Skip to main content

Recruit School #11: Week 16

Oct. 23-28, 2022

Author: CO recruit writer

The week started with a competitive, team-oriented physical training session outdoors. The class split into teams of six, organized by similar height. Each team then carried sections of telephone poles – because we were grouped up by height, the telephone pole was equally balanced between everyone. The competition between teams always brings out extra effort from every recruit. We competed in relay races, running while holding the poles overhead, and performing sit-ups and push-ups with the telephone poles. It was a great workout to start the week of training.

recruit demonstrating survival tactics on instructor in a gym

Photo caption: Recruits had their final survival tactic exams, where they had to demonstrate each technique they learned over the past 16 weeks.

This was another important week of classes. First, we had survival tactics, a very critical part of the job. Law enforcement officers need to know how to physically protect themselves and others. We reviewed all the tactics and maneuvers one last time before beginning our survival tactics practical exam. During the exam, we had to demonstrate our proficiency level for each tactic and skill. Many of my classmates, including myself, are fond of survival tactics because it is a crucial, exciting class throughout the academy.

“The skills and techniques that are taught during survival tactics are perishable ,” said Conservation Officer Danielle Zubek, recruit school staff member. “It is important to allow the recruits as much time as possible to practice these techniques, so that they are better prepared once they get out into the field. Our job as conservation officers can be very dangerous at times. It is our duty as instructors to prepare the recruits for worst-case scenarios so recruits and their partners come home safely.”

That afternoon we began classes on searching crime scenes. I was excited about this class because I studied criminal justice in college and have taken multiple courses related to criminalistics and forensics.

Tuesday morning for physical training, we wore our reflective vests for an off campus run. We have only done one other off campus run during the academy, so it was an enjoyable change of pace and scenery. Runs are my favorite thing to do for physical training workouts. While in college, I was a varsity cross-country and track and field athlete, so running is always a personal favorite of mine. All the recruits come from different backgrounds, so we all have our strengths and weaknesses in the academy, even when it comes to physical training.

After our run, we continued survival tactic practical evaluations. We entered the gym individually to visit rotating stations where we demonstrated different tactical techniques and maneuvers. While survival tactics is one of the topics I enjoy most, it is still always nerve-racking going into evaluations and exams. At the end of the evaluations, the high gear suits came out. The high gear suit is a protective padded suit that allows techniques to be used with more force and speed without injuring fellow recruits. Recruits took turns going against each other in a physical scenario which allowed us to apply the correct techniques in real time.

Later Tuesday, we continued lessons about crime scene searches and processing evidence. We eventually transitioned outside to conduct an organized search for a firearm that was hidden in a field of weeds and brush.

Wednesday began in the “tank” for physical training. I do not mind the tank, because I grew up as a swimmer and I was also a lifeguard, so I am comfortable in the water. The tank session involved stations and team exercises. For one of the team exercises, we had to wrap our legs around each other’s waists and swim backwards using only our arms. We had to synchronize our strokes and communicate to stay afloat.

We continued survival tactic evaluations by taking our written exams. It is important to be able to perform the techniques physically, but we must also be able to recall them on paper. We ended the morning with a partner scenario which involved searching the building for a suspect who had escaped custody and was hiding someplace inside.

recruit photographing evidence on the ground using a smartphone

Photo caption: A recruit uses their phone to photograph shotgun shells as evidence in a scenario that involved a deer that was illegally taken.

Wednesday afternoon consisted of evidence collection and preservation. Dusting for fingerprints is something I learned in a criminalistics/forensics course I took in college, so I was able to help other recruits while we practiced. Our academy staff, COs Mark Siemen and Kyle Bucholtz taught the class. They both have a plethora of knowledge from their previous experience as law enforcement officers in different agencies.

We ended Wednesday with a legal review session conducted by F/Lt. Jason Wicklund, who supervises the Law Enforcement Division’s employment, training, legal and technology sections.

Thursday morning began with a physical training yoga session led by academy staff instructor CO Casey Varriale. By the end of the week, we are often sore from our workouts, and stretching is a nice way to ease out of the week.

We concluded survival tactic evaluations with two scenarios. First, a scenario where we responded to a call to assist an officer in need. The second scenario was all about not quitting and your “survival mindset.” We had to do numerous exercises to elevate our heart rate and then demonstrate our ability to perform tactics while under pressure.

a recruit walks through the woods looking for a blood trail from a deer

Photo caption: During a scenario, a recruit follows the blood trail from a deer that was shot over bait.

Thursday afternoon we continued evidence collection and preservation lessons by plaster casting shoeprints. To do this, we poured a molding substance into the shoeprint, which replicated the exact shape of the shoe. Law enforcement officers do this so they have an exact replica of evidence to refer to after the crime scene has been closed.

two recruits interview a man in front of a house with a dead deer in the yard while instructors observe

Photo caption: During a scenario, recruits arrive to the training house in response to a complaint about a deer illegally taken using bait. At the training house, recruits located a buck laying in the front yard along with the firearm the hunter used to take the deer. Recruits asked the hunter to lead them to the tree stand in the woods where the deer was shot from, where they searched the woods for additional evidence.

We then partnered up for a deer hunting scenario. I do not have the same hunting experience compared to other recruits, so I was partnered with an experienced bow hunter, which helped me learn a ton of information during the scenario.

 recruit interviews a hunter with a second recruit in the background looking for evidence on the ground

Photo caption: Recruits interview a hunter who, during a scenario, illegally shot a deer.

Thursday concluded with a handful of exams, including legal, domestic violence response, traffic crash investigations and conservation law.

For the final physical training session of the week, we went on a six-mile run around the academy drive track. Recruit School Commander Sgt. Jason King led the class in cadences for the last four miles.

The classroom portion of the week concluded with a lesson about recording crime scenes. This included sketching the scene of our scenario from Thursday afternoon. We also learned how to remove a deer’s antlers, process the meat and how to shoot a crossbow – all of which I have never done before.

Overall, the members of Recruit School #11 had a good week. We pushed through some stressful scenarios and exams. Everyone worked very hard during each class. Speaking for myself, I was quite stressed this week but focused on the task at hand and made it through. Every week of the academy, I am gaining more knowledge and confidence to become a conservation officer. Next week, we will return to the DNR’s Ralph A. MacMullan Center in Roscommon for off-road vehicle training.

Read Week 17.