Forsyth Tech has smallest police training class ever to graduate

Forsyth Tech has smallest police training class ever to graduate
December 08
05:10 2016



With the number of police cadets dwindling, the smallest class of the Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) course at Forsyth Technical Community College graduated on Friday, Dec. 2.

Though there were only seven in the class, they still had the full, thorough training of the 17- week course that featured 48 instructors and 36 written tests. Cadets were trained in firearms use, driving, crowd control and other scenarios officers find themselves in.

BLETs across the state have seen falling numbers in recent years with 2016 being the worst. This year, 32 percent of classes were canceled because they didn’t have enough students and only 1,067 cadets completed the training statewide, compared to 2,028 last year.

Instructors believe that highly publicized officer-involved shootings caused the general decline. The July mass shooting of police in Dallas, Texas, that killed five officers resulted in this year’s number plummeting. The low numbers in the local class also meant that minorities and women that are normally among the cadets weren’t present.

The class should have had about 20 students, but most dropped out after the shooting. Sgt. Joshua Church of the N.C. Highway Patrol told the class that while law enforcement is still “the most honorable profession out there,” community faith in law enforcement has never been lower. He blamed video footage of officer-involved shootings going on social media where citizens – who know little about law enforcement– jump to the wrong conclusions.

“Many are out there thinking you should wait to draw your weapon and fire until you’re fired upon, or they think that in any case where you shoot an individual that’s unarmed it’s unjustified, but you’ve been trained completely differently,” said Church. “That just is not the truth any way you look at it.”

Church told the class that “action always beats reaction” for officers. He said there were “countless documented situations” where unarmed suspects killed officers and told the cadets to use their training to make “good, sound decisions” to come home safe.

He also said law enforcement is the only profession were you have to be willing to die for complete strangers. He said misconduct is relatively rare, and hoped the class would uphold that tradition. He told them to build bonds with those that they protect.

“Our positive image, the truth of what law enforcement in America really is, is up to you now,” said Church.

Class president Cody Conrad dreamed of serving in both the military and police. After serving more than three years in the Army, he now looks forward to joining the “thin blue line.”

“It’s been the longest, quickest 16-17 weeks ever,” he told his classmates.

Conrad, who plans to join the Highway Patrol, said he doesn’t begrudge those who dropped out of the class, since law enforcement is a calling that isn’t for everyone.

Graduate Frank Sanchez is a former Winston-Salem Police Department officer who, after some moves and job changes, needed to take the BLET again to become an officer in Kernersville. He said when he first took the BLET more than a decade ago, there were 30 cadets in his class.

He said he understood how people might be scared to enter the profession. He said being an officer is something you have to have in your heart.

“It’s something you either really want to do, or you don’t, there’s no middle ground,” said Sanchez. “You don’t do this job halfway.”

Those that completed BLET are ready to become sworn officers, though most agencies include an additional period of field training.

The other graduates of the class are Jordan Bullins, Cody Hampton, John Jackson, Ryan James and Samuel Paff.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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