Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Graduation Day

Do you remember your graduation from high school or college? I would guess it was one of your more memorable moments. For those who made up the 103rd graduating class of the Johnson County Regional Police Academy it is no different. On Friday, July 20th, I attended their graduation. I was asked by one of my officers how much the event had changed since I graduated.

To begin with when I attended the training, it was called the Johnson County Police Academy. I was in the second graduating class. At the time the program was 10 weeks long. There was no pre-academy or post-academy as there is today. While today’s academy is likely more structured or disciplined in comparison, the academy in the early stages still did much more than the state of Kansas required. Then officers were required to have at least 180 hours of training to become commissioned, but the Johnson County academy had 400 hours of training. For my class, there was no real graduation “ceremony”.

The program has evolved and is now 16 weeks long. Recruits today are still instructed in the same basics I learned such as law, patrol procedures, investigative procedures and human relations, to name just a few key areas. They must show proficiency in tasks such as firearms, CPR, report writing and emergency vehicle operations. They have 64 hours dedicated to practical problems, and more than 100 hours of fitness, health, defensive tactics and officer safety.

At the end of all this, they now have an actual graduation ceremony. This is complete with awards presentations, a class speaker, a guest speaker and an address by the academy director. They show a video montage full of both good and embarrassing moments - like the officers’ reactions to OC spray. At the end, they are presented with their certificates. Their families and loved ones are invited to be present for the event.

Of the 25 graduating recruits, the City of Overland Park welcomes four new officers. These officers began their post academy training with the city yesterday. A few weeks from now they will actually be placed with Field Training Officers (FTOs) where they will put all their training to use under the watchful eye of an officer who will provide daily evaluations of their performance. The field training program lasts an additional 12 weeks, which they must successfully complete, before they are allowed out on their own.

I am proud to introduce the following four new Overland Park Police Officers.

Officer Joseph "Jay" Ward, badge #1023

Officer Michael Hightower, badge #1024

Officer Nichole Bockover, badge #1025 

Officer Emily Villa, badge #1026