Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Road to Reserves - Welcome, Ethics, & Community Policing

As I drove to our first class on Tuesday night, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” came on the radio. The lyrics “forever’s gonna start tonight” packed a bit of an emotional punch for me. It feels like my classmates and I are on the cusp of an incredible adventure. Was I singing along?  Maybe.

Class 1 – Welcome & Academy Expectations

Several local agencies send candidates through our combined reserve academy. Each year the host agency alternates between the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) in Hillsboro and the Beaverton Police Department (BPD). 

This year, BPD is hosting and I will admit to having sweaty palms as I walked through their unfamiliar front doors. Class was in a small conference room and I found a seat among my quiet, well-dressed peers. By the time the clock hit 6:00pm, it became clear I am the only female reserve recruit in this academy class.

Introductions began and we met our academy coordinators and advisors, primarily from BPD and the WCSO. The class members took turns introducing themselves and speaking briefly about their motivation for joining the reserve program.  The agencies represented include BPD, WCSO, Hillsboro Police Department, Forest Grove Police Department, and North Plains Police Department.

We received an updated schedule outlining the topics we will cover in each class.  Typically, we meet every Tuesday and Thursday evening for up to four hours, and for eight hours each Saturday.  This schedule will continue until our graduation on May 28, 2015.

Class 2 – Ethics & Police Professionalism

A WCSO Core Values challenge coin
Each of our agencies has a unique set of shared, guiding values that assist staff and volunteers in making strong ethical decisions and that communicate to the community what the organization stands for.  At the WCSO, our Core Values encourage us to:
Do your best.
Do the right thing. 
Treat others the way you want to be treated.

On Thursday evening, a BPD captain shared each agency's values as we delved into the topic of ethics and police professionalism. Each reserve candidate brought a news article related to law enforcement ethics to discuss and we explored the importance of keeping a focus on why you went into police work to begin with – even years into your career.

Focused and ready to talk ethics!
My classmates shared a variety of personal motivations, including the constantly evolving nature of the work, a desire to have a direct impact on someone’s life, the mental and physical demands of the job, and the chance to be a strong role model for their children.  We were encouraged to dig a little deeper than the "canned" answers we may have provided in the first class.

We learned about characteristics associated with good police service, problem solving techniques we can utilize when faced with difficult ethical decisions, and the importance of supporting one another. Perhaps the most important lesson is speaking up if we witness an act our instincts tell us is wrong.

Class 3 – Community Policing & How To Get Hired

A BPD officer started off our first Saturday class with a definition of community policing, which involves strategies to address crime, change a situation, or correct a behavior by means other than arrest, or by steps taken after arrest.  This action might include an education component, community partnerships or other innovative solution.

Much coffee will be consumed
More public safety organizations are moving toward tactics like Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (C.P.T.E.D.).  This approach demonstrates how design and use of our environment can reduce crime and thereby improve qualify of life for residents and business owners.  A simple example is the use of improved lighting and shortened hedges to diminish dark, hidden corners outside a citizen’s home.  

Our last presentation of the day came from one of our class coordinators, who spoke to us about the typical hiring process for a paid deputy or officer position.  Luckily, the application process for reserves is very similar, so we all had some familiarity with the topic. 

I believe the best piece of advice to stand out as an applicant is to do your homework on the agency where you are applying.  Take a look at my last post to learn how you can start gaining knowledge and experience to improve your likelihood of being hired.


With week one complete, I am excited to move ahead and to learn more about my classmates. This is a very significant commitment of time, energy, and focus and I appreciated when one of our coordinators told us, “You are a team now. You will depend on one another to succeed.” We have hours and hours of class time, practical exercises, and studying ahead of us.

Firing a Glock 9mm pistol
I managed to squeeze in some shooting with some of my WCSO coworkers and one of my reserve academy classmates.  Getting out to the range for firearms instruction should be a lot of fun and I was glad to get a little more practice before that happens in a few weeks.

It is a bit intimidating to be the only female candidate in class, but it will be a worthwhile challenge to hold my own among a bunch of men.  To me, this means learning techniques to compensate for whatever physical disadvantages I experience and continuing to hone my communication skills as the main way I diffuse conflict. A bonus to being the only female is that I will never have to wait in line for the restroom!

Now, if I could only remember to snap to attention when our class is addressed as “you guys.”  Till next week!

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