Friday, February 22, 2008

WEEK 2: The Texas Penal Code … and a sense of duty and honor

“The police academy is not as militaristic as a boot camp, but we adopt a lot of those procedures because of the conformity and the sense of fellowship that it builds in the recruit class,” TEEX instructor Cullen Grissom said. “It gives the recruits a great deal of pride. They have chosen to serve others and they need to be proud of their profession.”

Every morning at 7:50 a.m. – weather permitting – the recruits line up in formation in front of a set of flag poles that were purchased and installed by a former CTPA recruit class. Four cadets raise the United States and Texas flags high above the ground and the other cadets salute the flags as a sign of duty and honor to their country.

After the flags are secured into place for the day, the cadets recite the
Pledge of Allegiance and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas Flag.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

“Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible."

“It is symbolic of what we are going to do,” College Station PD recruit Kellye Cozart said. “We serve the same purpose as the military. We protect our colors on our home turf and they do it overseas.”

The posting of colors is followed by a uniform inspection – done by Mr. Santo, who is a spitting image of any drill instructor you have seen in a movie.

“The uniform inspection is to teach them how to show up for work when they complete the police academy,” Santo said. “Their uniform must be clean and wrinkle-free. Their boots need to be polished, their leather gear must look good and they have to be clean shaven.”


There are physical penalties for not complying as two cadets learned. One cadet’s facial hair was a little stubbly and another’s cell phone rang during the inspection. Both had to leave the formation and get into push-up position.

After completing inspection, the cadets hustle back to the classroom to begin their final day of instruction on the
Texas Penal Code. They have been immersed in it all week.

When asked what they have been doing this week, Cozart said: “Lots of penal code. All day, every day,”

“It is a lot of material but I would not say it is overwhelming,” added Clayton Brown, also a College Station PD recruit. “We will see when we get to the first test. We might think it’s overwhelming then.”

Interesting tidbits:

The Texas Penal Code consists of about 37 chapters and comprises approximately 20 percent of the law book (see photo on left) used by the students. The cadets use the book to learn what is legal and illegal and then will later apply this knowledge to practical situations.

Friday, February 15, 2008

WEEK 1: A lot of class time and adjusting

The entire first week was spent in the classroom and the students are getting adjusted to their new life as a police academy cadet. It is a life that involves more rules and regulations than they may be used to.

“I’d rather not have to shine my boots,” said 20-year-old Daniel Crocker, who is unaffiliated with a department. “But everything else has been fun.”

“Today was the first day we actually had an inspection on our uniforms,” added Rachel St. Pe’, a
Texas A&M Police Department recruit. “Today a couple of people were not 100% up to par so they had to do push-ups.”

The adjustment is not only in appearance but in the classroom as well.

“In college I would go to class in a pair of shorts with a cup of coffee and kick my feet up on the desk,” Crocker laughed. “I’m not about to try that here.”

St. Pe’ was quick to chime in, “There is no food or drinks in the classroom – only water. And we have on our
duty belts and it gets uncomfortable after a while.”

After Monday’s intro and physical assessment, the class covered topics including fitness and wellness, the history of policing, the U.S. and Texas Constitution, and ethics.

On Friday, officer Mark Langwell of the
College Station Police Department held a discussion about police professionalism and ethics. Cadets are taught to evaluate situations to determine the most ethical course of action by looking at the alternatives and possible conclusions.

“One of the things we look at when we recruit people is the kind of life that they’ve led,” Langwell said. “We want to know if they have made good ethical choices in the past. Once you become an officer, your behavior becomes all that more important because your actions speak volumes to the public.”

The first week is over and the time in the classroom may not be the most exciting the recruits will have over the 17-week course. That does not mean it is unimportant.

“A lot of this stuff we will be tested on directly, but everything we have done this week - even just flipping through the manual – is going to be information that we are going to use to build on,” said Russell Rodriguez, also a recruit of the TAMU Police Department. “We are getting a sense of why we are doing something and then we are going to get into the nuts and bolts later on.”

Rodriquez continued, “The information is mostly common sense, but there is just so much of it. The body of knowledge that you are going to be responsible for is going to grow every single day. That’s the difficult part.”

After a weekend of rest – or studying for most – the recruits will return Monday to five-straight days of learning the Texas Penal Code.

Interesting tidbits:

According to Kyle McNew,
TEEX program manager and instructor, policing began in Europe where Sir Robert Peel laid the foundation for the organized metropolitan police system in London. Law enforcement in Texas began with Stephen F. Austin’s Rangers, which eventually evolved into the world-famous Texas Rangers.

Lunch ... Texas A&M's Riverside campus is not very close to Bryan or College Station and there are no restaurants near the facility. Most of the cadets bring their lunch and eat in the breakroom.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

DAY 1: Learning the Rules, Physical Assessment

At the orientation last week, everyone wore their regular clothes, but Monday everyone wore their standard-issue Central Texas Police Academy collared shirts and khakis. The uniforms were a reminder that the academy was officially underway.

“I’m expecting to learn what it takes to be an officer,” cadet Cody Chandler from Huntsville, Texas, said. “One of the reasons I came here is because I heard this was supposed to be one of the best police academies in the state of Texas.”

Mr. Santo drilled the cadets with the rules, procedures and business aspects of the academy for the majority of the morning and after lunch the cadets faced their first challenge - the physical assessment.

Rhonda Seaton and Lieutenant Rodney Sigler – both of the College Station Police Department – led the afternoon session, which focused on the fitness, wellness and stress management aspects of being an officer.

The session began with a quote from Kevin Gilmartin’s book, Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement Officers: “Physical fitness is not a luxury for a law enforcement officer, but a requirement if they are to become emotional survivors.”

After a short introduction to the topic, the cadets changed into their physical-training gear and were evaluated in five areas: the vertical jump, the 300-meter sprint, push-ups, sit-ups and a 1.5 mile run.

Best results of the afternoon:
Vertical Jump: 23 inches
300-Meter Sprint: 0:47 (two tied)
Push-Ups in One Minute: 64 repetitions
Sit-Ups in One Minute: 46 repetitions
1.5-Mile Run: 11:49

The physical tests will be measured three additional times throughout the remainder of the academy.

“These cadets will spend more time on physical training than they will with any other single topic,” Mr. Santo said. “We’re not trying to turn them into athletes, but it is important to have a certain level of physical fitness to be a police officer. Upper-body strength and a strong grip are the most important.”

Each day the cadets will train from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on a course designed specifically for the needs of the CTPA.

“I heard the physical training aspect of the academy was going to be hard and there was going to be a lot of running,” said cadet Chad Jones, a resident of Bryan being sponsored by the College Station Police Department. “When someone is trying to run from you, you should be able to catch them.”

video

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Orientation … One week to go until the fun begins

“I think we have the best police academy in the state of Texas – hands down,” exclaimed Tom Shehan, director of TEEX’s Public Safety and Security Division. “We take pride in the fact that we put prepared police officers on the streets.”

Shehan was the first person to speak to the 23 recruits who attended the orientation for the 142nd class of the Central Texas Police Academy (CTPA).

But most of the talking was done by TEEX police academy training director Lee Santo, or “Mr. Santo,” as he will be called by the cadets for the duration of the 17-week academy.

After serving four years in the Marine Corps as a squad leader for a mortar platoon, Mr. Santo began his career in law enforcement. He served stints as a deputy sheriff and K-9 handler, a municipal peace officer detective and swat officer, and as a state police officer with the Alcohol and Beverage Commission. He has been instructing for over 15 years and was previously the Police Academy Coordinator and Director of Public Safety at Wharton Junior College.

After Mr. Shehan and Mr. Santo welcomed them, the cadets had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the people with whom they will be spending the majority of the next four months. Some were timid and apprehensive, but all were proud to be there.

“I have grown up around peace officers all my life,” one cadet boasted. “I just don’t see any other way to make a living.”


Some of the cadets are sponsored and paid for by a jurisdiction, some are sponsored but not paid for by the jurisdiction, and some are paying their own way without a sponsorship in hopes of finding a job once they graduate form the academy.

The following is a list of the cadet’s affiliations:
College Station P.D. - 4
Texas A&M University P.D. - 3
Unaffiliated - 3
Bryan P.D. - 2
Bryan F.D. - 2
Brazos County Sheriff’s Office - 2
Grimes County Sheriff’s Office - 1
Washington County Sheriff’s Office - 1
Madison County Sheriff’s Office - 1
Tulia P.D. - 1
Hearne P.D. - 1
Navasota P.D. - 1
Texas Parks and Wildlife - 1

In addition, the following list will give you a feel for the diverse group of people who will begin the 142nd CTPA.

Oldest - 47
Youngest - 20 (2)
Ages 20-24 - 11
Ages 25-29 - 3
Ages 30-39 - 8
Ages 40+ - 1
Married - 8
Single - 13
Engaged - 2
Have children - 9 (one cadet has seven!!)
Family history of police work - 6
Military background - 4

The academy officially begins Monday, February 11, at 8:00 a.m. We will see you then. Let the fun begin!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Welcome!!

Welcome to the blog that will chronicle a 17-week class of the 142nd Central Texas Police Academy in College Station, Texas. College Station is most widely known as the home of Texas A&M University, but it is also home to the Texas Engineering Extension Service, or TEEX.

A LITTLE ABOUT TEEX:


TEEX delivers a wide range of technical and skills training programs aimed at employed workers and those entering the labor force. During its fiscal year 2007, TEEX provided training and technical assistance to more than 204,000 people from all 50 states, five U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and 54 countries via more than 8,300 deliveries conducted across the nation and around the world.

SOME COOL STUFF WE DO:


TEEX trains law enforcement and security personnel. This division is home to the Central Texas Police Academy and the largest private-sector-taught Unexploded Ordnance course. We blow the doors off the competition – literally! (See the video below)

video



TEEX provides fire training. The 120-acre Brayton Fire Training Field is world-renowned for its large-scale, hands-on fire training props.




TEEX has unmatched homeland security training. We use real-world exercises to teach companies, communities, states and our nation to prepare for and handle WMD and terrorist attacks, as well as other disaster situations.


TEEX trains public works personnel in a variety of disciplines. TEEX reaches and serves most skill groups and departments found in government, and also tailors training specifically for the needs of industrial and private sector customers.
TEEX is home to the largest OSHA training center in the country. Last year, TEEX trained more students in workplace safety than the federal OSHA Training Institute, as well as the next two OSHA Regional Education Centers combined.
Anchored by the 52-acre Disaster City®, TEEX’s urban search and rescue training prepares rescue teams for the unthinkable. TEEX is also the sponsoring agency for Texas Task Force 1, a state and federal US&R team.
TEEX serves as a catalyst for economic development in the state of Texas. Businesses of all sizes benefit from TEEX’s focus on the industrial supply chain, emergency planning and manufacturing assistance.