Mike Parker: What training must law enforcement officers have?
On May 16, I attended a graduation ceremony to see my granddaughter’s best friend complete her basic training toward becoming a law enforcement officer — more specifically, a deputy with the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office. For years, I had heard about Basic Law Enforcement Training, more commonly known as BLET. I had no idea what that training demanded.
What does it take to be a police officer or sheriff’s deputy? I learned a little of the demands of that position at the ceremony. After the ceremony I took a closer look at the curriculum and requirements for those tasked with enforcing the laws.
The basic curriculum requires completion of 36 instructional blocks totaling 616 hours of training spread over a 16-week period. Some programs add coursework or additional practice that bring the total to 20 weeks. For the bulk of nearly four months, officers in training learn the basic information needed to enforce the laws with accuracy and integrity. They must pass examinations — physical, practical, and cognitive.
Some of the topics this program addresses include Law Enforcement Driver Training, Motor Vehicles Laws, Arrest, Search and Seizure, as well as the constitutional limitations on search and seizure. Woven throughout the course are practical exercises and extensive training in ethics.
But before a person can even enroll in BLET, he or she must meet a number of criteria. An applicant must be at least 20 years old, have a high school diploma or GED and be a U.S. citizen. The educational requirements are minimum standards. My granddaughter’s friend had already earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice before beginning the program. One of her fellow graduates held a master’s degree in Criminal Justice.
Before enrolling in BLET, the candidate must take a standardized reading comprehension test and score at least on the 10th-grade level. Keep in mind, the typical citizen reads at about the seventh-grade level. The program requires a good deal of reading that must be comprehended and retained to pass seeming unceasing testing.
He or she must provide the results of a medical examination conducted by a licensed health care professional that certifies the applicant has the fitness necessary to perform the essential tasks of a law enforcement officer. The physical testing is demanding.
The applicant must also provide the results of certified criminal background checks from any locale where the applicant has lived since reaching adulthood. Any of a number of criminal offenses, even misdemeanors, prevents a person from becoming a law enforcement officer. After all, shouldn’t those seeking to enforce the law be law-abiding citizens in their personal lives?
Of course, trainees receive extensive firearms training. They must know when deadly force is allowed and necessary. They must learn to assess situations and make split-second decisions. They must be able to hit targets with a handgun at a variety of distances. Some targets are as far away as 25 yards — 75 feet.
After 20 weeks, this particular group of trainees, one of the best classes in Pitt Community College’s BLET history according to Director Thomas Forrest, was graduating. Twenty-two of the 29 who entered the program had passed, an unusually high passing rate.
As the ceremony came to a close, the group stood and, in unison, gave a moving recitation of the “Law Enforcement Code of Ethics.” I cannot give the full text because of the limitations of space, but I do want to share at least part to give insight into the mindset this program seeks to instill.
“As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence and disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.
“I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others; honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life. …”
I look at the serious and determined faces of these young people as they recited the creed of their profession.
May the Lord enable them to live up to that code. We will all be better for it.
Mike Parker is a columnist for Neuse News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.