Talks with Tom #39

We are at a stage where George is into everything.

Everything.

This box was under a table with the paper stuffed inside.

We turned our spare bedroom into a master closet for Tom and I since it has a bathroom attached to it. So naturally there are clothes everywhere.

I love doing laundry. It is probably my favorite chore, but once we moved here I stopped doing Tom’s laundry because he just has all of his clothes on the floor instead of the baskets I so nicely organized for him when we moved here.

George does not like being in the bouncer much anymore. He is only in it when he has his morning bottle while I try to hurry through a shower. But once I can have eyes on him, I let him out of the bouncer to roam free.

And of course he plays with everything but his toys. There is so much to get into, like daddy’s underwear and dry cleaning hangers.

So I brought it to Tom’s attention that we needed to do a better job keeping that room a little cleaner since George roams and I was constantly pulling possibly dirty boxers out of George’s mouth.

This is the response conversation of picking up more.

Tom: I am lost when you don’t do my laundry.

Me: I would do it but I am not sure what is clean or not when you dump it on the floor.

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Tom: It’s easy. Clean and dirty are separated by this backpack.

Me: Oh yes because that makes it so clear.

On the list to buy for the house is even more laundry baskets for him.

Does anyone else share in this dilemma?

“Not Enough Training” They Say

11091388_10100771058365221_6676376369903130265_nThis weekend marked a big milestone in Tom’s career.

It was the first time he patrolled on his own.

He has officially moved past his training phase.

If you didn’t recall, he started this police position last December.

9 months ago.

I don’t know about you, but there aren’t many jobs that I know of that don’t let you out on your own for 9 months after you start.

Since there are a lot of people out there in the world (media) saying that police officers need more training, I thought I would shed some light on Tom’s training process.

(Disclaimer, I am speaking from our experience. Many departments will have similar structures but their timeline may be shorter/longer depending on size and demands of their officers. It also will look vastly different if they are hired with a police academy under their belt.)

Let’s start from the beginning.

Tom started working PD a week before Christmas in 2014. He had about 2 weeks of HR and administrative training. He also did some ride-alongs with other officers at this time. During this time, he went through some hand-gun retention training and taser facilitation from his department.

From January to April, he was in the Academy. The Academy he went through was an independent course that certifies officers in Missouri; so several different departments and individuals around the state attend here. The Academy is set up like a school where they are typically in class from 9-5, Monday-Friday. There were also many (many) nights that they did scenarios as well. So it was well beyond 40 hours a week most weeks. The academy is mixed between an actual classroom setting and situational training.

There is nothing that is just a lecture or just experiential learning. Everything had a classroom component before you did hands on training. For example, defensive driving had a whole classroom portion that talks about all the physics of the turns and the mechanics of the vehicle before they ever get to the range. This way the officers have a foundation before they have the experience. So they spent about 12 hours of classroom time talking about it, and then another 12 hours out on an airport tarmac actually driving a car through an obstacle course.

IMG_0030These are just a few of the topics that were covered during his time in the academy.

  • communication
  • constitutional law
  • criminal law
  • traffic law
  • driving while intoxicated
  • hand guns and shot guns
  • pepper-spray (everyone gets sprayed)
  • control defense tactics (hand-to-hand)
  • investigations:  homicide, rape, burglary, etc.
  • building searches
  • use of force and justification

IMG_0293They also had a variety of guest speakers from a different agencies that police officers may work with (Conservation, Lawyers, etc.).

Again, this is not an exhaustive list because the class is 4 months long, and I am not writing out the curriculum for you. I don’t have time for that here! It is hard to do justice to all of it because of nature of content.

Edit:  As someone pointed out, the concern is often that they are not trained on diversity issues. I assure you that human differences was not only it’s own topic, they discussed how to work with various groups and individual identities during every lecture and practical application. On each topic there were points made on how culture and group dynamics will impact how you handle the situation. They are constantly making observations and assessing how best to approach the community to help serve resolutions and leave the community better and safer. They receive constant training on mental issues, diversity, bias, equality, etc. It is interwoven into every broader training session because they are always dealing with people’s identities no matter what the situation may be. They are constantly challenged to be counselors, negotiators, problem-solvers, and more, so yes they do talk and are trained about diversity issues. On the daily.

There were regular exams throughout the Academy, approximately one a week. Tom said they were harder than any college course that he took. (And he has a degree in Criminal Law.) You had to receive an 80% or you failed. If you fail the test, you could take one retake, and the tests were not the same. You have to pass the retake or you are done. And you are only allowed to do two retakes in the entire course. And done means that you are kicked out of the academy. So academically you had to be pretty sound.

IMG_0162Not included with those content tests, they also had weekly spelling tests on police related words. On top of all of this, they had to do weekly reports to practice their report writing.

Those were the in-class assessments. There were also exams on the practicals. You could only miss so much out of each exercise. The practicals are meant to imitate real life scenarios and environments constantly throwing different variables and you had to complete certain objectives to pass. For example, they brought in community member volunteers, got them drunk, and practiced field sobriety testing.

IMG_0323Separate from classroom hours, there was also physical training. There were PT tests throughout the course, and there were standardized requirements they had to meet each time.

As I stated, the Academy lasted 4 months. You are essentially trying to pack the equivalent of a college degree into four months.

IMG_0364For Tom’s academy, many of them were not paid to be there. Only 5 out of the 36 were already hired. So they were working a job that they weren’t getting paid for. Actually, they had to pay to complete. And since many weeks were 50-60 hours, it made it difficult to do anything outside of it to cover those costs. (People did though!)

There are other academies that are longer, and there are others that are shorter. Some are put on by the state, and some are put on by individual departments.

Two days after he graduated, Tom was commissioned as an officer, however he entered his probationary phase with the department. He was assigned a Field Training Officer (FTO) who is responsible for Tom’s training on the “streets.”

He was with his FTO from late April until just this last weekend.

The first couple days or week, you are just observing that officer. After those first few days, the new officer (Tom) is running the calls and the FTO is assisting. The whole point of FTO is for them to slowly phase out the instruction. So by this last week, Tom was ready to be out on his own.

IMG_0369This may look completely different for departments who ride two man all the time. Tom is in a department that you are solo in your car majority of the time so you have to prepare for that.

During this time, the new officer is handling real calls, driving the car, and interacting with the community based on his training and instruction from his FTO.

During the last few months, Tom also shadowed other areas of the department besides street patrol.

He spent a week with the traffic unit. This unit specifically deals with traffic enforcement and accident investigation.

He spent a week with detectives. As Tom described it, he spent a week detecting things. In all seriousness, he did interviews following a shooting that happened in town. So he worked with the team to find out more details and track down leads.

Lastly, he spent a week with the Community Action Team. This is group who is trying to be more proactive with police work. There is not a real mission description; they deal with whatever is the pressing issue and try to proactively look for solutions within the community.

With his FTO, Tom had daily checks. There was this big binder of things they had to go over. His performance was reviewed daily. There was a report done at the end of each shift on how he was doing. Again, he had to meet certain markers throughout the process, otherwise your FTO period could be extended (or you could get fired).

Now Tom is officially on his own, however, he is still on probation until December. You are on probation for your first year after being hired.

IMG_0123Canine officers and SWAT go through even more individualized training. For his department, you have to be an officer so many years with positive annual reviews before you can be eligible for an interview for those positions.

This is just what new officers typically go through. Outside of this and his now normal work-week, there is more training for all officers on the force. They have an in-service at least once a month. There are 4 weapons qualifications annually. There are also open trainings available every month that are optional.

You can also look outside the department for training and request funding for those. These are generally more specialty things that an individual wants to do. If the whole department needs the training, generally the department will bring it to the officers in house.

As Tom’s FTO said to him, “You always have to be a student of the game.” You learn tons of stuff every day. At the end of every day, you will be better. You can learn everything you want in a classroom, however, there is still so much to learn on the streets and in your own car. The training is designed to show you if cop life is for you or not. Tom’s academy lost 5 people, and more than half the class still do not have a law enforcement job. It’s hard to make this an actual career because of the demands.

The training for police is completely overwhelming. But it has to be because the situations they deal with are overwhelming. They learn how to be calm and level-headed when everything around them is chaos. (It makes it kind of obnoxious now because Tom is even more of a cool cat when I am freaking out. My things seem pretty less dramatic after dealing with a community member who thought someone had broken into their house to place flies on their flytrap. True story.)

IMG_0329Notice that Tom is eating Mike and Ikes after being sprayed. That’s my hubby.

So this is just a brief look at the training. It is about as summarized and condensed as I could make it but still show the complexity and length of it. I hope that this shows that there is actually a lot that goes into training officers, and no subject is off the table. I wish that the community realizes that while they have a better part of a year in training, there are just some situations and skills that cannot be taught in a training setting. Could there be more training, well absolutely. I think every human being could say that about any job (or about being a human being). From my perspective, almost a year’s worth of training (and a college degree for most people) is pretty substantial to get an officer started. I just want people to look at all sides of the issue instead of just trusting media headlines.

If you have any questions about the training, please don’t hesitate to ask. Tom is pretty open about everything.

8 Years in the Making

To be a little sentimental, eight years ago today Tom asked me to be his girlfriend.

233_520735061171_9716_nAnd today, we will be closing on our very first house to call our very own. We are going to be HOMEOWNERS!

So much has changed in the past eight years.

We have lived in three apartments together, but have never moved in at the same time.

We have traveled all over the country and made residence in three different states.

We both graduated college, and each have had several jobs in the eight year stretch.

We dated for four years, and have been married for four years.

We have two crazy dogs.

And one wonderfully perfect baby boy.

Today, eight years later, we get the keys to the place George will grow up in. We can finally settle down after years of moving.

So I thought it would be fun to interview Tom and see his thoughts on a few things. I saw a few other bloggers do this, and I thought today was the perfect opportunity to see his responses. I pulled some questions from Chelsea and Melissa, and created some of my own. (Tom also insisted I ask some serious questions after some of the fluff.)

My responses/thoughts are italicized.

What’s the name of my blog?

  • Finding My Yellow? Are you just making sure I knew it? Blog, that’s the name of your blog.

What do I normally blog about?

  • Your life? What are these questions?

What was my first car?

  • Red Chevy blazer.
  • Nope. It’s was a Jimmy.
  • That’s the same thing. They were made on the same production line. You can’t dig me for that one because remember how many times I fixed that thing.
  • You would think for the amount of times you fixed it you would remember it.

What’s your proudest moment of our marriage?

  • Either George or the day you graduated Clemson.
  • We weren’t married yet when I graduated.
  • Hell I consider the last 8 years our marriage. Did you feel any different the day before we got married then the day after?
  • No.
  • There you go. I am also proud that you can deal with this (as he puts on his duty gear for work). A lot of people don’t watch their husbands put on a bullet proof vest as they go to work and deal with it as well as you do. That’s not normal or something a husband does every day.
  • Then we went off script and talked about the different dangers of law enforcement and the Army.

What jewelry do I wear on a normal day?

  • Earrings, wedding ring, Clemson ring.
  • Correct, but I also wear a watch.
  • That’s not jewelry. You use it to tell time, not to be pretty.
  • False. Am I right ladies? 

What items are in my purse?

  • I don’t know. (The rest of his answer was wildly inappropriate.)
  • Wait you never use your purse. You always use your work bag or the diaper bag.
  • Life of a working mom, yep.

What is my favorite food?

  • It’s a daily thing for you. Beef mac? Cheese rolls at red lobster…Rueben.
  • He is right about it being a daily choice, but my go to will always be Mac and Cheese.

What is my favorite T.V. show?

  • Anything with teenagers and vampires.
  • I don’t watch anything with vampires.
  • Riiiight…You are addicted to the Bachelorette, Boy Meets World, lots of trashy TV.
  • The correct answer would have been Castle, but in his defense I do watch a lot of bad TV.

What’s an acceptable amount to pay for a dress?

  • What’s the dress for? Depends on what the occasion is?
  • Wedding dress there wouldn’t be a limit. On a normal day, a hundred bucks? (I laughed because I hardly spend over 30 bucks on a dress) Oh I shouldn’t have said that should I?
  • I just spent 12 dollars on a dress.
  • Ok well I want you to know that now if you do spend that much on a dress, I can spend that much on tools.

What are some of my favorite activities?

  • He said something dirty first-typical Tom answer.
  • Running, photography, watching trashy tv, blogging, you like live events like concerts and stuff.
  • Pretty spot on.

If I could travel anywhere, where would it be?

  • You would go on a cruise, probably somewhere like the Bahamas.
  • True.

Where did we go on our second date?

  • The zoo, duh.
  • It’s still probably one of my favorite dates.

What is your favorite quality of mine?

  • You are hopeful. (Then he went into a monologue about how he would view the world if we weren’t together, which I will spare you all from that.)

What am I looking forward to in our new house?

  • Comparatively, storage space. An air conditioner that works. A dish washer that works. A laundry room that isn’t an abyss for baby socks. And a kitchen that isn’t the size of a closet. A yard of any kind. Not wasting 750 a month on rent.
  • Yep to all that. And to be able to decorate our own space for real.

How did you know that I was the one?

  • I think if I could answer that question, then it probably wouldn’t mean very much. You just kind of know.

Is there anything you would like to share with my readers?

  • (Goofy grin.) You are not a good apologizer.
  • Sadly this is true.

Tom was really upset there weren’t more serious questions. Haha I think people (myself included) forget that Tom has a serious side because he is always goofing around. He surprises me all the time when he finally lets down his guard. But once you get past that facade, he is pretty sentimental and has some pretty serious and awesomely profound things to say.

Tom, I am so happy we decided to do life together. Now carry me over that threshold, and let’s make this place our home!

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Talks with Tom #38

One of the struggles of being a police officer is the ever changing shifts. One day he is off and trying to be an active member of our family during the day, and the next he has to be a night owl going to work at 8pm.

This was a conversation about Tom trying to retrain his body to be awake at night.

Tom:  I slept from 7 (pm)-12, 1-3 (am), and then 7-11 (am).

Me: I started laughing once he said 1-3, because he had originally wanted to take a couple hour nap at 7pm so he could stay awake over night and then sleep the next day.

Tom: I won’t get into it but I got into my bivy sack and slept on a boot at 1am.

Me: still laughing…

Tom: In the storage room.

Me:  So you got out of our comfortable bed at midnight, to go to sleep downstairs in the storage room on a boot?

Tom:  I wondered if it was still as comfortable as it was in Afghanistan or if just anything was comfortable over there. And it turns out if you were infantry, it is always comfortable.

Me:  laughing

Don’t mind me enjoying the big bed all to myself.

Talks with Tom #37

It’s been awhile since I have shared snippets of our conversations. Here are a couple snippets of talks we have had lately.

Tom tries to come get me from work every other week for a lunch date since our schedules are so wonky. We were discussing which restaurant to go to this week.

Tom: How about we go to that Greek place?

Me: I can’t. I just went there today.

Tom:  It’s a restaurant not a tampon. You can go there again.

And just in time for America this week: this conversation happened over a meal recently.

Tom:  I inhaled a little bit of bacon. Very American.

What funny conversations have you had recently with friends or significant others?