Recruits in the Carroll County Sheriff's Office Training Academy get hands-on training behind the wheel of a police car at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions Driver Training Facility in Sykesville.
Police work isn’t always car thieves or high-speed chases. But during training, sometimes it can be.
“Carroll units respond to the 7-Eleven, the lower grid, armed robbery.”
Recruits’ radios beeped and a dispatcher’s voice came through with the call for two suspects in a dark-colored Dodge Charger fleeing the scene.
While some units responded to the “convenience store,” two vehicles set out in pursuit of the dark-colored Charger.
After a heated pursuit through the rural roads of the urban driving course, they caught up with them at a stop light.
“Unit 23. We’re going to engage a felony stop here,” a recruit informed the dispatcher.
Almost immediately after the vehicles were in park, six recruits were out the doors, eyes and firearms focused on the suspect’s vehicle.
A recruit took the lead on communication with the suspects, ordering them to make their hands visible. Step by step, the suspects were removed from the vehicles, walking backward with hands drawn until recruits could search them for weapons and put them in custody.
The arresting officers were members of the second class to go through the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy. Split into two groups, the 30-member class and their instructor traveled to Sykesville where they made use of the emergency vehicle operation course maintained by the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions facility there.
Spread over several days, the course work provides 44 hours of driver training within the 27-week academy training between September and March.
“Basically the point of their entire curriculum is to give them as much experience behind the wheel of a car as we can, learning defensive driving, learning the capabilities of the vehicle, so they don’t push them when they’re out on patrol when they’re driving around the public,” said Academy Director Sgt. Brandon Holland.
Officers on patrol duties will see the inside of their vehicle more than they’ll see the inside of an office. For all the time that training academy graduates will spend driving, their instructors want them to do it safely.
“We want them to know what the car can and can’t do in all weather conditions so that way it makes them a safer driver in the public,” Holland said.
After graduating, the class will be spread out in agencies across the state. Along with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, recruits come from the Ocean City Police Department, the Thurmont Police Department, the Boonsboro Police Department, the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The fact that the two suspects in this case were instructors dressed in dark clothing didn’t stop them from throwing out belligerent jabs at the recruits for added realism.
The Carroll County Sheriff's Office Training Academy held an open house and a dedication of the C. Richard Weaver Flag Court on Thursday evening at their location in the former North Carroll High School.
In the morning, instructors run the sirens on their vehicles for a few moments on the track to scare away any deer that might have wandered onto the track from the nearby hills. It’s smack in the middle of deer season.
Besides the urban course where the arrest took place, which is laid out with fake commercial areas and a suburban residential court, there is a course that mimics Maryland highways. On another, sprinklers allow instructors to create a controlled wet surface where drivers can practice entering skids and correcting them. On another, patterns of traffic cones mark out advanced parking and turning maneuvers designed to make recruits very comfortable with the space their vehicles take up.
While running this course, drivers have a timed limit to complete each maneuver. Thursday at the course, there are far fewer cones down than on Monday, Morales said. Still, when a recruit tips one over, he might make them run over to provide CPR to the “casualty.”
“It’s an extremely convenient course,” Holland said. “Number one, it’s right in our backyard, and number two it has just about everything, every road condition that they’re going to encounter.”
With ages ranging from 20 to 34, each member of the class brings a different level of skill and driving experience when they get behind the wheel.