Having all passed our final exam, twelve of us graduated the reserve academy on May 28, 2015. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Beaverton Police Department, Hillsboro Police Department, Forest Grove Police Department, and North Plains Police Department were all represented.
The room was filled with family members, friends, our instructors, and fellow law enforcement professionals from a variety of organizations.
My classmates and I gathered in a separate room to don our duty belts and put the finishing touches on our uniforms. We used a lint roller on each other, laughed at inside jokes, and peeked out at the arriving guests.
As the ceremony began, we filed into the main room and took our place in seats alongside the crowd. Agency by agency, we were sworn in and received our graduation certificate. Each new reserve called up a friend or family member to pin on their new badge.
After the event, we mingled and posed for photos. It was a surreal feeling to finally have that small, but meaningful, piece of metal pinned to our shirt. It was also bittersweet to feel such a sense of accomplishment while knowing our time as a class had come to an end.
We are all so fortunate to have gone through this five-month academy together. Not only was it an excellent group of candidates, but the training and guidance we received was stellar.
During one of our first classes, an instructor commented that we were quiet and keeping to ourselves. He predicted our friendships would quickly grow and a deep bond would develop. Lo and behold, we became comfortable with one another and soon there was not a single class that didn’t involve hysterical laughter and a strong team atmosphere.
I gained eleven brothers who I trust, respect, and care about.
What did we learn about ourselves?
At the close of the academy I was interested to take a look at what I had learned about myself through this challenging process.
It wasn’t until the final exam concluded that I was fully certain I could make it through the academy. I believe being a bit uncertain about my skill level worked to my advantage because it made me work harder. So, too, did feeling as though I needed to prove myself as the sole female in our class.
Not only was I fighting to meet the expectations of our instructors, I was also battling with myself and striving not to disappoint my classmates. Finishing the academy taught me that I’m far more courageous and capable than I realized.
I am very excited to have my experience demonstrate to my young daughter that women can pursue a role in what is, historically, a man’s endeavor. Hopefully, the idea of setting bold challenges and working hard to achieve them will resonate for her.
This was also an opportunity for each of us to learn more about our strengths and the areas in which we can improve. As I expected, defensive tactics and some of our physical tasks were the most challenging for me. Fortunately, these skills will improve with practice and I will have plenty of opportunity for that.
I learned I am a good communicator, a skill I will constantly use when out on patrol or in the jail. I like to make people feel at ease, which might serve me well if I ever become a detective.
Lastly, a sense of community and teamwork is very important to me. That was my favorite aspect of this entire experience and, luckily, it will endure as we begin volunteering with our individual agencies.
What are we most looking forward to as we explore our role as reserve deputy or officer?
The physical therapy sessions for my knee continue and I very much look forward to being cleared for full-duty. Once that happens, I will schedule my very first shift out on patrol.
It will be my first ride in a patrol car in uniform. I’ll finally be able to interact with citizens, answer questions about the Sheriff’s Office, help victims, hand out badge stickers to children, and make my first arrest.
Although we gained an immense amount of knowledge in the academy, there is far more left to learn. I have the feeling heading out on patrol will entail trial by fire. And I can’t wait.
A few of my classmates shared with me their answers to these same questions.
“I would say I grew as a person in many ways throughout the academy. Not only did I establish a voice and confidence that wasn't there at the beginning of the academy, but I learned so many skills and techniques I will be able to take with me as I enter a career in law enforcement.
Those skills range from learning criminal law and traffic law I will enforce every day, to safety procedures that come with EVOC and firearms, to understanding a healthy mindset to have when it comes to policing in general. Every single night of the academy, I was able to take something away from it that I will always be able to use and practice in my career.
I'm beyond thankful for the fellow reserves I had the opportunity to train with and the other training officers that ran the academy and prepared us for what's to come. From here I think I have a good grasp of what things I should and should not be doing as an officer and it has built a foundation I will be able to build off of.”
“The thing I learned most about myself…heart and commitment are what matter most. I am not the tallest, strongest or any of the other things that come to mind when you think of a qualified police officer. But, I am willing to learn, be taught, try something new, and to work hard at what I set out to do.
I learned control tactics, a new way to drive, the importance of aggression, and training. Through it all, what matters is that you are willing to learn, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and try and try again; frustration be damned. I learned it takes a lot to make me quit and that OC spray is the worst thing ever.
I am looking forward most to being on patrol and seeing all of the training applied in real-world scenarios.”
"The reserve academy was one of the most involved and eye-opening experiences I have ever had.
Learning about myself and how I would instinctively respond under stress to highly volatile situations has opened a door to an entirely new mind set. By no means have I mastered this awareness or skill set, but I feel as if I am moving in the right direction.
I was fortunate enough to be selected for this academy and feel grateful for all of the challenging learning environments I was exposed to, if even just scratching the surface.
I was often humbled and redirected, but also empowered and encouraged to gain knowledge and confidence. I was surrounded by both students and instructors I respected and wanted to emulate. I hope in some small way I was able to make a positive impact on their lives, as they have done on mine.
Graduating from the reserve academy is a very bittersweet accomplishment. I made many valuable relationships, which I will not be able to engage in every week, but look forward to what is next with eager anticipation.”
“I think I grew as a person in many ways. I became more confident in myself. I realized how much studying goes in to staying up-to-date on case law and building a working knowledge of the Oregon Revised Statutes.
I also learned I despise the effects of pepper spray with an eternal fire and will forever be glad I got to share that miserable experience with the best group of peers a person could ask for. In truth, that was the best part of attending the joint agency reserve academy.
I got to come together with people from all walks of life with different backgrounds and life experience. And we, together as a team, experienced grueling tests of personal courage and completed tasks that challenged us mentally and physically, and challenged our will to win. We learned countless skills to stay alive in this dangerous but rewarding career, and formed a support group to bounce ideas and thoughts off of each other in order to pass every test placed in front of us.
I had an incredible time with this great group of people and hope to have long lasting relationships with them!”
Thank you so much to every reader who spent time following along with our journey.
Thank you to all the family members, friends, coworkers, and instructors who offered us support, challenged us, helped boost our confidence, and dealt with our stress and crazy schedules for five months. We owe part of our success to you.
If you would love to embark on this same adventure, apply online for the 2017 Washington County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Academy.