Back to Basics: Continued

Back to Basics: A 17-year law enforcement veteran goes back to basic training

Sept. 23, 2022

My first training block with Basic Academy Class 53-22 was scheduled to start right after lunch on Sept. 13. It felt a bit weird going back into the classroom and picking up my training in this class’s seventh week. My new classmates already had almost two months together, learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and personality quirks and getting into a daily routine.

Right off the bat, I noticed several differences. I noticed that all of the gear that my previous academy class (BAC52-22) had carefully organized on our duty belts and vest carriers was no longer where we’d placed it. During each academy, the staff goes over the proper placement of duty gear and walks recruits through it step-by-step. The class president helped me disassemble my duty belt and reconfigure everything in the last three minutes before we had to line up for inspection. It is this kind of teamwork that I experienced on day one that demonstrates how law enforcement officers look out for each other. I thanked him profusely. With his help I was able to be in line for inspection on time and with my gear in proper order, uniformly displayed like my new classmates.

In class 52-22 I had to learn to reach for my vest carrier for magazine pouches instead of my duty belt, which was the location when I served in the Virginia Beach Police Department years ago. Now I have to relearn my gear placement once again. I’m sure when I go to the range I will be reaching for my flashlight on my vest when it’s now located on my belt. However, this academy class is the first to get the next generation of the Glock handgun with upgraded sights and a mounted flashlight. Since the handheld flashlight will no longer be required at the range, I understand why the flashlight has been moved to our duty belt.

Recruit Hobbs shackle practice
Deputy Recruit Margie Hobbs practices proper shackle techniques.

Another difference with class 53-22 is that they meet up at 7:30 each morning, a half hour before the 8 a.m. required reporting time. They say the Pledge of Allegiance and read the Deputy Code and the Warrior’s Creed. They get a head start on the 100 mandatory daily pushups and usually get at least 20 completed before our physical training (PT) begins. Each recruit is expected to complete the daily remedial PT exercises, even if they scored high on the physical ability tests. Once again, if one person falls short, we all fall short. We succeed or fail as a team.

On my second day of the academy I had my first PT session with my new class. It was my first academy workout since my knee surgery and I was eager to see how my physical fitness abilities measured up to my classmates. I trained hard in preparation for starting the academy and wanted to be ready. Our workout for the day was partner-based, and the academy instructor advised us to choose a partner whose capabilities matched our own. Ironically, earlier in the day I’d had a conversation with one of my classmates about running, and we found we were pretty close in our 1.5 mile run time. We partnered up for the workout and successfully completing the circuit. The workout was a 300-meter run followed by partner rotations, which consisted of 10 sets of 11 20 lb. wall-ball tosses and 11 pushups, followed by a final 300 meter run. I am happy to report my knee held up to the challenge!

BAC 53-22 firefighting
Basic Academy Class 53-22 recruits practice firefighting with the Virginia Beach Fire Department.

As the week went on, our class completed fire safety classroom training and interview-and-interrogation training. These blocks were the same as my previous academy, but I had to take them again in preparation for the written test, which I didn’t get to take because of my knee injury. But I'm not complaining. I love interview and interrogation and putting out fires with the Virginia Beach Fire Department! We also practiced proper application of shackles.

This Monday our classroom instruction included defensive tactics, chemical agents and inmate positional safety concerns. After the classroom we moved to the mat room (or the scene of the crime, a.k.a. my meniscus tear), and prepared to do hands-on defensive tactics training. The material covered was a review from the last academy, but it was a great refresher. I'm also happy that for this academy I have access to the demonstration videos the staff put together for the recruits to review and practice. I worked with different partners to go over the various techniques and refresh my skills.

I will rejoin the class on Oct. 3 once they’ve finished the defensive tactics training that I’ve already completed. In the meantime, I have stayed in contact with some of my classmates and it sounds like they are excelling. They have their first practical test on Monday, and I know how unnerving it is to go before a panel of instructors to demonstrate and be graded on all the pertinent tactics. I anxiously await word from my classmates to hear how they fared.

Our second LawFit assessment will be on Friday, Sept. 28. My fingers are crossed that my knee will be in good shape and I can get a gold rating like on my previous assessments. Until next time, wish us luck!

Photos by Public Information Officer Toni Guagenti and Deputy Recruit Margie Hobbs.

Sept. 9, 2022

The time has come! I was cleared by my orthopedic doctor after months of grueling boot camp-style physical therapy to resume full-duty status with no restrictions as of today! That means on Tuesday I will resume academy training and join Basic Academy Class 53-22.

The first class of my second VBSO academy experience will be transportation classroom training and practical evaluation. This class teaches recruits about the operational processes of preparing an inmate for travel for court or other needed services, such as hospital visits.

During this time, recruits are also trained on detailed inmate search techniques, conducting pat-downs and inspecting inmates’ clothing for any contraband or weapons. Hands-on training will be conducted to teach us how to handcuff and shackle inmates for transport. We must also learn to thoroughly search the vehicle used for transport prior to use and immediately following the transporting of inmates; this is the same process we followed when I was a police officer. The reason is to make sure the previous occupant did not conceal or leave behind contraband or weapons that another inmate could use against transporting deputies or other inmates. Also, if we find contraband, such as drugs or weapons, we charge the inmate responsible with possession of those items, which guarantees that the chain of evidence is preserved.

Next in the academy, we will learn about interviews and interrogations, interview rooms and lockup. One of my favorite assignments in the Virginia Beach Police Department was investigations. I thoroughly enjoyed using my communication skills to interview and, when necessary, interrogate people to gather investigative information. It is imperative that deputies receive this training because they must investigate incidents in the Virginia Beach Correctional Center. They must ascertain the facts of any situation that arises in the facility, such as who the aggressor is in a prisoner assault case, and identify any potential victims and witnesses. This training allows our class to be ready for future training blocks and practical evaluations in week 10: court testimony preparation and practical exercises.

Basic Academy Class 52-22
BAC 52-22 receiving fire training from the VBFD.

From here, we will move on to fire safety training. We will learn to recognize potential fire hazards, use fire extinguishers and evaluate the need for further assistance from the Virginia Beach Fire Department. There are several types of fire extinguishers that are used to treat different types of fires. Part of our training is a trip to the VBFD Fire Training Center to get experience putting out a fire using the types of extinguishers we keep in our facility. In my previous academy, Basic Academy Class 52-22, I learned that Cheetos and Fritos are highly flammable. The high oil content makes them easy to ignite. I have always known the neon orange powdered cheese and other ingredients in these types of snacks are not healthy, but flammable? This information is important for recruits to learn because inmates have snack foods and containers that can be used to start fires, and our deputies need to be ready to act quickly. Sheriff Ken Stolle has often said that being a deputy sheriff is like being a police officer, firefighter, medic and counselor all rolled into one, and he’s right. With fires being one of the biggest risks to the jail, we all have to be prepared to put on our "firefighter hat” at any time.

As I start in week 7 (out of 17) of the academy to finish my requirements from last class, I look forward to getting to know my classmates and finishing my training with them. As I step into a new team dynamic, I’m excited to learn each of my 19 new teammates’ personalities and skill sets as I assimilate into their evolving team dynamic. I contemplated wearing air bubble packing this time around, but I have faith in my physical training after having surgery in June, as well as the outstanding physical training I will receive (again) as part of this academy. The trainers are tough, but that is what we need to be strong and ready to respond to any scenario that we encounter. My next blog post will be on Sept. 23.

Wish me luck!

Aug. 5, 2022

Welcome back to the second installment of Back to Basics! As you may recall, I was in the VBSO’s Basic Academy Class 52-22, which began training in the first week of February 2022. Each week I chronicled our progress in this blog – Back to Basics – with the goal of giving the public an inside look at our training.

At the end of week 10, I was in the middle of a defensive tactics scenario when my knee bent the wrong way and I tore my meniscus. In a split second, my journey with BAC52-22 came to an end.

After my injury in April, I continued to follow the class's accomplishments and training for the Back to Basics blog while also working with my physical therapist trying to heal my injury. It was bittersweet. I enjoyed getting to be with my class as they finished their training, but sad that I couldn’t finish and graduate alongside them. On June 1, I watched as my academy classmates graduated, the culmination of 17 weeks of hard work. I was so proud of them and have continue to see them excel in their field training at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center and at community events.

Although my knee became much stronger during physical therapy, the meniscus damage required surgery. I went under the knife in mid-June. The surgery went well, and other than a few bumps in the road, my knee is on the road to recovery. I am thankful to have two very hard-charging physical therapists who challenge me – even though it feels like torture sometimes – and have developed an aggressive rehabilitation program to prepare my knee for the requirements of returning to full duty and the rigors of academy training. My expected return to the academy was in mid-October, but due to some scheduling changes in the curriculum, my first day back will be about a month earlier.

Fast forward to Aug. 1, when the VBSO’s Basic Academy Class 53-22 gathered at the Law Enforcement Training Academy to begin their 17-week training program. Although I am still on limited duty and won’t join them until September, I wanted to observe their first day and attend introductions. I let them know about my injury, the Back to Basics blog and my hopes for graduating with them.

Due to scheduling changes in this academy, my coursework will be intermittent from the time I start in September until mid-October, when I will attend training full-time. My blog entries will be intermittent as well, and I plan to publish biweekly until I return to the academy full-time. At that point, I will resume weekly blogs until I reach the finish line.

Thank you to the academy staff for working with me and my fellow Public Information Officers (PIOs) to facilitate this blog, including coordinating photos and giving us access to physical training and classroom instruction. We are grateful for the outstanding job they do, and I hope this blog shows the quality of the training they provide our deputies. Thank you also to my PIO partners, Toni Guagenti and Kathy Hieatt, for all of the amazing work they do taking photos and editing our message to make it blog-worthy!

And lastly, thanks to you for following our academy classes through this blog and taking an interest in the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office. We exist to serve and protect you, and I hope you enjoy learning more about us and what it takes to successfully complete the VBSO Basic Academy. See you in a month!