THE MAYOR’S REPORT: Police training

Ben Thomas Jr./Mayor of Greencastle

You may remember that I author my Mayor’s Report on Sundays. What a beautiful sunrise we experienced this morning. I was up early as the grandchildren and grand dog spent the night. Grand dog, Hadley, had to go outside so I accommodated her request while putting on a fresh pot of coffee. Grab a cup and join me as we review mandatory police training in Pennsylvania.

First, we’re less than two weeks away from spring! It won’t be long until the porch sittin’ will be here, welcomed and enjoyed. Friends Barb and Wink Flaherty came home last week from Maine for two funerals. They texted me on Saturday and had 10-plus inches of snow to deal with. Come on spring!?

See the photos:Photos: Greencastle-Antrim girls capture District 3 basketball gold

What's new in town:Old Sheetz comes down, new one opening late this summer

It’s been over 40 years since I attended the police academy. Mandatory and specialized training, however, continued as a requirement yearly as is the case today for all police officers. An officer has no arrest powers without the mandatory “Act 120” training and subsequent annual updates. Police cadets attend one of several certified basic police recruit academies in Pennsylvania. There are five modules where exams are given throughout the classroom training that must be successfully completed. Physical fitness training was a daily occurrence as we ran, ran some more, then ran again.

Modules 1 through 4 include introduction to the academy and law enforcement. Physical training (PT) throughout. Laws and criminal procedures, from the United States Constitution to use of force in law enforcement. Juvenile law, human relations and responding to persons with special needs. This includes mental health situations which have significantly increased. Homeland security curriculum along with the Pa. Vehicle Code, driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is included. Patrol procedures and operations. Criminal investigation. Drug violation enforcement, emergency vehicle operations of patrol units. Physical and emotional readiness. Control tactics. Firearms training, Emergency response training that includes first aid, CPR, and AED use, tactical medicine and opioid overdose management.

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

Module 5 is unique in that a cadet will participate in several scenario exercises. The cadet’s performance during those exercises will be evaluated based on criteria such as decision-making, communications, appropriate use of force. Once a cadet successfully completes the academy, he/she will be eligible to take the state-mandated certification exam. The certification exam, consisting of 200 questions, is administered by the Pa. Municipal Police Officer’s Education and Training Commission and must be completed within a specified timeframe. The training takes nearly 1,000 hours (six months as a full-time cadet; over a year for a part-time cadet).

The training is intense, physical and emotional. Unfortunately, very few men and women are applying and testing for police positions locally and in the nation. When I was testing, large rooms would be full of women and men vying for a law enforcement career.

Once you are certified and sworn in you will continue your training “on the job,” riding with a senior officer where field training and experience is so important. Specialized training will continue throughout your career … from special criminal investigation courses to advanced specialty training. All Greencastle police officers have certifications in so many disciplines.

Officers are certified in crisis intervention training where interpersonal communication is used on a nearly daily basis with citizens and visitors who are having some type of mental challenge. Greencastle officers and citizens are supported by a “co-responder” for these calls to further assist the person, persons or families in need. All officers must successfully complete annual mandatory in-service training as required by the Pa. Municipal Police Officers Education and Training and Training Commission. First-aid, CPR, and firearms proficiency are also part of the mandatory in service training.

So … are you ready to begin taking civil service exams to become a police officer? I do hope that our young generation will consider public safety (health, safety and welfare) is the first responsibility of our municipal and commonwealth governments. Over the decades, Greencastle PD has been involved with intern programs at the high school and college level. Some of those early interns that rode with me are now retired from their police service. Though Greencastle has not grown in size, the surrounding growth and societal challenges require our law enforcement professionals to be well-trained as they respond to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I close by memorializing and honoring three close friends that served the G-A community for decades and recently passed away. Former Fire Chiefs Dick Mellott and Gary Hawbaker along with former President and Trustee Ron Nicarry were icons, leaders at Rescue Hose Company. To their families, we are so grateful for their combined services.

Because of these leaders who have now passed and for our dedicated law enforcement personnel who serve, we are blessed!