Becoming an officer: What’s Next

single-meta-cal July 17, 2017

Since March, we’ve followed the progress of four cadets in the Huntsville Police Department’s Academy class, which graduated earlier this month. These four new officers – Curtis Mitchell, 21, from Chicago; Randell Plemons, 22, from Springville, Ala.; Latoya Ragland, 28, from Huntsville; and Crystal Vanaria, 26, from Orlando – and the 19 other graduates still have a lot more ahead, both on and off the job. This is the final update for the Becoming an Officer series on the 56th Basic Session Police Academy class.

In some ways, cadets at the Huntsville Police Academy have to put life on hold while going through the intensive 18-week training period.

There’s still plenty of training ahead, but there’s also time to return to some sense of normalcy and tackle other priorities.

Crystal Vanaria, who is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves, had to report for a brief stay not long after graduation and will have a more extensive period of service in the fall. Her fiancé Gregory Kelso is also in the service and will soon be leaving for a distant assignment, so the wedding date is “still to be determined,” she says.

Not so for Randell Plemons. He and fiancée Kim Cohen are set for an October wedding.

Two days after graduation from the Academy, Curtis Mitchell’s wife Tiera gave birth to their second child, Sebastian Alexander, joining two-year-old sister Sophia. Mitchell, a Military Police Officer (MP) in the Army Reserves, will have a return deployment to Guantanamo Bay within the next year.

And Latoya Ragland, mother of three, is simply looking forward to more time with the kids.

Her oldest keeps asking, “Mama, when are you going to get your police car?”

Patience. That’s still a few months away.

Lt. Lee Tribble, who helps Capt. Dewayne McCarver supervise training,  explains that each cadet has 14 more weeks during which they’ll be with Field Training Officers. The cadets will spend four weeks on three different shifts with three different FTOs. Then they spend two more weeks with their initial FTO, who rides along in civilian clothes.

“He just sits back and watches those last two weeks and evaluates them and sees how they work on their own,” Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray says.  “It’s two weeks of basically solo riding before we cut ‘em loose.”

McMurray takes great pride in the diverse opportunities within Huntsville Police Department to serve in more specialized roles. After what he calls “the fastest two years of their life in patrol (where) they will learn every area of the police department that’s out there,” officers begin to branch out. That’s not a “set in stone” time frame, but typical of the progress.

But the bottom line for now, “in October we’ll have 23 new police officers on the street,” McMurray says. “So I’m on the hunt for 23 cars.”

Latoya Ragland’s kids will appreciate that.