Thursday, May 29, 2008

Patrolling Riverside Campus

Texas A&M’s Riverside Campus – home to the Central Texas Police Academy – is laid out like a town. It has named streets, buildings and even a few houses. The cadets of the 142nd CTPA were the police officers for Riverside this week.

The cadets worked in pairs and patrolled the streets of Riverside and police personnel from around the area served as the citizens of Riverside Campus and role-played many situations.

Since the role players were mostly active police officers, they were able to shed a unique light on the situations to make them very realistic.

There were traffic violations, noise complaints, domestic disturbances, and many other situations to which the cadets responded. They wrote tickets, made arrests and had to write reports at the end of their shifts. They even had to report to dispatch, which was also manned by the cadets not on patrol.

The role-players also served as instructors and when each simulation was complete, they talked to the cadets about what they did right and what they did wrong.

Once again, a video to help illustrate.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Active-Shooter Training

Some of the most intense training in the 17 weeks of the 142nd Central Texas Police Academy happened at an old elementary school in Bryan during week 16.

First, a little history lesson: In the 1960s and 1970s, events like the Watts Riots and Symbionese Liberation Army shootout led to the creation of SWAT teams – which most agencies now have in some form. More recent tragedies like the North Hollywood shootout in 1997, the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings have helped shift protocol again.

Because of these and other incidents, all officers are trained in active-shooter response. Law enforcement first responders are now trained to enter the situation instead of setting up a perimeter to contain the situation and call the SWAT team.

The training: During the training, cadets used weapons that fired “simunition” rounds, which leave a colored mark where they make contact. It’s very much like a paint gun.

The first time through the simulations, the recruits made mistakes – as you would expect for anyone doing anything for the first time.

It’s definitely better that the cadets go through this type of situation in a controlled environment so they get a feel for it before hitting the streets. They get to feel the adrenaline rush as the bullets scream and the loud shots echo through the halls of the abandoned elementary school.

You can get a taste of the adrenalin rush by watching the video below!

Friday, May 23, 2008

WEEK 15: Investigation

This week, the cadets learned basic criminal investigation procedures. The subjects run the gamut from case management to evidence collection.

Basically, they learned how to conduct an investigation, how to respond to a scene and what kind of information they need to collect after they respond.

“It’s important to document everything,” Mr. Santo said. “The manner evidence is collected and how it is documented can be just as important as the evidence itself.”

The students learned interview and interrogation techniques.

“Law enforcement officers will be interviewing people their whole career,” said Santo. “Everything they do is asking questions and they’ll have to learn to ask the right questions and be able to determine how much information they need to get.”

To practice this, students went around the building and interviewed different people in the office to gather information for a theft report.

They learned the difference between interviews and interrogations and what to do when an interview turns into an interrogation.

The instruction provides the basics: cues, keywords, phrases and behaviors.

“We give common examples and talk about those examples,” Santo said. “But like any other type of training, they will get better when they actually experience it and start getting a feel for it. This is basic training they are getting here and some guided practical experience. Most practical experience comes when you get on the job.”

Thursday the cadets practiced investigation, which included how to contain the crime scene, what they need to look for in the way of evidence and what to do with the collected evidence. Cadets also learned how to process and photograph the evidence.

Friday, the cadets learned to locate and lift finger prints and learned booking procedures.

Interesting tidbits: The 17-week 142nd Central Texas Police Academy is winding down. Next week the cadets will incorporate all the skills they have learned thus far and apply them in real-life situations with actors portraying perpetrators, traffic violators and much more. Check back next week for multiple blog posts!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

WEEK 14: Class time and a memorial service

Week 14’s curriculum covered multiple topics: juvenile issues, multiculturalism, human relations and civil law.

But the highlight of the week was the cadets' participation in the community’s annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service at the American Pavilion in Veteran’s Park in College Station.

The ceremony honored law enforcement officers who paid the ultimate price to their communities in the last year. In 2007, 181 law enforcement officers in the United States – 22 in Texas – lost their lives in the line of duty.

Check out the video below for a recap of the ceremony …

Friday, May 9, 2008

WEEK 13: Field Sobriety Testing Training

This week, the students went through standardized field sobriety testing training. They learn to administer a series of exams so they can build a probable cause case to arrest someone who’s been driving while intoxicated.

1.) The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball which occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Under normal circumstances, nystagmus occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, the jerking can occur at lesser angles.

2.) The Walk-and-Turn: The walk-and-turn is a divided-attention test in which the subject is directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps the subject must turn on one foot and return in the same manner the opposite direction. There are eight indicators of impairment associated with this test.

3.) The One-Leg Stand: The one-leg stand test is also a divided attention test where the subject is instructed to stand with one leg approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, etc.) until told to put the foot down. There are four indicators of impairment for this test.

Police officers look for specific clues and indicators that the subject may be intoxicated. If somebody makes multiple mistakes during one test, the officer likely has probable cause. They also look at how well a person follows directions. All the indicators help the officer build a case for probable cause.

“It is important to build a good case, because there have been instances where cases have been reduced or dismissed,” Mr. Santo said. “It is very important to document their reason for the initial traffic stop and the reason why they administered the tests. By itself, one of the pieces of evidence may not indicate the person is intoxicated, but when all the indicators are put together, there is usually a strong case.”

Interesting tidbits …

Monday and Tuesday the cadets learned basic Spanish. The idea is to give officers key words and phrases that can help them identify a threat. They also learn commands for arrest and direction. In addition, they learn how to ask someone if they need help and what kind of help they need.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Handgun qualifying

Each cadet must “qualify” twice through a series of shooting tests. Each test requires the cadet shoot 60 rounds in timed scenarios from distances varying from three to 25 yards.

A round in the circle of the target is awarded five points. A round in the white portion of the target is awarded four points and a round in the gray portion is awarded three points.

See the video below!