• August 5, 2020

OPA returns to hands-on activities after coronavirus forces virtual education - Odessa American: Crime Justice

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OPA returns to hands-on activities after coronavirus forces virtual education

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Posted: Friday, May 29, 2020 4:48 pm

Before the recruits of the 20th session of the Odessa Police Academy begin their careers as law enforcement officers, they have already received some real-world problem solving experience.

The coronavirus halted the recruits from meeting in person, so they were taught virtually.

Odessa Police Department Sgt. Tommy Jones, who serves as the training coordinator for OPA, explained the recruits had to be self-motivated during the time they were learning virtually, because there wasn’t an instructor hovering over their shoulder.

“It is one of those read and react things,” Jones said. “It’s something they are going to have to do throughout their career as a police officer. This is going to help them out in the long run.”

A week ago, the OPA recruits — including 30-year-old Jose G. Rodriguez of Odessa — returned to the classroom to continue in-person training. Rodriguez explained that he prefers learning in the classroom with his peers instead of on a computer.

During the final week of May, the OPA recruits practiced firearms training at the Odessa Police Department Shooting Range. Rodriguez said he was relieved when he was able to return to hands- on training.

“I’ve never been behind a group chat like that,” Rodriguez said. “It was different, but at the same time you want to go back to the class to get a little more hands on. It was a good experience.”

Jones said it was different teaching virtually.

“You are talking and you are lecturing, but all you see is an empty classroom,” Jones said with a smile. “It was tough. Main thing that you are hoping for is the things you are saying are sticking with them and soaking in. We have to do that by quizzing them and testing them.”

OPD spokesman Cpl. Steve LeSueur said during a break that OPA is continuing to practice social distancing. The recruits were split into two groups during firearms training as half would practice while the other half stood back.

Throughout OPA training, recruits participated in various hands-on activities including directing traffic, communicating and problem solving, driving and crime scene investigation. LeSueur said firearms training is one of the most important.

“When it comes down to it, it could be a matter of life or death on how well trained they are,” LeSueur said.

Rodriguez graduated from Odessa High School in 2008. He said he’s known he’s wanted to be a police officer since he was a child, but he didn’t pursue the career path until more than a decade after he graduated from high school.

Over the last 10 years, Rodriguez said he’s worked in the oilfield, AC repair, machine shop and embroidery. Rodriguez admitted he wished he would have applied for the police academy at 20 instead of 30.

“I am the oldest in my class,” Rodriguez said. “I’m a pretty agile guy. I’m athletic. I didn’t play much athletics in high school, but I guess for my stature, I’m pretty quick. I would have preferred to this when I was 20.”

The 20th session of OPA will concluded with its graduation scheduled for 3 p.m. July 24 at the Odessa Marriott.

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