Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Feel The Burn

The next few weeks...well they pretty much sucked.  However, it wasn't necessarily just because of the stresses of the academy.  Due to the fact the we were running and marching around for 15-16 hours a day...I became a victim of athlete's feet.  The body normally hosts a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi. Some of these are useful to the body. Others may, under certain conditions, multiply rapidly and cause infections. Athlete's foot occurs when a particular type of fungus grows and multiplies in your feet, especially between your toes. The most common symptom is cracked, flaking, peeling skin between the toes. The affected area is usually red and itchy.    It can develop from wearing closed toed shoes for long periods of time, keeping your feet wet for prolonged periods of time and sweating a lot.  The academy creates the perfect environment for these things to occur.  You're in boots all day long, you're always running all over the place causing your feet to be sweaty.  Even when you shower, you have such little time that you end up putting your socks on before your feet completely dry.

My feet itched and burned all the time.  When I was home on the weekend I bought some cream and I used it for at least a week and a half and saw no results.  My feet kept itching and burning.  I brought multiple pairs of socks and tried to change socks during the day if I had time, but nothing worked.  I just couldn't get rid of it.  Finally, through some advise from a friend of mine I found a cure.  I simply started to pee on me feet!  Every time I showered, I peed on my feet.  I thought it was crazy at first and it was tough to mentally make myself pee on my own feet but I was out of options.  Sure enough, within a few days...my feet had cleared up. 

I decided to look into this a little more to find out how this would do the trick.  Apparently, there seems to be some controversy on the idea of urine curing athlete's feet.  The compound urea is sometimes used in anti-fungal creams and has shown to break down fungus in some studies.  However, some medical experts argue that the concentration found in urine would not be high enough to cure athlete's feet.  I'm no medical expert so you can do your own research, but it worked for me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Attention To Detail

The next few weeks continued as I had described.  Everyone had a roommate and we lived in a small room similar to that of a college dorm.  In the rooms there were two twin beds with one small pine wood nightstand between them.  Each room had two wall lockers, which was sort of a closet/dresser with  couple drawers inside that was built into the wall.  There was a small sink and mirror between the wall lockers.  On the other side of the room were two desks. We woke up everyday at 5:15 am to get a head start at making the "racks" or the beds.  They had to be made military style, as tight as possible with the hospital corners at a perfect 45 degree angle.  The clothes hanging in the wall lockers had to be facing a certain direction, hung up in a certain order, and organized to mirror the wall locker of your roommate.  All the buttons had to be buttoned and zippers zipped.  The drawers inside the wall locker which were sort of a tiny dresser also had to be organized a certain way.  The top drawer was for toiletries, everything was organized neatly, smallest item to largest item with the labels facing up.  The other drawers were for your clothes.  They also needed to be organized a certain way and all of your clothes had to be neatly rolled in the drawer.  Not only did roommates need to make sure that their things were perfectly identical, but the entire class had to have everything organized identically.  If you were changing, the blinds had to be put down...if you were not or if you ever left the room, the blinds had to be exactly half way up and the door had to be open.  The rooms had to be perfectly clean, meaning no dust anywhere, no pieces of lint on the carpet, no water spots in the sink...perfect!  

If anything was not squared away in your rooms, they would be trashed!  Everything in the wall lockers would be thrown all over the rooms, beds would be flipped over with sheets and blankets all over the room.   One time we came back and our mattresses were in the middle of the room, leaning against one another to make a teepee. I'm sure  you're thinking that this doesn't sound too difficult.  I was thinking the same thing before experiencing it.  Follow instructions and you're good right?  You make mistakes because you have no time.  Everytime you are changing clothes, making the racks or cleaning, you are trying to do it as quickly as possible.  The stress that you are under causes you to miss little details.

Every morning at 6am, we have morning stretch.  We form up as a class and march down to the gym, run some laps, do some stretching, and some other light exercises for about 20 minutes just to get the blood flowing. We have class 8 hours a day and have an hour of PT, physical training, everyday as well.  After dinner at night, we have to lift weights, study/type notes from the classes you had that day, and then clean the academy until it's time to go to bed. 

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner were no time to let down your guard and take a break.  We marched in, you got your tray, (whatever happened to be on the plate was what you took) and sat down at the table.  You ate your food as fast as you could.  There was no talking and no looking around, no looking at anything other than the food that was sitting in front of you.  I'm a slow eater typically so this was challenging for me.  I would take a drink after every bite of food I took to help me swallow it faster.  One day I timed the amount of time it took us to eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  From the time we started eating to the time we were leaving the cafeteria, it averaged out to be a little more than 5 minutes.  I don't know why but the academy has some infatuation with peanut butter.  I love peanut butter but I've never been anyplace where there is a jar sitting on every table.  A lot of times we didn't get enough food or didn't have enough time to eat everything so we just grabbed a scoop of peanut butter out of the jar to help fill you up. 

One day at lunch, the instructors were yelling at people while they were eating.  "Stop looking around! You're eyes should only be on your plate!  Hey You!! What are you looking at!"  They singled out two or three different people for looking around.   A few minutes later I looked up from my plate to look at the people at my table to see if they were done eating.  When we finished eating, we had to wait for everyone at the table to finish eating because we all had to get up at the exact same time.  I didn't want to be the one to hold up the table so I was checking to see if everyone was done.  BAD IDEA!

"Towers!!  Can't you follow directions!? Couldn't you hear me yelling at Rodriguez!?"

I freaked out and an excuse just blurted out of my mouth.

"Sir, I was looking for the peanut butter, Sir."  This was not true at all of course but it just came out.  As soon as I said it, I realized that the cadet right across from me had the peanut butter in his hands.  I freaked out again because I knew the instructor would see that and know that I was lying, which was the #1 wrong thing to do at the academy.  I quickly tried to prepare to counter the yelling that was about to take place. 

"He's got the peanut butter Towers! Right in front of you!"

I knew he was going to say that and the only thing I could come up with in the seconds that this unfolded was, "Sir, I was looking for the crunchy peanut butter, Sir."

This turned out to be the perfect excuse because the crunchy jar was sitting on the other side of the napkin holder just beyond the direction I was originally looking. 

"For God sakes, would somebody get him the peanut butter!" he yelled! 

I about shit my pants. I had narrowly avoided a disaster.

The purpose of this environment that is created is to train you to pay to attention to details.  It trains your eyes and your brain to notice when the smallest things are out of place.  If you are running down the hallway and don't notice the tiny piece of lint on the carpet and pick it up, you wished you would have.  This environment trains you for real life on the streets.  In the academy, if you miss something or don't pick up on a tiny detail, it's only a button or a dust bunny or a piece of lint.  On the street, however, it could be something much more important.  What if you miss the subtle signs that the interaction you having with a violator are about to go south?  What if you miss that gun or a knife?   It's the buttons and lint in the academy now, that will ensure that you go home at the end of your shift when it's real and you're on the street.

We lost our second guy by week 3.  He was on crutches for most of the week from running we did the week before.  I'm not too sure of the details, but basically he was told he'd be on crutches for a while.  The academy determined that it would cause him to miss out on too much, so he was sent home.  Going into week 4 we were down to 20 people.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wake Up Call

I apologize for the lack of entries in the past 7 weeks.  To put it simply, there has been absolutely no time to do anything not related to the academy.  We just finished week 7 of the 18 week long police academy, so we're not quite half way.  I have tried to make notes of things I have experienced along the way.  I will do my best to walk you through the first few weeks of the academy. 

I arrived on the first morning at 0630, we were to report by 0700, so I was plenty early.  My car was loaded with everything we were required to bring.  I had a suitcase and a duffel bag full of enough underwear and pairs of socks for a week, a swimsuit, a robe, white t-shirts, sweatshirt, sweatpants, shower shoes, wrestling shoes, running shoes, boots, toiletries and shoe cleaning supplies, and my labtop in a labtop bag. I carried 6 hangers - 3 uniform shirts and 3 uniform pants.  I also had my duty belt, my gun, and almost 3,000 rounds of ammunition in the trunk of my car which I chose to leave there for the time being.  I walked into the lobby of the academy with Michelle and Scott, the other two that I was hired with in South Place who would be going through the academy with me.  Scott and I are both 22 but Michelle is a few years older than us at 26. 

There were several people already waiting in the lobby.  We would begin with a class of 22.  It was pretty quiet because everyone was so nervous for what was to come.  Inside the lobby there was a set of glass doors that led to another hallway.  On the other side of that hallway we could see the troopers walking back in forth in their stetsons, they would look through the doors at us and walk away, as if they were just waiting to pounce on us.  At exactly 0700, 3 troopers came busting through the doors screaming and yelling, "Pick up your trash and lets go!  Hurry Up!  Pick up your trash!  You're taking to long! Get your trash off the deck!"  I frantically hurried to try to round up all my stuff.  They led us down several dark hallways and back outside to the parking lot.  We walked so fast it was almost a jog, which was extremely difficult while trying to carry the suitcase, duffel bag, labtop bag, and uniforms.  The screaming and yelling continued.  By the time we got to the parking lot my legs were burning and I was already dripping in sweat.  We stopped in front of the entrance where we had gone in which made no sense because we literally just did a big circle around the building and came right back out to where we had started.  Two of the academy staff Sergeants introduced themselves.  "Get your trash off the deck!" they yelled.  Everyone had set down their bags on the pavement because they were tired from carrying them for so long.  We all struggled to pick up all of our crap.  Just as we got our bags hung on our arms, a Sgt. yelled again, "Get the trash out of your gun hand!  Carry everything in your left hand!  How are you supposed to reach for your weapon if you have trash in your gun hand!  We never carry anything in our gun hand!" 

After introductions by the academy staff, we followed them around to the barracks where we would put our belongings.  It was a long way to carry everything in just one arm.  I was soaked in sweat and every muscle in my body was burning.  When I got to my room I just dropped everything.  The next few days would consist of endless amounts of yelling!  We had a time limit for everything we did.  You got "x" amount of minutes to put your trash away and so on.  The stress level was through the roof and I don't recall a time in the first week where I wasn't drenched in sweat.  I later described the feeling to one of my buddies the best way I knew how.  You know when you wake up in the morning and realize, Oh crap! I'm late!  You run around the house on an adrenaline rush grabbing all of your things.  Well, that is how things are at the academy pretty much all of the time unless you are sleeping.  The stress causes you to lose fine motor skills.  I vividly remember trying to put my uniform on with instructors screaming at us from the hallway to hurry up!  I couldn't button buttons, put on socks, and couldn't even get my belt through the belt loops.  I was shaking because I was trying to work quickly and couldn't manage to do anything with my hands. 

We lost our first guy on the second night.  We were practicing marching in formation in the gym.  We had been marching for probably an hour and a half.  Despite being yelled at for everything throughout the duration of this, it really wasn't that hard and was a nice break, at least I thought so.  As it was called out for us to "column left", one guy "columned right" and went right out the gym door.  The Sgt. screamed from across the gym, "Where are you going!!"  "Oh shit, I thought, What just happened?"  Everyone was confused.  The Sgt. ran out after him and didn't come back so we just kept marching for at least another 30 minutes by ourselves in the gym until he came back in and told us that we would now be a class of 21.  You truly had to be there to appreciate the humor in the events because the guy who quit literally marched out! He pivoted and marched off to the right, in step and everything...right out the door.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Taser, Taser

This is the 10th installment in chronicling my journey into law enforcement.  If you'd like to read from the beginning, it is best to start at The Foundation.

We have been working 8 hour days since we got sworn in last week.  For the most part we have just been doing a whole lot of sitting around.  We were issued our duty weapon as well as our duty belt and uniforms for the academy that starts next week.  I have never really shot a hand gun in my life besides a .22 so this was pretty new to me.  We never had guns in the house when I was growing up so I was a little timid at first and took me a while before I started to feel comfortable just with loading and putting in the mags and practicing getting the gun out of the holster, and we were only practicing with dummy rounds!  Eventually we shot off live rounds at some targets just to familiarize ourselves with the weapons so that it isn't completely new to us when we shoot in the academy.  I didn't do too bad, but I definitely have a lot of room for improvement!  It is not as easy as they make it look in the movies.

They have been rotating us around so that we are able to meet different people and see different parts of the department in these two weeks before we head off to the academy.  I spent an afternoon in the dispatch center, watching them work and experiencing the things that they have to do on a regular basis.  As much as police officers like to complain about dispatchers, I could never do their job!  There are way too many computer screens, phone calls, and just tons of information coming from everywhere.

One day I spent the day with the detectives.  I sat in on an interview with one of the detectives.  We were interviewing this 16 year old male who was "sexting" with a 13 year old female.  The young man was straight forward and honest about everything, so the situation was used more to educate the teens than anything else. I'm sure they will be charged with unruly or something of the sorts, but its mostly just a thing to learn from. 

I also have spent several days riding along in the cruisers with patrol officers.  In those instances, I was on day shift so we didn't have anything too crazy happen.  We made some traffic stops, wrote some tickets, found a little marijuana once, found a couple different people driving under suspension, and stopped one guy for speeding who had a warrant and was then arrested.

Tonight we had Taser Training!  Tasers are used by police departments as a way to gain compliance from resisting individuals in a non-lethal way.  The photo to the right is actually the model we carry and used in our training.  Tasers use an electric current (50,000 volts) to stimulate the sensory and motor nerves to cause involuntary muscles contractions throughout the entire body.  The cartridge on the left end of the taser pictured holds two small dart like electrodes which are connected to the unit by a conductive wire.  There is a small barb on the end of this dart like probe, like what you would see on a fishing hook.  Those are fired out based on the propellant from a small nitrogen charge in the cartridge. When someone is shot, their brain's ability to control the muscles in the body is interupted, called neuromuscular incapacitation.  This is extremely painful and cannot be overcome. However, once the electricity stops flowing, the subject regains control of their body and pain ceases.  When you turn it on, pull the trigger and shoot someone, the cycle will last for 5 seconds.  The idea is that during these five seconds, your backup should be getting a hold of the suspect to gain control of his/her hands and get them cuffed.  Contrary to what some may think, the officers holding on to the suspect will not be shocked just because they are touching him/her...they are safe. 

We sat through a long slide show presentation and had to learn about all of this stuff and practice with empty cartidges.  It is the South Place PD's policy that all officers take at least a one second long shock.  Several of the officers I talked to took the full ride (5 seconds), so I decided that I would take the full ride as well.  You can do this one of two ways.  Either by being shot with the probes I described or they can clip alligator clips to you and you can do it that way.  The clips burn your skin and the probes is like being shot with fish hooks so it's your own preference.  I chose just to be shot with the probes.  When people are tased they fall to the ground, so two officers held on to me and helped lower me to the ground when my body lost control.  The instructor had two cartidges that had broken blast doors on the cartidge and he wanted to use those for the training.  I did not know this and there is a chance that the cartridges could malfunction without the blast doors, causing a "dud".  This happened to me of course, not just once, but twice!  I stood there in anticipation, scared to death as the officers hold on to me.  I told him I was ready,  he said "taser, taser", and then tried to fire.  Nothing happened.  I was like what the hell?  I breathed a sigh of relief, regained my composure and we tried this process again.  Nothing happened.  Ok I could not take this!  He grabbed a brand new cartridge and we repeated again. This time it worked. 

No words will ever make you understand the pain that you feel.  It was definitely the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life.  You tense up, have no control, fall to the ground, and 5 seconds feels like an eternity!  It doesn't just hurt where the probes go into your skin...the pain shoots through your whole body from your head to your feet, if I remember correctly at around 19 pulses per second.  When the 5 seconds was up, it was done..no more pain.  For a few minutes I felt a little bit tingly and I laid there until the other recruits pulled the probes out of my back.  Your body is still sort of numb so you really don't feel them coming out, and even if you do...it is no comparison to the pain you just experienced so you don't even care.  In the minutes thereafter, my body felt extremely drained.  Imagine how you feel after runnning a 5K or working out really hard, that is the sort of sensation that my body was experiencing after I recovered and was back on my feet.

It was so painful, it sucked.  I can honestly say I hope I never have to experience it again.  If we have to do it in the academy,  I am only taking the minimum time and that is it.  I can't imagine having to do it again....once was enough for me. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Law Enforcement Officers, Get Your Federal Perkins Loans Cancelled

Attention Law Enforcement Officers Who Have Attended College:

This may be old news, but it is new to me and I thought I would share with anyone interested.  As a full-time law enforcement officer you qualify to have your Federal Perkins Loans cancelled.  A borrower may have all or part of his or her loan (including interest) cancelled for engaging in public service and a law enforcement career is one of the qualifiers.  The provisions vary based on the date that your loan was disbursed.  I would encourage anyone who accepted a Perkins Loan to look into this to see if you qualify.

A borrower may be entitled to receive cancellation benefits for full-time service as a qualifying law enforcement or corrections officer. To establish the eligibility of a borrower for this benefit, the school must determine a) the borrower's employing agency is eligible and b) the borrower's position is essentials to the agency's primary mission.
  • A local, state, or federal agency is an eligible employing agency if it is publicly funded and its activities pertain to crime prevention, control, or reduction or to the enforcement of the criminal law. Such activities include, but are not limited to, police efforts to prevent, control, or reduce crime or to apprehend criminals; activities of courts and related agencies having criminal jurisdiction; activities of corrections, probation, or parole authorities; and problems relating to the prevention, control, or reduction of juvenile delinquency or narcotic addiction. Agencies that are primarily responsible for enforcement of regulatory, civil, or administrative laws are ineligible.
  • For the borrower's position to be considered essential to the agency's primary mission, he or she must be a full-time employee of an eligible agency and a sworn officer or person whose principal responsibilities are unique to the criminal justice system and are essential in the performance of the agency's primary mission. The agency must be able to document the employee's functions.
Individuals whose official responsibilities are supportive, such as those that involve filing, typing, accounting, office procedures, purchasing, stock control, food service, transportation, or building, equipment or grounds maintenance are not eligible regardless of where these functions are performed. A borrower employed as a public defender also does not qualify for this benefit. Note: Borrowers serving as campus police or military police do qualify for this benefit. The cancellation rate is as follows:
  • 15% of the original principal loan amount and accrued interest for the first and second years of service.
  • 20% of the original principal loan amount and accrued interest for the third and fourth years of service.
  • 30% of the original principal loan amount and accrued interest for the fifth year of service.
Eligibility - Perkins loans made on or after November 29, 1990 or NDSL loans made before November 29, 1990 for service performed beginning October 7, 1998
Maximum Amount Canceled - Up to 100%

For more information - ACS-Education.com

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oath Of Office

This is the 9th installment chronicling my journey into law enforcement.  If you would like to read from the beginning, it is best to start with The Foundation.

The goal was to be in bed by 23:00, I think I was there by 00:30, but I know I saw almost every hour there after.  I have never been so happy to be up at 5am.  The 90 minute car drive went surprisingly smooth, I plan to rotate between commuting, staying at a friend's, and splitting a hotel with another recruit because we still have two and a half weeks before the academy starts.

We were sworn in by taking the oath of office.  I was excited because my parents, youngest brother, and grandparents were going to be in attendance for the ceremony!  When I got downstairs to the first floor of the Municipal Building I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they also brought along a close friend and mentor of mine.  He has been in law enforcement for some time and has helped me out tremendously throughout all of these hiring processes, so it meant a lot to me that he was there.

The mayor said a few short words and then called us three recruits to come up separately to take our oaths. IDressed in a black suit with pin stripes, a light blue shirt, and a tie, I can't describe how I was feeling just before I was called up.  I was trembling just slightly in a state of nervousness, but it still didn't feel "complete" yet.  We hadn't gone through the academy yet and would still have to make it through 18 weeks of basic before our graduation date in July.  It is required that all recruits are sworn officers before they are sent to the academy so this explains why it may seem a little backwards to some of you.  I think I will finally feel that level of accomplishment that I've been longing for when I graduate from the academy and can finally say that I am a certified police officer.  However, the swearing in ceremony was still very exciting for me and there was definitely a sense of accomplishment in knowing that the hiring processes were over with!!

"I, Thomas S. Towers, do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of this State, and the Ordinances of the City of South Place and will faithfully, honestly, and impartially discharge the duties of Police Officer for the City of South Place."

My Dad has been on the Fire Dept. back home for over 30 years.  The last 10 years or so he has been serving as Chief.  He was there to pin my police badge on me for the first time.  I felt that it was a pretty special moment for us both.