Class of 40 new Toledo Police recruits start trainingWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
“I assure you questions are going to get a lot harder than the alphabet!” an academy instructor barked as a group of Toledo Police trainees fumbled to order themselves alphabetically on the first day of training.
“That wasn’t together! Start over at one!” another instructor shouted as the recruits performed a set of pushups out of sync with his count.
The newest Toledo Police Academy class began six months of classroom training Feb. 9 at Owens Community College.
“We will challenge you both physically and mentally, on a continual basis, on a daily basis, and at the end of those six months and only after those six months you will have a chance to be one of Toledo’s finest,” TPD Lt. Gerald Matwiejczyk told the class.
Chief George Kral also addressed the class, telling them he’d be watching them extra closely as they are the first class to start since he was sworn in as chief in January.
“You’re going to see me out here quite a bit,” Kral said. “I’m going to follow very closely your training, your academic scores, your physical fitness performance. When you graduate, I’m going to follow you through field training and hopefully through a long career.”
Kral reminded the recruits that training is difficult, but for good reason.
“In very short order you will be in foot pursuits on the midnight shift in an alley in the inner city that you have no idea where you are,” Kral said. “You’ll be driving a police vehicle at high speeds in a pursuit, clearing a building with your weapon drawn looking for an armed suspect, or God forbid put in a fatal force situation. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s stress.”
Kral started his remarks by congratulating the recruits for being chosen for the class, but then he got serious.
“You are very close to becoming part of an elite team. Thousands and thousands of people have taken the civil service test just to be sitting where you guys are right now. So if you’re feeling full of happiness and pride and self worth — good, you deserve it. You worked hard to get here. Congratulations,” Kral said. “It is now 9:13 a.m. As of 9:15 a.m., those thoughts gotta go out of your head. It’s time to go to work.”
He also challenged the class to graduate as a whole.
“If history repeats itself, four or five of you will not be here at graduation,” Kral said. “I’m issuing a challenge to you: Break that tradition. I need you. Your soon-to-be fellow officers need you. But most importantly the citizens of the city need you. … I want to hand all 40 of you a badge in six months. Don’t let me down.”
After six months of classroom training, the trainees will move into a four-month field training phase.
Kral said the last round of interview questions, which he personally wrote, focused on community policing and each member of the class was chosen because of their dedication to being “customer-friendly and community-oriented.”
“You’re here because of your mindset,” Kral said. “We are civil servants and we are always here for the public. In every aspect of this job — whether it be arresting people, writing citations, drafting a report, towing a car or whatever you’re doing — always treat the citizens of this city with the respect and dignity they deserve. Even if they are acting in a way that one would think they don’t deserve that. That’s what sets us apart.”
Afterward, Kral clarified that the training hasn’t changed, but the trainees were screened specifically looking for those who are “customer-friendly and community-oriented.”
“We’re looking to change the culture of the police department to be more community oriented and this is the start of it,” Kral said later. “The questions stressed community policing, community engagement and customer service. All of these trainees have demonstrated by way of their answers that that is their mindset.”
Building and repairing a rapport with the community was one of Kral’s major goals outlined in his remarks during his promotion ceremony.
“Trust is a key,” Kral said at the January promotion ceremony. “If there’s a distrust between the citizens and this department, Toledo will never realize its true potential.”
Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson also addressed the trainees, asking them to take their training seriously and reminding them they walk in the footsteps of community leaders, including the late Mayor D. Michael Collins. Collins, who died Feb. 6, five days after going into cardiac arrest while driving, was a police officer for 27 years.
“You’re going to be standing on the shoulders of men and women who care about their community, who care about making sure that they are safe, who care about that their partners and they themselves return home safely after every shift,” Hicks-Hudson said. “I welcome you, I give you Godspeed and I think you for deciding to take and answer that call to protect and to serve our community.”
Among the trainees is Kesha Francis, 26, of Toledo, who recently got out of the Army, where she served for six years.
“I’ve always wanted to do public service,” Francis said. “Both my parents were military. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else and the same thing with being a police officer. I wanted to continue that service.”
Francis said she agrees with Kral on the importance of community service, an outlook that was stressed even in her undergraduate degree in
“Even in college, getting a criminal justice degree, they stressed community outreach as what your main focus should be on, because you’re not going to get anywhere without having the support of the community,” Francis said. “Moving forward with that can make a world of difference.”
Francis said she thinks her military background will help her, but said she isn’t completely sure what to expect.
“It’s like basic training all over again. You know what to expect, but you don’t because it’s a completely different environment,” Francis said. “I’m just kind of rolling with it, trying not to get yelled at a lot,”
Stephen Swartz, 45, of Toledo has been with Toledo Fire & Rescue for 17 years. He is one of two firefighters attending the academy in order to become arson investigators.
“I’ve always been interested in [arson investigation]. It’s kind of a cross between the police aspect and the fire aspect,” Swartz said.
The upcoming training makes him is “a little excited and a little nervous,” Swartz said, but he is looking forward to the challenge.
“Going into the fires, that’s the most exciting part for sure,” Swartz said of his job. “But I like helping people. When you go on runs, people are having their bad days and we get to try to make their bad days a little bit better.”