Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ready for Action

Well, the time has come to hit the streets.

The final two days of post academy were spent visiting the police evidence impound facility and the family investigations bureau. The evidence building is amazing. It's a huge warehouse filled with every kind of stolen/seized/found item imagineable. We walked past row after row of plasma TV's, generators, safes, tools, furniture, and countless other items. There were huge freezers and refrigerators full of biological evidence like blood, saliva, and other bodily fluids.

There are separate holding rooms for drugs and firearms. We got to enter the drug room and see the countless shelves of cocaine, meth, PCP, heroin, crack and huge bales of marijuana. There must have been millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs in there. The room full of seized firearms was also quite sobering. You wouldn't believe the type of guns that criminals are running around with these days.

The family investigations bureau is the place where victims of sexual assualt are brought for forensic examination and interviewing. We listed to some 911 calls for domestic violence and were shown pictures of some of the victims. I can't believe how badly people can treat their own family.

I start my field training on Tuesday. For the next 14 weeks, I will be riding with a training officer who will show me the ropes and evaluate my progress. My shift will be from 3:00p.m. - 01:00 a.m. with Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off.

The picture shows some of the duty gear I will be bringing with me (or wearing). Pictured are: duty belt, ballcap, primary and secondary flashlights, cassette tape recorder, radio with earpiece, cellphone, Glock .40 caliber handgun with tactical light, (3) magazines of ammunition, tactical knife, OC pepper spray, whistle, handcuffs and key, metal clipboard with traffic citation, fingerprint kit, X26 taser, sunglasses, riot helmet, gas mask with biological and chemical filter, bullet-proof vest, and puncture-resistant gloves. I'll also have various operations manuals, policy manuals, and a criminal law book.

I can't wait to actually start on Tuesday but am feeling a bit jittery as well. Nineteen weeks of training seems like a long time but when you consider all of the legal, ethical, physical, and mental issues that go into law enforcement, it seems more like a basic outline.

I'm not sure how much sleep I'll be getting in the coming weeks but I plan on keeping this log updated as best I can. If you're in the area between 7th Ave and the SR-51, between Northern and Thomas, please be on your best behavior or I might be paying you a visit.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Week Two of 'Post Academy'

This is the last week we'll be spending at the academy. I'll start my first training shift (on the streets) on Tuesday, 01/31.

On Monday, we got to suit up in pads and practice low-light building entries. This time, other classmates were positioned in closets, behind furniture, etc. with paint ball guns ready to shoot as we searched for them. We learned different techniques for using flashlights to spot a suspect before being shot at. During one of the drills, I was on one knee peeking into a dark room while my partner pointed a flashlight into the room from over my head. He then pointed the light directly down on my head (he thought he turned it off first) and the suspect in the room immediately saw me and shot me in the hand. Even though we were in full pads, the fingers are unprotected and the most painful place to get hit. I'm now sporting a colorful welt/blister on my index finger as a reminder of my partner's great tactics.

On Tuesday, we spent the entire day learning how to use the Phoenix police criminal records computer system. This allows you to look up the criminal history of any person, vehicle, or address for any time period. It also shows license registration status, outstanding warrants, and other police incident information. We're not permitted to look up anyone we know (like family or friends) so you can all breathe a sigh of relief if you've been hiding any 'dark secrets.'

Today (Wednesday), we learned some ground-fighting techniques and then got to practice them on each other. It's amazing how quickly a person becomes exhausted when trying to get off the ground while being punched, kicked, and wrestled. I learned a lot of things today and am more confident I'll do well if I ever have to fight someone for real. It was a lot of fun but my neck, back, and knees are feeling pretty sore and I'll bet tomorrow morning will reveal even more aches.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Week One of 'Post-Academy'

We returned to the academy for two more weeks of specialized training. All of my other classmates returned to their precincts for additional training while some actually hit the streets. We are now permitted to walk about the academy grounds freely and are addressed as 'staff' or 'sir' by the recruit classes we come in contact with.

This week started off with a half day at the firing range shooting 'stun-bag' shotguns. These are actual shotguns that shoot a small bag filled with pellets. These are meant to knock down or disable suspects without causing serious injury. Then, we got to practice with our handguns.

On Wednesday, we were isused the X26 advanced Taser. These things are serious tools and a blast to fire. We had targets made of foil that lit up with sparks when hit with the Taser probes. The Taser shoots out two metal harpoons (see picture -wires removed) that are connected by wires to the 'gun' part and then emits a 5-second shock of 50,000 volts. Just hearing the crackling bolt of electricity was enough to cause fear.

Thursday was 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' day. We were fitted for state of the art chemical suits complete with gas mask, gloves and boots. With the help of a partner, we put on our full suits and had all gaps sealed with tape. We must have looked like a nuclear disaster response team. At the end of the day, our field training officers came to meet us. These are the training officers that we'll be riding with once our post-academy is over.

Today (Friday) we received our police radios. These are top of the line radios with amazing features. I've been listening to mine all afternoon and can't wait to get out onto the street with these things. Later, we learned the corotid control technique (sometimes called the chokehold). When applied properly, this arm squeeze on both sides of the suspect's neck will cause a blackout in about 5 to 15 seconds. We tried it out on each other (not all the way to blackout) and found out first hand how effective it is.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Drum Roll Please..................

Friday, 01/13/2006: Graduation Day.

Friday morning was our final dress inspection. Many families and friends were on hand to watch us march out the parade deck, raise the flags, and be congratulated by various police chiefs from different agencies.

We were let go early in order to rehearse the night's graduation ceremony.

After rehearsal, the audience started filling in at about 5:00. My class marched in to the room through heavy applause and took our seats in the front of the auditoreum. After a brief speech by the academy commander and a guest speaker, my sergeant addressed the crowd. He bypassed his written speech and spoke to us directly from the heart. His word of praise and encouragement were inspiring made more special since we were his first class as an academy sergeant. He then introduced me to the crowd as I took the stage. I had been voted by my class to speak and now was my time. I was nervous addressing a crowd this large (several hundred at least) but was able to get through my three minute speech on leadership. I received applause and praise from my class as I returned to my seat.

Next, the class awards were presented for the top recruit in shooting, fitness, academics, and overall (average of all three). I won the 'academic' and 'overall' awards and could hear my family and friends cheering from the audience. A fifth award for 'exemplary recruit' was determined by a secret ballot of my class. It went to a great guy who struggled greatly in the beginning but never gave up and perservered to the very end. He was the obvious choice to represent the class spirit and I was glad to see that he won.

Next, we lined up in front of the stage and took the oath of office. This swearing in by the judge was the moment we officially became police officers.

Finally, each of us were presented with our police badge. I was extremely proud of the accomplishment and couldn't wait to show my family. The class then received our final dismissal from the sergeant by screaming out our class yell. This ended the ceremony. I was congratulated by several people but was most happy to see my family. My wife, kids, sister, mother, father, and inlaws were there to congratulate me. I could see the pride in the kids' eyes as they finally saw me in uniform. It was a great night and a great feeling.

The recruits for my city will return to the academy for two more weeks of specific training before actually hitting the streets with a training officer. I'll keep my blog updated as best I can.


I was a bit busy during the last week so I'll give a recap:

On Monday (01/09), we spent seven hours taking the State Peace Officer Certification test. This was a cumulative test of all of the things we learned over the past 16 weeks. It was exhausting but not too difficult.

After the test, our class ran a traditional mountain trail known as 'Warrior Hill'. This is a very steep and rock trail that sucked the life out of me. Most of my classmates had to walk (or even crawl) at the very top but I was able to run the entire time (albeit very slowly). My carpool partner capped of the run with a pleasent session of vomitting. Our sergeant commended him for his hard efforts.

On Tuesday (01/10), we learned how to conduct building searches in two and three person teams. We practiced making entries into various types of buildings looking for bad guys while avoiding getting into crossfire positions with other classmates.

We then got to put on heavy pads and shoot at each other with simunitions (live rounds with a paintball tip). This showed how difficult it is to concentrate and reload an empty gun while someone else is shooting at you. We were spaced about 20 feet apart with nothing to hide behind. I was nervous at first but really had fun during the drill.

Lastly, we were armed with our paintball guns and had to respond to a few different scenarios being acted out by members of the SWAT team. These were deadly force encounters in which every day situations become life threatening (like the suspicious guy parked in a car that decides to jump out and start shooting for no reason). I learned a lot during these drills about constantly looking for cover and expecting anything to happen.

On Wednesday (01/11), the class participated in the long mountain run. This was a 9.25 mile run to the top of South Mountain and back. It took several hours but was worth the effort. Some of my classmates never thought they could make it to the top but we all did.

That night, we had a graduation dinner for class members, a guest, and our staff. It was nice meeting spouses, fiances, and other family members of my classmates. I had been working on a speech all week that I delivered from atop one of the outside picnic tables. I wrote two rhyming lines about each member of the class (and the staff) with one complimentary line and one embarassing line. My classmates and their family members enjoyed it and kept telling me how funny and accurate my observations were. Here's an example of one:

"Cheerful, enthustiastic, honest and never betraying-
If only he'd slow down when he talks, I could understand what the hell he is saying"

I had to come up with verses for 44 different people which took many hours -but it was well worth it when I saw how much everyone enjoyed it.

Thursday (01/12) the class played several games of volleyball against the academy staff. The recruits won a game but the staff proved to be a bit better than us. After the games, we had a leisurely barbeque. This was the first time I remember being able to actually enjoy lunch since we usually have about 15 minutes to eat.

It felt great to be in the last regular week at the academy. The normal stress was lifted and we were all having a great time together (class and staff). It also started to sink in that I wasn't going to be seeing my classmates anymore. Even though I'll see some of the recruits, I'm going to miss the ones going to different agencies. Over the last 16 weeks we went through many difficult and stressful times together. We established a strong brotherhood and I will never forget them.

I'll post a separate entry for Friday (graduation day).

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Traffic Duty

Wednesday was our final day on the shooting range. This was to determine our day-time shooting qualification. The minimum score needed is a 210 (with 250 being perfect). I shot a 245 which is good enough for 'expert' designation by my department.

After the qualification, our entire class participated in a speed shooting contest. We shot at six metal plates (eight inches in diameter) along a rail from about 25 feet away. We had to use two magazines with a total of six bullets so this meant a mandatory reload during the middle of the drill. With only six bullets and six targets, there was no room for misses. Two recruits shot at a time with the winner being the one to hit the most number of plates in the shortest amount of time. In the first round, I hit five plates (one didn't fall down when hit so I had to shoot it a second time). I finished quickly but my competitor took her time and hit all six plates. I was sent to the loser's bracket since this was a double-elimination competition. I worked my way to the top of the loser's bracket and made it to the final round of the day (against the winner of the winner's bracket). We both hit five plates but my competitor did it in less time. So, I got second place.

Today (Thursday), we practiced directing traffic. At 7th street and Southern, an officer turned all of the intersection lights to blink red. Then we all took turns standing in the middle of the intersection directing traffic. I was the only one in my group to use my whistle but I was glad I did. I enjoyed standing in the center of the intersection blowing the whistle, pointing at drivers, and directing them where to go.

After traffic duty, we returned to the academy for our third and final fitness evaluation. This is comprised of a 300 meter dash, pushups until exhaustion, number of situps in one minute, vertical jump, a short agility drill (running through cones), and a 1.5 mile run. Our class has not been running very much in the last several weeks since most of our time was spent on shooting, driving, and practical field problems. Our lack of running showed, today, as everyone's time dropped from the last time we ran. I improved on all of the events except the 1.5 mile run (I ran a 6:56 pace today and a 6:26 pace last time). I think I did well enough to be near the top of the physical fitness ranking in the class (I was tied for 3rd going into today).

Only six more business days until graduation. I can't believe how quickly time has gone by and can't wait to start my actual duty. I found out my patrol area will be in the Squaw Peak district which was my first choice. This is centered around the Biltmore area but stretches from I-17 to 68th street between Thomas and Dunlap. I don't know exactly where my beat will be within this area but am glad to get this assingment.