POLICE ACADEMY DIARIES:
Final exams ended, 6 cadets will graduate on Saturday
Posted on 25 July 2012 by Pahrump Valley (Nevada) Times
By Kelsey Givens
“Sir, stop, stop right there!”
“Stop, come out and put your hands where I can see them!”
“Bang, bang, bang!”
No, those weren’t the sounds of a potentially dangerous standoff between police and an unknown suspect, but rather the loud commands from a role playing exercise during the Nye County Sheriff’s academy practical exams Thursday night.
Six cadets have officially entered the practical exam portion of their education; one of the last road blocks between them and the graduation scheduled for this weekend.
It’s a time where the cadets must show instructors what they’ve learned, and prove they understand how to handle situations they will face as full-fledged officers in the field.
Over the last two weeks, cadets have been thrown a variety of different scenarios they must respond to and decide, based on their training up to this point, how best to handle.
From traffic stops to landlord tenant issues to domestic batteries and burglaries in progress, the cadets have been moving through these fictional situations, demonstrating the skills they’ve learned over the last 27 weeks of the academy.
The exams, so far, have been conducted in relatively remote locations with few other people around, so as not to scare the public, academy instructor Deputy Brian Jonas said.
“We pick locations that don’t have a lot of public, because we don’t want people freaking out,” he explained. “It’s for our safety and the public’s safety; they don’t need to worry about that kind of stuff.”
The exams began with what Jonas called “unknown risk traffic stops,” or what some may refer to as a routine traffic stop.
During the first few days of practicals, cadets were making their way around town, pulling over designated role players, practicing how to conduct a traffic stop and how to interact with dispatch when checking a driver’s license and license plate numbers.
“We did that a little bit of what we call an unknown risk traffic stop that a lot of people like to say is a routine traffic stop, which we don’t say they are because they’re an unknown risk to us,” Jonas said at the end of the first week of exams. “And they’ve been doing those on role players, not the general public, for the last day or two.”
And to keep cadets thinking on their feet during the stops, Jonas said they added surprises to the scenarios like having weapons in the cars, having someone get out of their vehicle and try to run, or having the role player actually take off on the responding cadet.
Mixed in with the unknown risk stops, were more high risk felony stops, which required cadets to assist one another and provide backup, as officers never answer these types of stops or calls alone.
“We never do any type of stop with anyone that is potentially armed and dangerous or a felon suspect with just one deputy,” Jonas said.
So cadets practiced teaming up and working together to pull over a designated vehicle, before ordering the “felons” out and to the ground where they could be detained.
During the following week, the class moved on to responding to other sorts of calls, like a man with an axe in the middle of the road and a burglary in process at an impound lot
Sometimes during these scenarios, cadets were called out to respond and would have to decide whether or not to request backup and sometimes backup was assigned before they even arrived “on scene.”
During the burglary in progress situation, cadets were working through Thursday night, the trainees were called out to the NCSO impound lot, where the alleged burglary was taking place.
When the cadets pulled up to the lot, the gates sat slightly ajar and several role players dressed in all black awaited the cadets’ arrival inside the fenced yard.
As the cadets pulled up to the lot in marked patrol cars, one “suspect” would dash out and take off, while the other remained inside, waiting to react to the cadets’ commands or to expose their mistakes.
During one round of the exercise, a cadet forgot to lock his car door, and one of the role players stole it.
And in another instance, a role player grabbed an air soft gun they were using in the scenarios and shot one of the cadets; showing him he wasn’t keeping watch of the area well enough, something that in real life would be extremely dangerous.
Though they made mistakes, role players and instructors were quick to point out what they did right when they met once the drill was over.
“They get critiqued right afterward by the evaluators and the role players,” Jonas said. “And then the evaluators and role players will report to me, and we’ll go back over the scenario with them and make sure they understood what they did wrong.”
During these critiques, evaluators would point out exactly where cadets failed, and explain or show them how they would have done it better.
Once the cadets had been shown what they needed to work on, if they failed the scenario, they would be sent back through a modified version of the exam again.
“If somebody does fail, they do remediate,” Jonas said. “We’ll slightly modify the scenario, so it’s not the same thing, or obviously they’ll get it, and they redo the scenario.”
If a cadet were to fail the scenario again, they would go through a much more intense remediation, as well as counseling, until either they got it, or it became clear that person wasn’t cut out to be an officer.
“If they continue to where an individual, at any part of the academy, whether it’s practicals, or academics, or any portion of the academy, they get to the point they’re not responding to our training, that’s when we determine this person’s not cut out to be in law enforcement,” Jonas said.
“At any point, whether it’s in the academy, the field training program, or whatever, if they’re having deficiencies we sit down and explain it and retrain them, whether it’s scenarios, or we concentrate on traffic stops or their verbal skills to talk to people.
“And then, if we see continued progress in a positive direction, then we keep going, but if we don’t see a response in a positive manner to our training, that individual is then not cut out for law enforcement,” he said.
So far, though, Jonas said the cadets have been doing well, other than a few nerves in the beginning.
“We haven’t had any major hurdle issues or anything, probably just a lot of nerves and anticipation from them in the beginning,” he said. “They know they’re being evaluated by the people who will be evaluating them in the streets.”
Over the last two weeks, cadets had to successfully log 36 hours working through scenarios, in order to finish the practical exam portion of their education.
With that behind them, the cadets can now look forward to the culmination of all their hard work over the last 27 weeks — graduation.
Of the six who have made it through the academy thus far, five, Mike Connelly, Katlyn Ferrel, Alvin Hill, Chris Hopson and Elia Johnson, who were all hired using a law enforcement grant, will go on to become full-fledged patrol officers for NCSO. The sixth, Jeremy Bunker, who put himself through the academy, plans to move on to work for parole and probation in Las Vegas.
The graduation ceremony is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at the Bob Ruud Community Center.
From here, the cadets will move onto the 22-week field training program, where they will continue their training and education.
Editor’s note: This is one in an occasional series about the Nye County Sheriff’s Office 27-week police academy. Though graduation is near, the series will continue when the freshly-minted police officers begin their field training. Look for those stories in future issues of the PVT.
Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times – – Nye County Sheriff’s academy cadets Elia Johnson and Katlyn Ferrel order cadet Chris Hopson to the ground during a felony traffic stop scenario as part of the academy’s practical exams.
Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times – NCSO Cadet Jeremy Bunker maintains vigil over the impound lot after his partner contains a fleeing suspect. The exercise was part of practical exams that test cadets on a variety of risky situations.