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New Class of Cadets Begins Training with Emphasis on Community Policing

June 18, 2007 — Twenty-two young men and women began training in law enforcement at St. Croix’s Patrick Sweeney Police Headquarters Monday morning.
The cadets have embarked on an intensive 20-week law-enforcement training program under the oversight of C. Douglas Jones, the department’s new director of training. Standing in formation, looking straight ahead, the cadets shouted in unison in response to questions from the instructors, much like military recruits with a drill instructor.
Over the upcoming weeks, they will be trained in V.I. law, police ethics, interrogation techniques, traffic-stop procedures and much more. There will be a great deal of physical training, including lots of running and calisthenics, too. Lt. Governor Gregory Francis, a former police officer himself, popped by to offer some words of advice and encouragement, as did St. Croix Administrator Pedro Encarnacion. Police Commissioner James McCall and Assistant Commissioner Novelle Francis shared some nuggets of wisdom as well.
In several respects, this year’s class is a departure from business as usual.
“This is the first time Corrections has been in the class,” McCall said. “Vincent Frazier, the attorney general, wanted his corrections officers to go through the exact same training as the police. From here on, the government wants all law enforcement, at DPNR (Department of Planning and Natural Resources) and Health, to have the same high level of training.”
Of the current class of 22 cadets, 13 aim to be officers in the V.I. Police Department. Four are future corrections officers, four will be marshals at the Superior Court and one will be an enforcement officer for the Health Department.
Four V.I. Police Department training officers, called cadres, will be with the cadets nearly all the time for the next 20 weeks. Individual classes in the many subjects to be covered will be taught by senior officers and by experts from all over the country. Many of the instructors are National Guardsmen from St. Petersburg College, trainers for the federally sponsored Multi-Jurisdictional Counter-Drug Task Force.
Even at the beginning of the training process, the small band of cadets has already been through a highly exclusive testing process. More than 200 individuals initially applied to the police training academy, but after the initial background check and entrance exam, only 85 remained, Jones said. Further personality and psychological testing weeded the number of successful applicants down to 22 individuals.
Lt. Gov. Francis urged the cadets to ask questions, share ideas and push hard to succeed.
“I want to see all of you back here for graduation,” Francis said. “Run the instructors into the ground. If he says we are going two miles today, say back, 'We want to do three miles.' Show them what you can do.”
McCall said they were working to instill a different ethic among new recruits.
“We expect a lot more community involvement when they hit the streets,” he said. “Community-oriented policing is extremely important, so we are taking great efforts to create a better working relationship with the community.”
McCall said he wanted the training to open doors for the recruits.
“Hopefully we can also challenge our recruits and provide different opportunities for them,” he said. “The training should serve them well, whether as police officers, forensic specialists, ballistics experts, K-9 trainers and officers, working with our marine unit or in intelligence.”
Speaking to the recruits, McCall, Jones and Asst. Commissioner Francis all emphasized character.
“One of the major issues in law enforcement is what we call the John Wayne syndrome,” McCall said. “That’s where you get a gun, a car and a badge and you start to believe you’re the big man with the power. That won’t be accepted. We are here to serve the people, not ourselves.”
Jones urged the cadets to lead by example.
“You are special,” he said. “As you know, we tested you all extensively and you all have passed every test so far. But the most important thing is for you to lead by example, to show the community who you are by what you do.”
“Twenty years ago, I sat in these very same seats,” said Asst. Commissioner Francis. “When I came in, I was almost a little nervous, like I was a new recruit again. I love the department and have devoted my life to it. Twenty years later, I am assistant commissioner and guess what? It’s because of the training I received.”
Francis went on to warn the cadets never to bend the rules.
“There is nothing worse than a dirty cop,” he said. “Even the smallest, most harmless thing can start you down that path. And be warned, judges give the harshest sentences to cops who abuse their authority.”
Police officers are in a uniquely hazardous moral position, Francis noted.
“You’ll have split-second decisions to make,” Francis said. “Judges have time to think and precedent to guide them. Other professions, the stakes are not so high and you have more time to think. As a police officer, you may only have a split second to decide whether to take someone’s life. You need to be ready.”
After the opening day remarks were done, the cadets shouted their class motto in unison: “The strong shall survive; the weak shall perish by the wayside. Step aside, step aside, drive on cadre, drive on.” And the training began in earnest.
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