Becoming an officer: Journey begins for cadets in 56th Police Academy

single-meta-cal March 7, 2017

The Huntsville Police Department’s new Police Academy class officially began on March 6 after several weeks of preliminary meetings and assignments. The class of some 30 officers will graduate in July. We’ll regularly follow four members as they share their stories of the Academy. Here are the four, with their early observations and thoughts on the eve of the Police Academy’s start:

Curtis Mitchell, 21, a native of Chicago. Married, with two-year-old daughter and another child on the way. Father Curtis Mitchell II is a Chicago police officer. Served as military policeman in Army Reserves, with recent deployment at Guantanamo Bay.

“Being in the military, going through basic training, I think that’s prepared me for the Academy. Everybody who has not been in the military is kinda nervous about Monday, kinda shaken up about it. I know a little of what to expect. They put you through a lot, and I know a lot of it’s mental. As long as you tough it out, you should be alright.

I’m in good shape. Working out has actually become a hobby for me. The gym is six days a week for me.

My father always told me stories about being a police officer, and growing up as a boy you’re a fan of super heroes. I thought it was cool going out and helping others and being a good Samaritan, things like that.

I’ve wanted to be a police officer my whole life and starting next week, my dream will begin.”

Watch our Facebook Live from Day 1 of the 56th Academy

Randell Plemons, 22, from Springville, Ala. Engaged. A 2016 graduate of the University of Montevallo. Father Mark worked 16 years as a Huntsville police officer.

“I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. My dad has been a policeman for a very long time. He was always able to provide for his family, and I want to do the same when I have one.

He encouraged me (to become a police officer). Every time an academy class opened up, he let me know about it. He was really pushing this one.

So far it’s been a little bit of introductory work and (physical training). We started to learn how to write reports, because that’s a big deal. I go home and study every night, and the first week we had a few assignments. We had to study our 10 codes (the radio codes; i.e., 10-4). We had 10 code quizzes to learn how to talk on the radio. And the second week, when I had a ride-along, that helped out a lot. We could understand what was coming across the radio.

I am very excited. I can’t wait to get started. I’m in good shape, but I know I won’t be able to do everything. I’m very confident they’ll teach us everything we need to know.”

Applications opened on March 6 for the 57th Police Academy. Apply through March 31

Latoya Ragland, 28, from Huntsville. Married mother of three. Former track star at Butler High (three state titles) who earned track scholarship to Troy University.

“Some people, some outsiders think I’m crazy for doing this, but the benefits are good and there seems to be lots of opportunities for advancement within the department.

The first two weeks have required a lot of discipline and just trying to stay focused. I think everybody is excited and nervous at the same time. We had a lot of homework, studying our manuals. It wasn’t bad, just time consuming. I had to make time at night when I’m home with my kids. I still have to cook and do things around the house, so I’ve had to sacrifice some of my sleeping time to study.

PT (physical training) is definitely tough. I have a one-year-old so I’m just getting back in the groove. I have to work more on my running.

I’m excited to start the process. I think a lot of people are tired of hearing about how it’s going to be this bad, going to be that bad. I’m ready to start the process. The sooner we start, the sooner we finish it.”

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Crystal Vanaria, 25. From Orlando. Engaged. Graduate of University of Central Florida, with double major in criminal justice and studio art, and had internship with UCF campus police. Serves in U.S. Army Reserve. Previously employed at Dynetics.

“It’s like any other story. I wanted to be a police officer since I was a child. But I wanted to make sure this was the right career goal for me, so I went to college and studied for it.

So far it’s just been a very brief introduction. We’ve had an overview on writing good reports and how that can save you from trouble in the future. We got to experience ride-alongs last week to see first-hand what it’s like to be on patrol. I know during the Academy it’s going to be a lot more of a high stress environment to prepare for things that will happen while we’re on patrol.

Physically, it’s harder for me to gain muscle strength or weight, so that concerns me. But throughout my military experience, I’ve learned how to not quit, and push through and stay confident.”

Read more in our series:  Becoming an Officer: One Step at a Time