Peace Officer Skills Training

I’ve started peace officer skills training (police academy), and it’s quite challenging and inspiring. We went for runs in our uniforms and duty belts. We learned defensive tactics, which included standing, kneeling, and prone handcuffing techniques. We did a variety of takedown and escort procedures. We learned to throw a variety of punches and to utilize the baton. To advance in skills training, we had to test out and pass dozens of written tests and tactical scenarios.

Today, we took the paper test on chemical agents (pepper spray) in the morning. After lunch, they applied pepper spray to my face, and I shouted “Semper Fi” and “gung ho” instead of screaming or crying. Then I had to run across the tarmac, take a subject into standing handcuffs, double lock the handcuffs, run and hit a subject with a baton about a dozen times, hit another subject with the baton another dozen times, run and kick a subject in a frontal kick posture about as many times, then run across the tarmac, pull my fake sidearm, order the subject on his knees, then on his belly, pin him down, and handcuff him.

I was among the first in my cadre to recover from the pepper spray. Some of the young cadets were crying and begging for their mamas or saying, “Why did I do this?” I wanted to make a point, so I started to loudly sing the Marine Corps Hymn instead of crying (they say that you shouldn’t be able to sing after being pepper sprayed…but I did).

These are the first two weeks of academy training. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, I did these things not because they are easy but because they are hard. Our director always says that it’s all about your desire to learn and complete the skills and obstacles presented. The only question is whether you desire to push past the doubts and pain.

I descend from warriors. I focused on that and completed the tasks I was required to do.

Our chemical agents instructor said that only 3% of the U.S. population are police, fire, and emergency responders. We are training to become part of an elite and vital segment of society.

I’m sharing my academic experiences so you will understand what is expected of you. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a strong character and desire to serve and protect your community, you can do this too. Law enforcement needs diversity in gender, race/religion, and age. I’m working to change belief systems regarding all three of these categories.

You might be thinking, “I don’t like law enforcement.” That’s fair enough. But if you want to see the change, you must be the change. Don’t stand on the sidelines finding fault with others. Step up and be the kind of law enforcement officer your community desires and needs. Many tribal colleges offer law enforcement or criminal justice degrees. Contact the admissions counselor at your local tribal college and initiate your own adventures in law enforcement.

Rachel Peterman, JD, is a graduate of Leech Lake Tribal College.

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