37 officers in training graduate at TCC - CBS46 News

37 officers in training graduate at TCC

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center has graduated its Basic Recruit Class 13-3.

A total of 37 graduates representing eight law enforcement agencies were in attendance at the 2 p.m. ceremony at the Tucson Convention Center.

They are men and women who will get paid to protect the community, and a lot of intense training goes into making sure they are capable of doing the job, not to mention worthy of wearing the uniform.

Lt. Bruce Smith, a basic training commander at the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training center said, every person sitting in the seat at the graduation made it through an intense 17-weeks of training.

Recruit class 13-3 started with 41 men and women.  Four of them dropped out.  Lt. Smith said, many of the recruits will drop out in the first week alone.

All the candidates have to go through intense background checks.  They are not the only ones interviewed, police will even talk to their former employers and family members.

The physical endurance portion of the testing can weed out some of the recruits.  Basic training requirements include running a mile and a half, jumping, and scaling a six foot wall.

They have to maintain good grades in academics and pass all of the written and oral tests as well.

In addition to that police said, recruits had to endure extensive psychological testing, and lie detector tests.

"It's a very strenuous process to get hired by the Tucson Police Department," said Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor.

22 of the new graduates were joining the Tucson Police force.

"These are replacements for officers that have retired or left the agency.  The goal we've had is to have 998 officers, right now we're about 15-20 short of that," said Chief Villasenor.

Even after getting sworn in, training is not over for the recruits.  Chief Villasenor said the new hires would have to go through post basic training for six weeks, where they would be trained on TPD procedures. 

Then for another 13-15 weeks new officers would be required to ride alongside an experienced officer on patrol, and be judged on a daily basis before they were assigned to a beat.

Tucson officers are on probation for a year and a half.  Chief Villasenor said the probationary period used to be one year long, but they extended that to protect themselves and the city.

"As much as you test, as much as you scrutinize, sometimes there are things you just don't find out till you've had someone in your employment for a while."

The Tucson Police Department was put in a negative spotlight recently after two officers who were still on probation lost their jobs.  Both were accused of breaking the law they were supposed to enforce.

In August, former Tucson police officer Ben Gabbala was charged with sexual misconduct for allegedly sexually assaulting a female jail inmate.

In July, former Tucson Police officer was charged with aggravated assault after allegedly waving a gun inside a convenience store.

Chief Villasenor said both men were within six months of being over their probationary period.

In March, former Tucson Police officer Martin Ward was booked on child porn charges.  Ward recently pleaded guilty to Sexual Exploitation of  a Minor.

Chief Villasenor said Ward had passed the probationary period. He had been with the department about six years.

"We do everything possible.  All those individuals were removed because of our own self-initiated investigations," said Chief Villasenor.

During the graduation ceremony, the new officers were reminded that they would constantly be in the public eye, and be living public lives.

Their uniforms were a symbol of trust and integrity.  Along with a gun and badge the officers were bound by a code of conduct.

John Bartley, a new Tucson Police officer said they had been hammered with that message in the last 17 weeks.

"We are reminded of it constantly.  Everyone is watching you.  When you have that uniform and badge, everyone is constantly watching you," said Bartley.

The biggest challenge the Tucson Police Department faced was retaining the new hires.  Police say it cost about $100,000 to train just one officer.

According to numbers released by the Tucson Police Officers Association, the department lost about 26 officers last year to smaller agencies who were willing to pay more, and hire officers who had experience.

For the city of Tucson that was a loss of $2.6 Million dollars.

Chief Villasenor said he hoped to retain the officers by providing incentives for them to stay.  Villasenor said he expected many retirements in the next two years and this would create opportunities for advancement and promotions, that other departments may not be able to provide.

The graduates include:

Benson Police Department - 2 graduates

Clifton Police Department - 1 graduate

Cochise County Sheriff's Department - 3 graduates

Douglas Police Department - 1 graduate

Gila River Police Department - 5 graduates

Globe Police Department - 1 graduate

Hopi Resource Enforcement Services - 2 graduates

Tucson Police Department - 22 graduates

Watch Fox 11 at 9 p.m. and KOLD News 13 at 10 p.m. for Sonu Wasu's live report.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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