Confession Time

It’s confession time.

A little over a year ago, with Christmas only a few days away, I posted about a change in direction. My plan was to attend college for the first time in my life in order to begin a new career in law enforcement. It has been a pleasant surprise to see how well I have done in college. After this spring semester, I will have 34 out of 60 credits necessary to graduate. Because of my achievements, I was honored on the Dean’s List for the fall semester of 2015. I also accepted an invitation to join the Mu Upsilon chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society this semester. 12806102_1265854173426192_4954070660957403113_n

School for me as an adolescent was harder than it needed to be. I just didn’t have the motivation to obtain the same level of achievement I have today. Things are quite different attending college as an adult. We tend to be more focused, and we maintain the ability to cogitate the larger picture. While learning a new subject is intriguing, I propose the most important skills from college are time management, effective study habits, improved writing abilities, and professional ethics. I strive to succeed at all of these endeavors, not only for academic achievement and more prosperous career opportunities, but also for psychological fulfillment. If you are interested, I created a blog for publishing my academic essays throughout my college years.

I have to give much credit to my wonderful wife for her inspiration which has driven me to be a better student, and a better man. I was also extremely fortunate to have a wonderful history professor in my first semester. Her friendly personality and enthusiasm for teaching is evident in the classroom. She has genuinely enriched my college experience, and she has become a good friend.

So what am I confessing? Well, it’s nothing as serious as the Sacrament of Penance.

Clearly I haven’t been active on my blog, but sadly I also haven’t been as active on the bike. I found that going to school full time, owning a business, and still having a semblance of a personal life really takes a lot out of you. To compound matters, my job involves physical labor; thus, when I have school and work in the same day, it has been difficult to find the time or energy to don a kit and hop on the bike. Honestly, these are just excuses for the fact that I have gained weight—nearly as much as my pre-cycling days. However, in my defense, the Huffington Post Canada reported a study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism journal “[which] found that in over four years, at least 70 per cent of students gain weight, according to Auburn University”. Although there have been contradicting results from other studies, at least in my case, it seems the ‘freshman 15’ theory holds—er—weight.

It is now time to hold myself accountable. At this point, I still have no immediate plans to race my bike, but it is time to get back on the saddle, or as Willie Nelson would say, “on the road again”. For the first time in my life, I have joined a gym. This is something I never thought I would do. Admittedly, I have enjoyed it so far! The classes are good for motivation and they are helping to develop muscles I never knew existed.

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Put simply: Squats. Are. Evil. In the wake of a body pump class, the simple task of nimbly sitting on the toilet turned into a lumbering collapse on the seat, accompanied by a painful shriek. But, things are improving. I’m beginning to feel stronger which will surely help me on the bike when I can get outside.

So, the goal for this year: Get back in shape. More specifically, to develop muscle definition—particularly in the core, shoulders, and arms—ahead of police academy training. And finally, to find the cardio fitness I once had.

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First Police Ride Along

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As I drove down the freeway headed to the city of La Porte where I scheduled my first ride along, I couldn’t help but feel excited about the coming experience. I knew this was an important step in my process of changing careers into a civil service role. First impressions are very important and I am taking this new direction seriously, so I made sure that I gave myself plenty of time to reach the station before the shift began. In fact I was nearly 30 minutes early, so I had some time to wait in the lobby while the evening shift was in their daily briefing before heading out on patrol.

10995601_10152902508556631_1536601040518068456_nI chose the evening shift on a Saturday since I was told it would provide the most opportunity to see a variety of calls and situations. The officer I was riding with, his name I will omit to respect his privacy, was a really nice guy. He would explain things as they happened and answered questions I thought to ask throughout the shift, which was between 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM. One of the draws for me to this line of work is the fact that unlike so many other jobs, you have no idea what sort of challenges you will face during your shift. Working with people and serving the public appeals to me as a person who is happy to assist those in need and focused on safety.

image1Our shift began with a missing persons case which we took before even leaving the station. Once the officer collected all of the information, we headed to our car. Sitting in the car, he had to get the computer up and running which he would then use to enter notes about the missing person just reported. Most people have seen police officers working on the computer in their cars, but it’s quite impressive to see just how much they can do with them. It’s definitely an invaluable tool in their job.

We were assigned to district 2, which would cover the east side of the city. As a patrol officer, you patrol your district looking for any signs of trouble, but ready to respond to calls as they come in from dispatch. The officer may also handle traffic control in the form of observing vehicles failing to follow the posted speed limits, failure to stop at stop signs or red lights, to vehicle safety and registration requirements. I believe many people are most familiar with that side of policing as it’s probably what we see the most during our daily commutes while ensuring that we follow traffic laws. I was looking forward to seeing traffic control procedures, but calls for assistance take priority and we were not short of those during the shift. One of the best features of the in-car computer is the ability for the officer to view a map of the city which places a marker at the destination of a call when it’s received from dispatch. It also shows other police units location and status in real time, which officers can use to better locate calls for assistance and allocate resources. When the officer initiates a traffic stop, dispatch is able to see that, so they immediately know the officers location before he even calls it in on the radio, improving their safety on the road. Technology is indeed a wonderful thing. image2

Throughout our shift, we responded to lots of information type of calls, a welfare check, a report of two men wielding a machete, a noise disturbance, a report of someone drinking alcohol in the park, an alligator on the loose in the middle of a busy road (pictured at the top of this post), and the worst call being a death on arrival. Sometime between all of the calls, we managed to work traffic at a stop sign where people frequently fail to stop. We initiated two traffic stops, but based on the officers discretion, only verbal warnings were given. For safety reasons, I had to remain in the car for traffic stops and for most calls we responded to, however the non-dangerous information type of calls I was allowed to exit the vehicle with the officer to observe.

Reflecting on my first ride along experience, I feel more confident in my direction as I learned a lot about the procedural side of the job. From working on the computer to filing reports and notes, to handling the radio, calls, traffic, and even driving. It was certainly a different experience from what I believe most of the public sees and it exposed a lot of parts about the job which helped me to ensure this is the direction I want to go. I’m looking forward to doing more ride alongs with other departments as it will be good to see policing from different departments and officers. For now, I can say without a doubt that I am more focused and committed than ever to pursuing this career.