Wednesday, March 6, 2019

From Law Office to Law Enforcement


My name is Recruit Martinez with the Lakewood Police Department. I was born and raised in sunny Phoenix, Arizona and moved to Colorado a couple of weeks prior to the start of the 2019-1 Regional Police Academy. Since I was a child, I told my friends and family that they could expect me to begin my career as a law enforcement officer as soon as I became of age to apply. Not that they doubted me, but the odds of getting hired as an officer at 21 years old with limited experience simply isn’t the most practical. In addition to my career goal, I would routinely joke about wanting to move to Colorado; somewhere not so far away from home, where seasons actually existed (even if that meant freezing on a daily basis). Being an adventurous, go-getter type of person I make a conscious effort to make my dreams a reality, but never did I consider that two of my biggest aspirations would come to fruition at once.

 Early in 2018, I had a spur of the moment weekend trip to Colorado to hike the Rocky Mountains and decided shortly thereafter to graduate a semester early with my Bachelor’s in Justice Studies from Northern Arizona University. The two unrelated decisions eventually led me to the Lakewood Police Department. I applied right after my “20 and a half birthday;” everything fell into place from there.

For the past couple of years, I maintained a full-time job at a law firm and was also a full-time student. I got an inside look on the life of an attorney and it only reaffirmed my drive to get out of my sedentary job and serve and protect the community first-hand. I have always had a passion for helping others, seeing the good in the bad, and being a voice to those who are not strong enough to defend their own. I value Lakewood’s mission to serve the community with intelligence, integrity, and initiative and am honored to have been selected as a part of the team.

 I thought that knowing no one would pose difficulties for me. I quickly realized to my delight that I was surrounded by a group of people who were just like me. We all share similar passions, senses of humor and hobbies. Most importantly, we share the innate, effortless desire to help others. Within the first few days I was already spending time outside of work with my new fellow recruits and have since made so many friends. The academy is made up of several other departments aside from Lakewood, but our respective agencies are irrelevant as a whole. We are all here for the same purpose. “One team, one fight,” our chosen motto, is aligned with the spirit and mentality of our group.

 The first weeks of the academy are all classroom based: 8 hours of lecture, 5 days a week. Some (well...maybe more than just some) have called it “Death by PowerPoint.” So many of our instructors bring their humor and experience into the classroom, which makes each day’s lesson more refreshing. After all, these days in the classroom serve as the foundation for our entire career. Also, we’ve made a weekly award for “Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time” given the amount of comical blurts fellow recruits make during class; it makes each day entertaining.

 I think I speak for everyone when I say our brains are fried at the end of each week. You can see the drooping eyelids and avid coffee drinkers doubling their dosage by mid-morning on Fridays. At first, I wasn’t sure how it was possible to be so mentally exhausted from simply sitting all day. After realizing that we’re being “fed from a fire hose” with seemingly infinite heaps of information categorized as “important” and “more important” it starts to make sense. I find that when I finally get home and can slump over on the couch, it just ends up giving me time to reflect on the fact that every minute I spend relaxing is actually just a minute that I’m taking away from studying what could be the end-all-be-all test that takes place each Monday. If you score less than an 80% on four tests throughout the course of the academy, you’re out. No pressure, right?


 Just like we learned the “Lesser of evils” defense in Colorado’s criminal code, the same translates into daily life. Shine my boots now, or wash and iron my pants? Study geography, or study for the test? Make lunch for tomorrow or go to the gym so I can avoid making a fool of myself in PT? Discipline at its finest, and invaluable lessons all of us must adhere to in order to be exceptional in this profession. The art of weighing options goes on, only to get more complicated as skills such as firearms training approach. To add to the stress, I’ve seemingly fallen into the position of class scribe and weekly study guide writer. Skills that I previously deemed as irrelevant and useless at the law firm have been actually been paramount in studying. One of my fellow recruits jokingly suggested I stop sharing my weekly notes just to see the reactions of distress and dismay from the others.

Several groups of us get together each weekend to study. We challenge each other’s understanding of the weekly material by creating scenarios and whipping out our law bibles to combat one another with different aspects of the criminal statutes­­. Some recruits are blessed with photographic memories, but me? I work best with mnemonics, raps, things said with an accent, answers disguised in a joke or funny scenario- I think you get the point, pretty much anything that will get it to ‘stick’. I often find myself trying to hold back laughter during the tests when a question comes up that leaves me visualizing a scenario my study group made up to help remember elements of a crime.

In our group, we make light of the material and always come out feeling more prepared- that is until the stress builds up Monday morning where we all question whether we are actually prepared. During formation on test days to ease our anxiety, one of the academy staff members has made a habit of asking the class which rapper sang certain rap lyrics. He enjoys watching us recruits sweat as he walks down the rows calling individuals to attention. He receives a lot of “I don’t know sir” responses. I’m waiting for the day when we receive a ‘team building’ (group discipline) exercise for not knowing a rapper, such as running down the street to check if the light pole is still there.

 All in all, I am grateful and so excited to be where I am. Trading the sun and my desk for the snow and the law was the greatest decision I’ve made. Nearly 5 weeks down and 15 to go, my fellow recruits haven’t let the positive energy die down. I mean it when I say I couldn’t have wished for a better team; we keep each other accountable, preparing one another for the real-life job that is not so far around the corner. It is evident that we all take the task at hand seriously and want to excel. We are just recruits now, but through the forthcoming weeks we will develop the skills and mindset needed to be certified peace officers, brothers and sisters in blue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

In This Together


Please welcome Recruit DeRosa. Every recruit comes face to face with adversity during the Academy experience. Sometimes it is critical training meant to preserve life. More often, it is the simple things that can be most stressful.
My name is Recruit DeRosa with the Lakewood Police Department. I am honored to share my experiences after two weeks in the 2018-2 Combined Regional Academy.

I lived almost my whole life in Castle Rock, Colorado and attended the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. I graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and minored in sociology. After graduation, I spent a year applying for law enforcement positions all across Colorado. I applied to a total of nine law enforcement agencies before I was fortunate enough to land a recruit position with Lakewood Police Department. My journey in the academy began on Monday, July 16th.

I’ve been impressed at how fast my classmates and I have begun to bond, and become closer every day. Although we met each other only a few weeks ago, everyone treats each other like we have been friends for years. From cracking inside jokes when the instructors leave the room to supporting one another during PT, we are already turning into a family. Nobody is ever alone in this experience. We practice formation together, we work out together, we eat together, and we learn together. 

There have been numerous opportunities to learn lessons so far. One of those sticks out the most to me. After orientation we were expected to break in our new boots and begin to learn how to shine them. I was under the impression that shinning boots was simple, a five minute task. I mean, how hard can it be? Just “wax on, wax off.” Right?


After an hour of rubbing a boot I quickly realized even the simplest tasks are going to take some work. I was beyond stressed that I couldn’t get a shine on my boots, and thought I was going to be the only idiot that couldn’t figure it out. The next day at the academy, I learned I was not alone. The majority of us were struggling and it seemed everyone had different theories on how to get a good shine going.

I realized I am not alone in this academy. I have many resources around me and people who will struggle along with me. I asked people who knew what they were doing, and went home that night encouraged. The next week during formation I received a complement from one of the Sergeants about the shine on my boots. After a couple of weeks I have learned during times of frustration I am not alone. I can carry this lesson throughout my career as an Agent with Lakewood Police Department.


Monday, July 23, 2018

No Greater Honor


Please welcome Recruit Joshua. He is a member of the Combined Regional Academy recruit class 2018-2, which started just one week ago.

My name is Lakewood Police Department Recruit Joshua Guerra. I am incredibly happy to share my perspective of our first week in the 2018-2 Combined Regional Academy.

 

I was born and raised in Littleton, Colorado and attended Saint Edward’s University in Austin, Texas where I lived for six years. Following my graduation in May 2017, I was fortunate to work for the Travis County Constable’s Office in Austin as a Warrant Specialist. The members of law enforcement in that office proved to be invaluable mentors and resources as I prepared to return home and begin a career of my own.

 

My Academy classmates and I have chosen what can delicately be described as a tumultuous time in our nation to join law enforcement.  Although it would be easy for our instructors to ignore the harsh realities of the profession, they have certainly not. It’s refreshing. In almost any other career path, employers will actively conceal negative aspects of the job, to attract and retain their still na├»ve employees. Police work is not easy, it is not safe, the hours are not ideal, the job is equally physically and mentally taxing. One resounding truth is reinforced by every veteran who speaks to our class; police work can be the most rewarding career we ever have.

 

By far the most surprising part of my first week has been the other members of the academy. We have, as an entire group, embraced the challenge of the academy. Everyone arrived early the first day and former military members stepped up to lead morning formation. I was staggered during introductions to find our class is littered with law degrees, certified EMT’s, combat veterans, military officers, and almost all were bachelor degree recipients.

My fellow classmates have shown initiative and drive even in the first few days. Put simply, these are the types of people I had hoped to share the streets with. People push each other in our physical workouts, and bring each other up when they need motivation. I have a strong feeing this academy will push me to be a better officer due in part to my classmates.

 

I have no misconceived fantasy that the academy will be smooth sailing the entire way. Warnings from previous graduates and current instructors has prepared the entire group for an absolute grind. Before we participate in firearms, arrest control tactics, and driving courses we must build an educational foundation from which to jump. The next six weeks we will primarily be in a classroom taking notes by day and studying by night, only to start over again the following morning. There is no doubt this first portion of the academy will test our resolve and dedication to our chosen profession. We will rely on one another to earn the right to be called Police Officers, Deputy Sheriffs and Agents.

 

The class motto we have chosen is “No Greater Honor” I could not think of a more appropriate motivation for these 20 weeks with my future brothers and sisters in Blue.



Friday, September 30, 2016

Icing on the Mats


Please welcome Recruit Blake. His class is now halfway through our Academy, a point where the intensity level has reached a peak.

Hi, my name is recruit Blake. I’m honored to have the opportunity to give you a glimpse into the internal workings of the 2016-2 combined regional academy.

 

Some readers might wonder what it’s like to be in the law enforcement field when there is so much controversy surrounding how we do our jobs. Maybe you’re wondering what we think, when we see high profile celebrities and athletes mocking us and making disrespectful comments directed at peace officers.

 

First, people have freedom of speech. This is a freedom that law enforcement is sworn to protect, uphold and honor. Second, we let our actions speak louder than their words by continuing to perform our jobs in a professional manner. We protect the rights of individuals to speak out in a negative manner towards peace officers. We provide them with the same quality service that we provide to individuals who express support for law enforcement. A few poor examples of police officers are not representative of law enforcement as a whole. In the Academy, we consistently talk about how we can positively impact our communities while continuing to enforce and uphold the laws.

 

I am originally from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. I attended Shippensburg University and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 2014. I also had the privilege of competing on the track and field team as a javelin thrower. Therefore, I’m proficient at chucking spears. Before moving to Colorado to join the Lakewood Police Department, I worked as a counselor for a company that was contracted by law enforcement and child protective services. I assisted officers with various tasks. Throughout the process, I realized I would rather be on the front lines enforcing the law and protecting the public. I am extremely grateful to be here and am honored to have this opportunity to serve the city and people of Lakewood.

 

Why did I choose the Lakewood Police department, as it is 1,590 miles from “home?” Last year I drove through the Denver metro area while on a cross country trip with my brother and immediately had a desire to move here. I googled police departments that were hiring in the Denver metro area and it so happened that Lakewood was. After doing some extensive reading about the city and the police department, I decided to apply. Following a visit to the city for a week I knew this was definitely where I wanted to work. I have nothing but respect for the Lakewood Police Department, as they were extremely professional throughout the hiring process.

 

Let’s talk academy life. We are currently half-way through the academy! At this point, we are in the middle of Skills, which consists primarily of firearms training and arrest control techniques. We spend 8 hours at the range each week and 8 hours on the wrestling mats learning the arrest control curriculum. I think this is Agent Beers favorite time of the academy, as he has the opportunity to demonstrate on us how the arrest control skills are applied. I might add, most of the movements inflict various levels of discomfort, appropriate for deescalating situations, encouraging people resisting arrest that continuing to fight would be fruitless.  

 

Speaking of discomfort, all of us had a “shocking experience” last week when we were afforded the opportunity to be tazed. In order to be certified to carry the Taser, the academy requires that we experience a 5 second “ride” on the Taser or, as Metallica might say, we got to “ride the lightning.” We take a Taser hit so that we, as peace officers, know the amount of incapacitation we are inflicting on individuals when we utilize the Taser. 

 

Although we are primarily focusing on building and honing skills, the other aspects of the academy are still in full swing. We continue to take exams every Monday and are currently being tested on Article 9 of the Criminal Code, which consists of public peace and order, cruelty to animals, and offenses involving communications. In addition to being tested every Monday, we must maintain a clean and pressed uniform. Most of our evenings are spent cleaning our firearms, shining boots, pressing uniform pants, studying, icing shoulders, taking the maximum daily dose of Ibuprofen, and occasionally eating dinner. In addition to our 8 hours of arrest control classes each week, we continue to participate in the high intensity cross-fit workouts. Needless to say, ice and Ibuprofen have become some of our closest companions.

 

In a sentence; I’m pumped to serve.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Good Advice


Please help me welcome Recruit Ryan to the Lakewood Police Department. In his blog he discusses being the son of a police officer, to whom Ryan turned for advice during these turbulent times.
My name is Ryan. I'm currently a recruit for the Lakewood Police Department.  I'm privileged to share with you a few brief thoughts about the Combined Regional Academy. 

I attended both Regis University and the University of Colorado.  I previously worked for the State government in Youth Corrections and in the city of Lakewood in Community Corrections.  I'm a Colorado native (did you already guess that?), so I was very excited to start this new career.  

During my first week, some of the stark realities of my chosen profession were broadcast all over the world. The shootings in Baton Rouge and Dallas were intensely covered by the media.  Both incidents were a grim reminder of the ultimate sacrifice every law enforcement officer must be willing to make.  I had considered these aspects of the job previously, but here it was all over the news and social media.  My mother, and my girlfriend both mentioned their worries to me, which I appreciated.  It was hard not to be a little bit uncertain, with what felt like mounting tension against law enforcement and the natural jitters that come with starting a new job.  Perhaps sensing this, my father called me to offer some re-assuring words. 

My dad  told me that when he started his career in law enforcement, the country was experiencing similar tension in the form of the LA Riots.  He was certain any unease I had would pass and reminded me there would be extremely tough days on the job as well.  He told me I was joining a team and brotherhood much bigger than myself.   Finally, I should always do my best professionally and personally to represent the badge, as it was a reflection on all those who share it. Our conversation reinforced all the reasons I had wanted to be in law enforcement and despite recent events and increased media attention, this had not changed in the slightest.  The risks associated with the profession were also the same as they had ever been. 

This was unlike a typical father/son conversation from my perspective for one particular reason; my father is a Denver Police Department Sergeant.  He has been in law enforcement my entire life, with Denver since 1991.  When I was younger his VICE Team stories were always of great interest to me, but this was different.  I listened to his words intently, not only as a son, but as a green recruit looking for tips on how to navigate the profession.

I've never been a part of a professional sports team, but in many ways the Academy is what I imagine a Broncos training or offseason camp might be like.  Playbook memorization is replaced with learning articles of the criminal code and how to apply them.  Practicing skills, such as how to question a suspect or witness, take the place of position drills like route running or blocking.  Strength and conditioning programs are essential to both professions and as such there are CrossFit workouts scheduled just about every week. 

It's been said "you play the way you practice."  One of the hallmarks of Peyton Manning's Hall of Fame career was preparation.  The Academy challenges each recruit to work on their weaknesses outside of the academy.  Whether it is becoming stronger and faster, or applying elements of the Criminal Code, there is always another skill to sharpen or subject to learn.  This preparation time is the hallmark of a professional in any discipline.

As great as one individual may be, they can accomplish far more through the strength of their team, as Bronco Country can attest.  This message is reinforced every day when we sit down in the classroom.  All of our agencies' mission statements, badges, and patches adorn the wall.  I find the most striking feature of the room to be a thin blue line that runs along the entire perimeter of the room.  Occasionally during the day, I look at the plaque explaining the symbolism of this line and reflect on it.  The line represents our team colors and the camaraderie we're building at the academy.

I haven't yet earned the right to consider myself a part of the thin blue line, it is something that I and every other recruit are working towards together over the 22 weeks we spend here.  I look forward to updating you on our progress later on in the academy.