC spray training. Those of you who do not know what OC spray is…well…it’s like taking the oil from a Habanero pepper and rubbing it in your eyes and all over your skin. It’s on a volunteer basis…but who doesn’t want to be a team player and go through this training? Not me. Some of my classmates couldn’t go through the training for medical reasons, but for the rest of us…we were not going to back out. We got sprayed in the face (including one eye) and then had to fight our way through 3 different scenarios. We did it…and we did it as a team. We were all together, suffering, coughing, gagging and the most important part…cheering each other on. I can tell you…I am glad I went through the training to know what it feels like. I can also tell you, I am glad it’s over. One last note…you should make sure NOT to hit the hot water in the shower accidentally…because it reactivates the oils. WOW!!!

Another training session I want to talk about is…a particular PT session we had with one of the class’s favorite Sergeants. (Trying to get my brownie points in) He really likes to PT and he took us all with him. And when I say he really likes PT, I mean he really likes to PT. We were given a taste of what some of the SWAT officers like to call a “Normal” PT session. If running up and down a steep dirt hill (8-9 times), approximately 300 push-ups, lunges, flutter kicks, pull-ups and a 2 mile run…is what you call “Normal”…then you would fit right in. Most of us didn’t see it as very normal. But again…we hung in there and pushed through together. It really was a lot of fun and the Sergeant and the academy staff made sure we all finished. (Even the few people that threw up breakfast)

So the common thread for these last couple of weeks has been…teamwork. I know I haven’t talked much about it lately, but it really is so important in this profession. We have learned to count on each other. When something goes wrong…we stand by each other and learn together. We push each other, we learn from each other and we learn from each other’s mistakes. That alone is some really good training. So far…I am really enjoying this training and I think I am really going to enjoy being part of this “Brotherhood”.

The instructors doing a traffic stop with the K-9 unit

Charlies Angels or building searches?

Recruit Brown getting sprayed in the face

Recruit Brown after OC Spray

Cold water feels so good after OC

Where is the air?

Class 2009-1 after OC Spray