Welcome to the 30 percent mark of the Hunger Challenge.
Here are a few examples of meals I’ve had this week so far:
Macaroni and Cheese with a hot dog
Leftover macaroni and cheese with a peanut butter sandwich
Pork and potatoes
Leftover potatoes and tuna with half a peanut butter sandwich
Everything tastes like pepper because that’s the only available seasoning. Otherwise, things end up fairly bland. I imagine that’s the life of a person living on SNAP benefits.
While I haven’t been unbearably hungry, I don’t think I’ve felt full or as satisfied as I usually do.
As I mentioned in the title, the greatest thing I’ve noticed is what I like to call the “Where am I?” factor. I’m typically on task throughout the day and very direct in my work; however, that is not the case this week. I walk into a room and forget what I’m doing. I attempting turning my car on without keys in the ignition. I’ve been lethargic, disoriented, and unfocused. Since I haven’t felt extremely hungry, I can’t blame this change on hunger alone, but I think a lack of fulfillment is contributing.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is continually worrying about my next meal. What will I have? Will it be enough? Should I eat less to save up for the remainder of the week?
People living on SNAP benefits likely have these thoughts routinely. They likely struggle with concentration, focus, and motivation, especially when they’re hungry and preoccupied with the search for their next meal.
For the last two days, co-workers have been eating a cake here in the office that one of our photographers brought it. I see it every time I get up from my desk. It seems to be serving as a reminder, for the moments when I forget, that the struggles and frustrations I’m having this week are nothing compared to those who live with these every day.
Through an e-mail chain, my fellow Hunger Challengers have taught me a great deal too as they learn through the week. I hope to share some of that with you in the coming days.
I’m off to workout on a semi-empty stomach. After that, I’ll make a dinner of two hotdogs on two pieces of bread and some rice. Having to make it all the way to breakfast on such a small meal definitely makes the evenings the most difficult. On top of that, there is more free time and calories being burned without any hope of being replenished till the morning.
As a child, I remember saying these five words to my mom on a nearly daily basis. Luckily for me, the statement was far from true. While I may not have seen the exact brand and flavor of potato chip I wanted or my favorite Pop-Tart filling, I always had something to eat. For that, I am thankful for my parents and their efforts to make sure I never went hungry; however, as I grow older, I am more and more aware of how difficult a task keeping a cupboard full is. As I approach the United Way of the Wabash Valley’s Hunger Challenge, I know I’m about to become much more aware.
If you don’t know about the challenge, get ready! For the next seven days starting at midnight tonight (Saturday), here are the guidelines I’ll be following for my all food and meal choices.
I will be limited to spending $29.27 for the entire week on food. That’s $4.18 for each of the seven days.
I may not use any food that I have outside of what is available to me after I make my food purchases for this week. This includes spices, milk, leftovers and baking goods. Just to reiterate, I will ONLY eat things purchased with the $29.27.
I will not, and cannot, take food hand outs. That means skipping Doughnut Friday at the news station, family dinners with my fabulous, extended Terre Haute family and the free coffee from work.
I said basic, and those are pretty basic. Here are some other basics:
1 in 4 children struggle with hunger every day right here in the Wabash Valley;
1 in 6 adults are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where they’ll find their next meal;
While food prices went up in the last year, SNAP assistance went down, meaning people receive less money per day for food.
Those three bullet points are three key reasons why I’m taking part in the United Ways second annual challenge. Adults and children alike are forced to live and eat by these dollar figures day after day, month after month.
For the first time in my life, I’ll eat each meal with concern of what’s remaining in my “pot” of available resources.
I’ve asked around to some “veterans” of the hunger challenge for advice.
Crunchy peanut butter
Avoid high end grocery stores
Adjust to smaller portions
Prepare for a difficult end to the week
It’s with many blessings that I can say that this challenge for me will end in a week. While I’m eating on less, I won’t have to decide between medication and food, feeding my pet and eating myself, buying gas for my car or getting dinner. For so many people around the Wabash Valley, it doesn’t end in just one week and the decisions are much more real.
So will you join me? Will you take the challenge alongside me and 49 of my friends around the Wabash Valley to see first hand the struggles that so many people work through daily?
Join in. And you can follow my journey here and on my Facebook page. If you’re joining in or have ideas for me, share them here or on my Facebook. (And, of course, you can always e-mail me at email@example.com!) First on the docket is a trip to the grocery store. I’ll head there tomorrow morning. My hope is that there are big bargains tomorrow at the West Vigo IGA. I’ll update you soon!
It’s hard to believe that eight weeks ago this all began with an introductory course, meeting each of the officers we’d work with and learning the basics of the Terre Haute Police Department.
Alas, the end is here. We made it! It’s not like college where four years of my life is complete, but it is a nice feeling of accomplishment. That feeling isn’t mine alone though. It goes to my classmates from the Inaugural Citizen Academy, as well as the Terre Haute Police Department.
I talked with Chief John Plasse after the final week’s events. He said the academy went as well as it could have. When you launch anything for the first time, there will of course be hiccups, but as a whole, he said he was please with the course as a whole. If you ask me, I didn’t see any hiccups. I couldn’t be happier with my experience and the things I learned over the last eight weeks, and I’d venture to say my classmates feel similarly.
During our last class, there were a few more lessons we had to learn. The first was on Ethics. It’s easy to understand why this is a key part of police training. While this isn’t something they train on annually or revisit as often as the shooting range, they seem to have this instilled in their work. Their code seems to convey it, and when the topic was presented, I could tell it was something every officer took seriously. The department knows they aren’t perfect, and they do things to make sure they address their imperfections when they occur.
Understandably so, we followed the Ethics course with an explaination of how a formal complaint works. Individuals can file formal complaints with the police department if they have a problem with how an officer conducted himself or herself. An important note here is that these complaints have no bearing on current criminal charges against the person. What that means is that a person filing a claim won’t get more charges because of the complaint, but they also won’t get fewer charges. That’s only half true I guess. A person can be charged if the complaint is found to be completely false or highly exaggerated.
If a complaint is filed, it is investigated internally by the department and action is taken depending on their findings. An officer can be simply reprimanded, sent to counseling, suspended, and everywhere in between depending on what is deemed appropriate.
After our final lessons (following the last by not least mantra), we received our diplomas. I also received a coin from the Terre Haute Police Department, presented to me by Chief John Plasse, for my extra “guts” during the course.
After our final lessons (following the last by not least mantra), we received our diplomas.
A few quick “thank yous” from me..
To Chief John Plasse for offering this opportunity.
To Lt. Hugh Crawford for leading us fearlessly and answering our endless questions.
To all of the officers, detectives, Sgts, and guests who shared with us on Wednesday evenings.
To my fellow classmates for helping make this such an enjoyable experience.
To the two wonderful gentlemen who careful laid me on the ground mid-tasing.
Again, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience! The more I reflect on the experience, I become more and more thankful for the opportunity to learn a little more about the men and women who serve and protect us right here in Terre Haute.
Thanks for following me over the past eight weeks. It’s been a great time.
This week the Civilian Police Academy had a few special guests. Actually, it was a team of special guests – the Special Response Team (known by many as SWAT).
To start the evening off, as we’ve done every week for the last seven, we went to the classroom to learn some of the basics of the unit.
Asst. Chief Shawn Keen led this discussion. Members of the “A-Team” assisted him. The other SRT team is the “B-Team”. Technically, they aren’t ranked, but I think if you ask anyone on either team, they have a little friendly competition going on at all times. (On that note, the “A-Team” will quickly alert you that they won in the most recent competition.)
So, there are two teams to make sure someone is on call at all times. They switch off every week. One week it’s the “A-Team” and the next it’s the “B-Team”. During the week they’re on call, each member (8 members on the team, plus two snipers) must be available at all times—that’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
These guys (the team is all guys right now, but doesn’t have to be) are called to some of the most dangerous call outs: hostages, snipers, barricaded suspects, high-risk warrants, etc. For that reason, and not surprisingly, they are trained to perfection. Not only are they training twice a month, but also each member is recertified every six months. Imagine if you were given a “try-out” every six months for your job. While many people are, some of you probably can’t imagine getting every part of your job perfect every six months during evaluation. These individuals are required to be on top of their game, all the time. You never know when the next call is coming. When one of the team members decides to leave, they have try-outs for their replacement. Chief John Plasse said at one of the most recent try-outs, five people attempted the position.
So, how do these guys work? Well, carefully to say the least. The first guy that goes in is a shield man. He literally carries a shield and wears additional armor to lead everyone into whatever the location is. The following officers are in pairs. Two officers clear one room, and the officers behind them proceed to the next.
Here is a look at a house clearing. Members of the academy scattered throughout this practice home. We weren’t considered dangerous, so we were able to just witness the SRT team do their work. Some of the video is from Mike Latta who was downstairs when the team came into the house. The other video is from a camera I was wearing while waiting for the team to make it to the top floor. Also, note the “noise bomb” at the beginning.
The team also demonstrated a “car assault”. I acted as the “suspect” in this case. (I promise, it wasn’t me.) For instance, if I had been leading police on a chase and my car stopped. This is how they would approach and safely apprehend me. You can listen for the “noise bomb” in this one, or you can watch my face. You’ll see it!!
The key for these officers is communication. They work together and train together to know one another very well.
They are prepared for almost anything. They also have some pretty amazing equipment. Robot cameras. Scope cameras. Noise bombs. (Did I mention noise bombs?) Scent bombs. Guns that don’t shoot bullets, but instead shoot to superficially injure someone. Heat cameras. This team has some of the cool stuff you see on television.
If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking how much does all of this cost. Well, the good news is that some of their equipment was free. Most people credit Chief Plasse for the humvees, the armor trucks, and the “ambulance”. The humvees are from the military. When they were done with them, we took them off their hands, cleaned them up, and got them into working order. The armor truck is an old money mover. (Old is relative. The one they have is only a 1995.) They cleaned it up, painted it, and made it their own. It’s virtually the same story for the “ambulance”. Now, unfortunately, their cool “toys” aren’t usually free, but since they aren’t spending thousands on vehicles, it gives them a little more money to spend.
Next week, we graduate. Just like high school graduation or college graduation, minus the cap, gown, crying parents, and poor speeches, but the same type of amazing, eye opening experiences. More to come of course..
If last week’s Driving Course was exciting, I’m not sure what to call this week.
I guess we’ll start with what the Civilian Academy had on the schedule. (I don’t think when I read this, I was entirely sure what was in store for me.) During week six of our Civilian Academy with the Terre Haute Police Department, the schedule mentions firearms safety, Taser electronic devise usage, and shooting practice.
To start, I knew going into this week that I’d be experiencing lots of “newness”. Before the academy, I’d never shot a gun. I don’t imagine I’d ever even held a gun. I knew that would be interesting. The Taser topic was a whole different story.
I made mention during our introductory meeting that I’d be willing to volunteer for a Taser demonstration. I didn’t forget that, but I assumed it wouldn’t even be possible. Well, I won’t leave you wondering anymore. It IS possible. It is VERY possible.
Without further ado, you can see the video here. I’ll preface by saying this is not one of my finer moments. Below, I’ll explain why I shared this with you, as well as why I willingly volunteered for this.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not a requirement for training of police officers who carry the device. It is offered, and according to the Terre Haute Police Department, some officers agree to it. They say those who are stunned seem to respect the power of the device a great deal.
After thinking about it, the Taser is an extremely important part of our police force. When an officer is attempting to apprehend a suspect, a Taser can be a very useful tool. If you think of hundreds of years ago (and even several decades ago), officers utilized other types of instruments to obtain obedience from a suspect. With the device, police have the option to stop a suspect and impale them without causing medical concerns. (The debate of Tasers can be read about online, but THPD stands by the unit as a safe and valuable tool. Many police departments around the country share the same thoughts.)
To protect both the individual being stunned, as well as the officer, every single officer given a Taser does go through a great deal of training. They have a million things to think about when utilizing the device. Distance from the suspect, obstacles between the officer and suspect, and a concern for secondary injuries (an individual does fall to the ground when stunned) are just a few of the thoughts an officer must manage.
As to why I did it, well I guess some would say I’m an idiot. I’ll call it adventurous. I figure it’s the only time in my life when I’ll be offered the opportunity, and if I’m training as a police officer would, I should take every opportunity I can to learn what they know.
The video pretty much tells all. If you have questions about my experience, you can look on the News 10 First at Five page where I talk with News 10s Susan Dinkel on News 10 First at Five about my experience. Or feel free to ask me questions on my News 10 Facebook Page.
Shoot, Don’t Shoot
I said this week had several firsts. While it may sound less exciting than tasers, I had also never shot a gun before the academy.
We went through one part of firearms training that is similar to what officers train in annually. It’s called a “Shoot, Don’t Shoot” scenario. It’s held at a training house at the training center of the Terre Haute Police Department. We used a simulation gun. (I don’t know guns, so bare with me.) It’s a Smith & Wesson, but it doesn’t use actual bullets. The officers said the bullets do cause quite a bit of pain and shoot at speeds of more than 100 mph. Before you ask, no I did not volunteer to be shot with the simulation gun, but in my defense, this was never offered.
In this exercise, we went through the house one at a time just like officers would to “clear” a house. Here, you can see my run through the house. The concept is pretty basic. Shoot the individuals that appear to be a threat. Do not shoot anyone who doesn’t look to be threatening. (In short, shoot at anything with a gun but no badge.)
To toot my own horn, I shot at all of the right people, and I know I hit the final one in the chest and mouth. You can watch my face to decide for yourself if that was just luck or maybe I have a real knack for this.
We started it in the classroom going over some vital information. In the actual police academy, they spend 2 weeks on the EVO course. In the classroom, we learned about what types of calls are necessary to answer “hot”. (In police speak, that’s lights, sirens, and speed.) Those involve motor vehicle accidents, robbery in process, battery in process, and things they can stop. Otherwise, if they’re responding to a theft report, they aren’t expected to use their lights, sirens, and speed. It seems obvious, since utilizing those things puts the public at a definite risk.
After going over a few of those things, we headed out to the cone course. I have to say this was an intimidating part of training. These officers clearly know what they’re doing on the road. Before this course, I don’t know if I would have described myself as a timid driver. (I doubt anyone who’s ridden with me would either.) In this course though, I started out fairly timid.
First, Sgt. Jason Czupryn showed us the course “his way”. He knows his stuff. It was awesome to go through the course with him. Then, it was our turn.
The course was tough. Luckily, Sgt. Czupryn is a training professional. He helped explain when hit the gas, the break, and just coast. It may sound simple, but there is definitely an art to this. Think of Tiger Woods as a golfer. He’s good. Some people can golf, but very few of them display the talent that he has (in the past). Driving, although it’s hard for me to understand, is similar. Not everyone can reach the same ability as far as driving. It’s something where each officer finds their abilities, and then they run with it.
One of the most difficult things is learning the car. It definitely drives different than my little Honda. I know in my car I avoid squealing tires and sharp curves at high speeds. In this element, I created a comfort level for myself to be alright with some loud tires, a quick change from reverse to drive, and using my seatbelt to its maximum potential.
All in all, I feel like I did fairly well. I killed very few cones, and after a few runs, my speed improved. I adjusted to the car as well, but I think most importantly, I learned a little more about what goes into the training of an officer for driving. It’s something most of you and I do regularly, but they spend time perfecting their talents in driving. Their car can be just as dangerous as their gun, and they are trained to create minimal to no risk to the public.
This week at the Civilian Academy, we went over the investigations divisions of the Terre Haute Police Department.
Assist Chief Shawn Keen started the evening to go over some big numbers. Until 2007, there was no division between property crimes and violent crimes. All investigations in those two areas went to one group of 11 detectives. Back then, we were reporting high property crime numbers. I take that back, not just high, exceptionally high. For that reason, the department looked at some restructuring options.
Now, the investigations unit is divided into seven sub-groups instead of just six, with a division of property crimes and violent crimes. When looking at our numbers, it seems to have decreased our reports of property crimes, but also our cases cleared. Since 2007, property crimes are down about 20 percent. This is something the department is very proud to say, and as a citizen of Terre Haute, I am as well.
Click on the image for a larger view.
We also learned about a city ordinance that allows police to track stolen items with online software. This helps them located things that are sold at pawn shops and second hand stores that were stolen. According to THPD, this ordinance definitely helps in the recovering of stolen items.
Violent Crimes include homicides, rapes, robberies, elevated batteries, and anything involving a gun or deadly weapon. This unit has five detectives and a Sergeant. In 2011, the unit had 150 cases. That number is down drastically since ’04 when 336 violent crimes were reported.
One thing of major note in the violent crimes division is that we learned they often have a drug link. Keep that in mind, and keep reading.
This unit has ten detectives. Here’s how they break down: Eight work primarily burglaries and thefts (Four on the north end of town, Four on the south end) and two detectives on auto theft/thefts from vehicles.
An interesting thing about auto theft is that it ties in to your insurance. If you think about it, insurance rates are partially based on where you live. These crime numbers directly impact you. (We also learned that the FBI considers mopeds, lawn mowers, and motorized scooters as vehicles.)
Something that came up in the conversation about property crimes is that they often have a link to drugs. See a trend here?
Vigo County Drug Task Force
This group has quite the gig. It’s a collaboration of efforts from the Terre Haute Police Department, the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, the Seelyville Police Department, and the Vigo County Prosecutors Office.
They investigate the sales and distribution of illegal narcotics within Vigo County. If you consider my notes earlier about property crimes and violent crimes, you know that these guys have their hands full. The growing drug problem in this area is impossible to ignore.
The investigation and dismantling of methamphetamine labs takes up a big portion of their time. No one wants to live next door to one of these things, so when the task force knows they can clean one up they take the opportunity.
Two officers are in charge of managing a prescription drug diversion program to fight that continued battle.
Beginning in 2009, the V.C.D.T.F. started the highway and parcel interdiction. This is where they hit the streets and pull over vehicles to check for drugs. Some major hits they’ve had since then include 2,000 lbs. of marijuana, 4.4 lbs. of cocaine, and $82,000 in drug money. These items aren’t always coming to Vigo County to stay. Sometimes, the task force nabs them on a long cross country drive.
In a case covering two years, the task force assisted in Operation Ice Box which was a meth ring that led to federal charges for more than two dozen people.
The most common drugs seen here in Vigo County are methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. The less commonly used drugs include heroin (This drug is attributed to individuals important here due to the nearby federal prison.), ecstasy, mushrooms, and acid.
Crime Scene Unit
A sergeant and two detectives work in this unit, and they put their time in. They document scenes of all times at all times. In 2011, they had 955 events total.
They pick up physical evidence, biological evidence, and DNA evidence.
The Terre Haute Crime Lab is pretty impressive. They develop and examine fingerprints, photo prints, marijuana tests, cell phone forensics, and computer forensics.
It’s impossible to imagine how these three individuals on THPD think. They arrive to a scene and have a million things going through their head that they need to look at, check, photograph, find, and consider. It’s amazing to hear them talk about their thought process. (It sounds a lot like the vocabulary you hear on television.)
In 2012, they already have 442 entries, so they are on course of a really busy, record year.
Next up, we’re off to the training center for some driving techniques. It should be quite a sight.
There are three shifts in the uniform patrol division: the Adam, Baker, and Charlie. Then, each shift has an early and a late so that the streets are always covered during roll call. Finally, there are A, B, and C “teams” and two teams are on each shift.
Officers spend four days on and two days off, and the groups cycle through like that. It sounds like a very well oiled machine. I’m sure, as with all things, it sounds much easier and clearer than it works out, but it seems it works for these guys and gals.
First up was the THPD K9 unit. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big dog fan, and I’m fascinated by how trained these animals are. Needless to say, I was excited to learn more.
The K9 unit isn’t very old. They got their start at THPD in 1995. The six dogs THPD has now are the most they’ve ever had and they all come from European Sporting Clubs.
They are used for drug detection, narcotics detection, and searches. They can find and track scents to a nearly perfect degree. They cover much more ground than a human could in a much shorter amount of time.
The expense of these dogs is a huge undertaking, but the unit explained the reward that seems like it covers the expense.
Here’s a quick rundown of the numbers:
New Dog – $10,000
5 week training – $10,000
K9 equipped car – $25,000
Vet bills, dog food, recertification, and training equipment
Over the past four years, the dogs have assisted in: 449 arrests, $117,000 cash seizures, nearly $2 million worth (street value) narcotics, as well as officer and public safety improvements.
After that, we saw a demonstration of some of the capabilities of the dogs. To see the dogs interact with their handlers, respond to their directives, and succeed in their work is quite a sight.
Six officers are assigned to the traffic division. Their job is just like it sounds. They enforce traffic laws, investigate traffic accidents, and help with major escorts that come to the area (past, current, and candidates for President anyone?).
As a class, we took this opportunity to find out more about getting pulled over. How do they decide? Why me and not the guy who passed me just minutes ago? Is there really a quota? Well, we really got our answers, so here you go: A “breaking point” to pull over a speeding car is up to the officer. If they can’t catch up to a person in a safe manner without putting the public in danger, they will. If not, they won’t pull that person over. (They may send out a call though and let other officers know of the dangerous driver.) There is not a quota. Do you hear that? No quota. The city does not get all the money from your ticket. It goes to the courts, the state, and then the city department. As you can imagine, this is fairly minimal.
What should you do when you’re pulled over? Just sit. Wait. And be nice. Officers don’t make things up. If you were speeding (going more than the speed limit, even if it’s “not much more”), then that’s why you’re being pulled over. Officers said they appreciate cooperation and kindness. (I guess they are human.)
They also say they don’t like when people fumble around the car when they approach. This makes sense when you think about their training. Someone fumbling around appears to be searching for something, reaching for something, or hiding something. This could just be your insurance card, but an officer has to assume it’s a gun your grabbing for or drugs you’re hiding under your seat.
Street Crimes Unit
There are six officers in the street crimes unit as well. Many years ago, this was part of the Tactical Unit, which divided itself into Street Crimes and Special Response Team. This group is more “proactive” as opposed to the uniform division which is “reactive”. They do a lot of surveillance and monitoring based on tips.
Over the last four years, they’ve helped send 1,509 people to jail, find 20 meth labs, and seize more than 400 pounds of drugs.
The unit says they spend the majority of their time fighting drug crimes. They say the growing problem is consuming their work.
Because of rain, we did a miniature version of this inside. Officers went over the basic Field Sobriety Test: Finger to nose, toe to heel walk, and an eye test.
Officers say the most telling part of the test is the eye test. When a person is intoxicated, their eyes actually shake uncontrollably.
They also explained the implied consent law. This is basically when you sign when you sign your license. You agree at that point to take a chemical test if asked by an officer. You can certainly deny this, but that goes against your agreement that you made when getting your license. That explains why your license is suspended when you refuse a chemical test.
The chemical test can be either a breathe, urine, or blood test. The officer decides which test he or she feels is most appropriate. To conduct these, officers follow a list of directives perfectly. I mean perfectly. If not, the evidence doesn’t stand up to the court of law. For that reason, a list of directions is above the breathalyzer for instance, and an officer will follow the list to ensure they don’t miss anything.
All in all, we learned so much this week. The officers answered all of our questions and really explained things to make them easy to understand. I was so glad to get some answers to questions I’ve always wondered about traffic stops, drug problems, and of course, the canine crew.
Next week marks the half way point of our academy. We’ll be finding out more on the Criminal Investigations Division. I’m sure I’ll have lots to share!!
The Terre Haute Police Department had 52,883 calls for service that required an officer response in 2011.
There are 136 officers on staff. That averages to about 389 calls per officer. If you are really good at math, you could divide that by the number of work days in a year, subtract vacation and sick time, and find out the average day for an officer. Unfortunately for you, I’m not good at math.
This week in the academy, we went over some different departments. It was really interesting to find out more about each department and learn a little about their role.
Terre Haute Police Chaplain Ministries
We started with the Chaplain Ministries. This is led by Detective Dan Walls. Since he’s both a detective and volunteers as the Chaplain, he has an interesting position.
Det. Walls helped start the program in ’04, so it’s still very new! His role is basically to help officers and their families get through the highs and lows associated with the job. If you think about it, police officers see some of the worst scenarios that happen in our community every single day.
The program itself is interesting because they get no money from the department. Everything from bibles and books to Detective Walls time when he’s doing chaplain word are donated. (Of course, they’re always looking for donations. They’re working on an easy way to get the community involved. As soon as it’s up and running, we’ll let you know.) If you’d like to know more about how a police chaplain ministry works, you can go here to find out.
New Recruitment and Selection Process
This is interesting because the department is actually in the middle of this right now! This week, potential new hires are completing physical tests to see if they have what it takes for the police force. Can you run a mile and half, do push ups and sit ups in a timed environment, and complete a 16 inch vertical jump? On paper, I’d like to say I can. If we really tried, I’m not so sure I’d master them all.
They invite people to apply every two years. After someone applies and makes it, they are ranked. The department then uses that ranking to hire people over the next two years. (The two years rule is an Indiana law.)
This year, they had 190 applicants. That number was whittled down to 168 pretty simply—people who didn’t follow directions on the application were not considered. In the police department, everything is a test. (If you’ve ever seen the movie The Recruit, you know what I’m visualizing. It’s unlikely that intense, but that movie was fascinating to me in that respect. If you haven’t seen it, check this out.)
Anyway, after the physical test that’s happenings now (which usually loses about 50% of people just by drop outs), applicants will complete a written test. This is primarily a general aptitude test. It’s not over Indiana law, Terre Haute law, or police department rankings. Applicants who get through that are interviewed.
The physical test is 20%, the written test is 40%, and the interview is the remaining 40%. After your “grade” is determined, you’re ranked by it.
THPD has several openings right now, and they expect several more between now and the end of the year with retirements, making this round of recruits more likely to land a job.
This department is amazing! Marty Dooley leads it, and he has five officers in the department. They do a little bit of everything around the city to keep it moving.
They manage everything from garbage in abandoned lots and alleys to high grass in vacant lots, and animal control (They only have 1 officer on this.) to spay and neuter programs. Plus, the officers have to know all of the city laws they are enforcing. We saw just a few of them, and I can’t imagine being comfortable knowing all of them.
In 2011, they responded to 12,000 calls for service. Their work is pretty impressive for such a small department.
This one is less exciting for most people, but it’s super important when you need it. The city has a contract with three towing services. They tow abandoned vehicles, cars left after a person was taken to jail, and cars involved in accidents. This contract is vital because it protects you. It sets prices and makes sure you’ll be able to get your car out of the lot. Anyone who’s ever used this service knows how important it is (and how frustrating it is when it isn’t done properly).
THPD doesn’t have a plethora of extra money in its budget. (I don’t know anyone these days who does.) For that reason, grant writing is so important.
Most police grants are federal, which means they have hoops to jump through, sometimes with flames I would bet. In other words, these are very difficult to complete and they have to be done perfectly. (To me, it sounds a little like we’re back to “everything’s a test”. Maybe it’s just me!)
When done properly, it pays off, literally. Take a look at a few of these numbers.
In 2009, THPD received $1,359,347 in grants. (Of course, this was around the time of the release of federal stimulus money, so it’s a little skewed. None the less, that’s a lot of money!) The grants helped the department employ six officers that they may have had to lay off otherwise during the poor economy. (Did you know: To date, THPD has never laid anyone off.)
Over the past 5 years, the department has gotten new radio systems that allowed them to talk with State Police (very important in the event of a police chase), new bicycles, laptops for police cars, video equipment for Vigo County courts, bullet proof vests, and countless other pieces of equipment that’s helped in so many ways. Not to mention, they’ve given thousands of dollars to the Vigo County drug court to help it function. Money talks, and this money says they’re doing good work at THPD to bring more money to the Valley.
Some may think training just happens the first year of work at THPD. While that’s when training is non-stop, it definitely doesn’t stop after “freshman” year. To keep up with federal, state, and city mandates, officers do training all the time.
We saw last year’s training schedule for new hires. It’s rigorous, and THPD seems to have it down to an art.
For instances, since there are several right ways to handle a situation or complete a task, new officers train with different veteran officers to help give them an idea of all of their options.
Outside of their training at THPD, officers also spend something like 15 weeks at the police academy doing their training.
During the training time, officers learn everything from laws to court systems to writing reports (typing reports now a days).
All in all, it was a great week to better understand what’s going on at our local police stations. These guys and gals have a lot on their plate. All of this is on top of answering the 52,883 calls.
So, here we are: the first class of the Civilian Police Academy.
This week was a lot of introductions and explanations. Did you know Terre Haute became a city in 1852? Around that time, we had our first police officers. From there, THPD has grown to be a 136 member department. They function on an $11.7 million budget. They are a para-military unit, functioning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
We met some of the leaders of the Terre Haute Police Department: Chief John Plasse, Special Services Lt. Hugh Crawford, Chief of Investigations Asst. Chief Shawn Keen, the list goes on and on.
We toured the facilities of the Terre Haute Police Department. We saw the interrogation rooms, the breathalyzer test (Did you know this unit uses radio frequency?), the office of Chief Plasse with the old bank vault, the nearly acquired and renovated section that includes a new training room, an on-site workout room, and offices that previously were located off sight. It’s nothing immaculate, but it gets the job done. (If you didn’t know, the department will start looking for funds to build a new building in the coming years.)
Week one was a lot to take in. We learned the basics of who and where and what and how.
Next week, we’ll go over some of the different branches of the department and how they all interact.