education


Where: Rio Hondo College, Wray Theater, Whittier, California
When: July 13, 2012
What: Rio Hondo College College Police Academy, Class 2012-1 Graduation
Who: Cadet William Campbell, Class President
By: Susan Campbell

You’re welcome for being spared the first 11 minutes of the monologue and just showcasing these last three, which to me are the most important and meaningful part of the whole thing, anyway. Not that the first 11 are garbage, just prologue primarily.

And apologies in advance for the baby sitting directly in front of my wife. Over her mother’s shoulder and facing backward, the infant starts up with some serious and continuous fussing basically directly into the camera’s mic about a minute or so before the end and pretty effectively masks what I say.

One of the reasons for the total lack of updates recently has been due to the fact that this month of June has been a very stressed and focused and culminating time of my ongoing public safety training , requiring pretty much most of my attention and relegating any communications on the internest to my Facebook page.

But now June is done. And while this past month has been the toughest most demanding part of my looooong 13-month journey, it’s the final segment of this latest phase in what initially began as a kernel of an idea four years ago. The idea to quit being the inevitable pawn in the various journalism chess games I’ve played this past 20 years and instead do something veeeeery different and far more fulfilling in becoming a humane law enforcement officer, aka, an “animal cop,” more than four years ago.

I know people at my advanced age aren’t supposed to chart such dramatic changes in course, but then I’ve rarely acted my age.  So it is with a sense of pride and accomplishment that I report the successful completion of all gradeable aspects of my training, and thus can now proceed through the final two weeks of scheduled instruction with my fellow cadets of Rio Hondo Police Academy Class 2012-1 to graduation, which will take place July 13 at 10 a.m. at Rio Hondo College.

I still have a ways to go in the process that I hope will conclude with me joining the Animal Protection Services Department within the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA), but I wouldn’t be able to proceed with that final step without achieving this one.

If you’re interested in attending the ceremony at the college in Whittier I would love to have you there. I’ve posted the event’s details here on Facebook.

In my 49-year history (as of yesterday) of birthdays, yesterday’s ranked up there with the most memorable. Not because of any type of celebration or gift (I’m not really into either of those, anyway) — or disaster for that matter, such as my 34th when I went out for lunch from where I was working at the time to go to the nearest ATM and while in route got into a traffic collision that totaled my Honda Civic in front of the mayor’s mansion in Hancock Park, no less. Yes, that’s a birthday to remember, for sure.

No. Yesterday’s birthday was just another day in the almost year-long string of days involving my ongoing public safety training, but this one, coincidentally, involved the entire class singing “Happy Birthday” to me not once, but twice — a feat never before have I experienced.

But first and more importantly and stressfully, the evening also featured another unique aspect: our final written exam, called the “End of Module Proficiency” test, or EOMP. Incorporating some 23 learning domains studied, and tested throughout the past year, there’s a level of anxiety the 90-question, two-hour exam induces — especially for someone of my advanced age whose memory banks can find occasion to be decidedly less sticky than in my younger days.

Thankfully, I managed to recall enough right answers and did not end up having my first exam fail happen on such a personal milestone. Afterwards in the testing room and in an uncharacteristic display of congratulations, our tactical officer and exam proctor announced before the class that it was my birthday and ordered them to sing “Happy Birthday” to me.

The second round came a short while later back in our classroom adjacent the testing room for another session of radar certification class, and  involved a batch of chocolate cookies for the occassion, baked by our instructor.

Backstory: the only reason my birthday was known to her, is that when we began radar instruction a couple weeks ago, she invited us all to stand up and introduce ourselves and include our age. When it came my turn, I said that I would be turning 49 at the end of this month. “What day?” she asked and I told her, wherein she mentioned that she loves to bake and asked if I’d like cookies or cake. Somewhat surprised and embarrassed I asked for the latter.

So there we are at the beginning of class last night and she’s standing there with a plate of chocolate chip cookie goodness ready to distribute.

“I heard you guys sing Happy Birthday next door,” she said, “don’t think you’re not singing it again,” to which some of my classmates rolled their eyes and sighed, giving me just enough time to reach into my bag, turn my camera on and hit record before they obliged (click the link below to hear):

My Classmates Sing Me “Happy Birthday” A Second Time

The cookies were delicious.

Twenty rounds at about 10 yards. First half aimed at center mass. Second half aimed at the head. Gotta work on tightening my groupings with the first, and a slightly low sight alignment on the second, but overall there’s improvement in my results.

Weapon: 9mm Glock. Location: Firing Line, Burbank

The public safety training program within which I’m enrolled at Rio Hondo College began its second module yesterday. In the first module the physical aspect of the course was minimized. And initially this module wasn’t going to focus much stronger upon it. But that changed early on in the first module when the schedule for this one was amended — in large part to better prepare us for the third module, in which our endurance and fitness and exposure to real-world experiences will be most regularly tested.

So we got down to brass tacks yesterday, and after a discussion and lecture from our instructors we transitioned from the classroom to the mat room, for the first short version of what’s to be 20 Physical Training (PT) sessions over the course of the module, and what honestly was but a teeny little taste of how much more my ass is going to get kicked.

To quote one of the instructors afterwards, “This was the easiest it’s ever going to be.”

“Easy” and abbreviated as it was, this one kicked my ass, too. It consisted of a variety of warm-up movements and short sprints, followed by 20 regulated pushups (Down and hold. Up and hold. “One Sir!” Down and hold. Up and hold. “Two Sir!”). Those were immediately followed by 10 “downdownupups” (for lack of the proper nomenclature), in which one starts at pushup position, goes down on one elbow then the other elbow so that you’re then at plank position. Then you climb back up to pushup position from one elbow and then the other: Down! Down! Up! Up! “One Sir!”

I managed to do everything well enough not to draw the attention and derision of the instructors (i.e., I put out 100%; aka I didn’t pull a hamstring during the sprints, or vomit, or fall flat on my stomach after the seventeenth pushup or eighth downdownupup crying in fully fatigued agony).

But I certainly drew a scowl shortly afterward back in the classroom as we commenced that evening’s instruction on property crimes.

Getting from PT back to that classroom was bridged by a tight 25 minutes allotted to shower and change from our PT gear into our full Class B uniforms and form up outside. I accomplished that with several minutes to spare but by the time I took my seat in the class I was one dazed (and still hot and sweating) mess. And just in time to be on the receiving end of a question from the instructor.

“Campbell! What is probable cause? Go!”

But I didn’t “Go!” In those moments afterward, I sat there blankly staring out from my desk and wracking my fogged brain and I seriously couldn’t come up with anything resembling a definition or explanation of what’s one of — if not THE — most crucial element of the law enforcement job I hope to one day obtain.

Finally I owned my ignorance and shook my head telling the instructor that at that present moment I was at a total and complete loss for words — which was true. Unacceptable, but true. I swear, if he’d asked “Campbell! What’s your last name? Go!” I would’ve had to fight to keep from looking at my driver license.

Anyway. If they gave prizes for scowls, the one he gave me was award-winning and it was followed rhetorically by “Are you kidding me?”

I was very much not, and very much ashamed.

Of course, if the instructor called me on the phone right now and asked me to define probable cause after my good night’s sleep and breakfast with me sitting in my comfy chair and not a pushup or downdownupup in sight, I’d be able to tell him that probable cause is the facts and circumstances that present themselves, allowing an officer to conclude that a crime is or has been committed. Or I could say that probable cause is what must exist for an arrest or search to be made without a warrant.

But that’s not how things work in this career I’ve set my sights on, and what happened yesterday is something of a mirror image or microcosm of what very well may happen in the field. It’s totally conceivable that I might endure a period of intense physical exertion followed near immediately by a debriefing, and I most certainly won’t have the luxuries of rest and food in between.

And that’s the gut-check lesson learned in between the physical and academic lessons taught last night. There’s no time-out in this game. I’ve got to man up, get my mind right and get to that physical and mental ready-state — and quick.

 

Has it been 10 months already since I showed up at Rio Hondo College for an informational meeting on their police academy program, with an eye toward becoming an “animal cop?”

Yep.

And about nine months since I took the written exam.

And eight and a half months since the physical agility test kicked my out-of-shape ass.

A couple weeks after that ordeal, I was notified by academy personnel that my combined scores were good enough to get me an invite to be a candidate for the scheduled class. An orientation was slated for the latter part of September with the class planned to commence in November, pending the go ahead from the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), the state organization that overseas such law enforcement programs.

Then things slowed down. First the recently hired academy director surprised everyone by quitting. That pretty much threw the program into disarray and forced the cancellation of the September orientation and brought a letter stating that all candidates should sit tight, fingers were crossed in hopes things would get going soon, but probably later.

In November the newly hired director sent out an email introducing himself, and expressed tentative confidence that springtime was doable. Then came December, January, February and March, and no news.

So I wrote the director last month and asked for an update and reiterated my interest in being a member of that class, but that the window was closing. He wrote back appreciating my patience and saying they’d just had a final visit from the POST people and while things were still not set at least they were looking hopeful to happen sooner rather than later.

I’ve been hedging and holding on through these months, but after that I finally drew my line in the sand. Rio Hondo had to the end of this month to get things set. If May 1 came and there was no news than I was done with that dream of becoming a duly sworn and authorized Humane Law Enforcement officer.

An email from Rio Hondo College Police Academy came today that opened with:

GREAT NEWS! We have been given official POST approval to present the Module III class. Module III will start on Wednesday evening 06/06/12 and end on 08/08/12.

I’m not sure if I’ll have the distinction of being the oldest incoming Rio Hondo College Police Academy recruit, but I’m willing to find out. So here we go.

This just in from my inbox:

FROM: Rio Hondo College
TO: William Campbell
SUBJECT: Rio Hondo College Police Academy

CONGRATULATIONS! You are invited to join the upcoming Rio Hondo College Police Academy class.

 

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