By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Three new Ottumwa police officers fresh out of training will now dive into a hands-on program for the next few months alongside established officers.
The Iowa Law Enforcement Academy’s 249th Basic finished its 14-week training on Friday, graduating a class of 37 that included three men who began their first day at the Ottumwa Police Department on Monday: Nathan Wolff, Rob Schutte and Devin Yeager.
“It went quick, and we learned a lot,” Wolff, 23, originally of Peotone, Ill., said.
Now that they are back in Ottumwa, the three officers will start the 15-week Police Officer Training (PTO) program, each with an Ottumwa officer. By August, their probationary period will be over, and they will take their first steps on Ottumwa’s streets as full-fledged police officers.
There were definite highs and lows of their training at the academy, Schutte, 23, originally of Kahoka, Mo., said.
“The mace was a low point,” he said.
During pepper spray training, the trainees were sprayed in the eyes, had to stand for 10 seconds holding their eyes open, punch a bag for 30 seconds or more, go downrange to fire shots and radio for help. Only after all of this could they start decontamination.
“The actual drill was around two minutes,” Schutte said. “But it was an hour of agony.”
Yeager, 22, of Ottumwa, said the practical training was hugely beneficial, including lessons at the firing range, practicing vehicle stops and operating while intoxicated stops, first aid and hazmat.
Every day the trainees would wake up at 6:30 a.m., go through inspections and be in their first class by 8 a.m., where they would stay until 5 p.m. with the occasional night class.
“We learned a little bit about everything,” Wolff said.
The three also exhibited the drive to be the best in their class at the academy. Schutte had been tied for top shot as the end of the academy approached, only losing to another trainee in a shoot-off at the very end.
Woff and Yeager snagged physical fitness honors in the 300-point club alongside five other trainees. In order to receive this status, they had to run 1.5 miles in less than nine minutes, do at least 80 sit-ups in two minutes and do 20 pull-ups with no time limit.
“Seven in one class is a pretty big number,” Yeager said. “There are usually only one or two who make it that far.”
The OPD is not quite at a full staff of 41 officers with these three stepping on board. A recent resignation and the open police chief position leaves the department short an officer, said Sgt. Chad Farrington.
The three new officers are anxious and ready to begin their PTO program, Wolff said. While they got a taste of every field during their time at the academy, the next 15 weeks are when they’ll learn the most about the job, Yeager said.
“There’s still lots to learn,” Schutte said. “PTO is based on the idea that they’ll tell you, show you and then you go do it.”
Farrington said the three men still hold the same attitude they started with when they were sworn in in January.
“But now they’re more educated on law enforcement,” he said. “They have a better foothold and understand the law and police tactics. PTO will now hone and specialize their training on ... our policies and procedures and municipal code.”
His advice for the new officers is to keep an open mind.
“Law enforcement is ever-changing,” Farrington said. “You’ll never know all there is to know because there’s a new situation or problem every day. And you’ll need a positive attitude. That’s probably the most important. Whether it’s particular calls for service or a situation that may bother you, PTO teaches you not only how to be an officer but how to deal with stress at work.”
To see how the OPD narrowed its search to these three men, go online to www.ottumwa.com to read “Three men sworn in as police officers” and “Applicants test for police department positions.”