We often forget that the cop who just passed us on Providence Road is also our neighbor and he is just as worried about crime and his family's safety as we are.
Cedar Posts talked with one our neighbors the other day, a neighbor who just happens to be a CMPD officer. In order to protect both his identity and his opinion of CMPD we are going to call him Jim.
We wanted Jim to give us a first hand idea of how things at the CMPD are going at since the arrival of Chief Monroe.
Jim is not a rookie but he doesn't consider himself a veteran, as he points out he is "still learning". Sometimes the hardest lessons are not from the school of hard knocks as much as from the school that teaches the political facts of life.
"When I am at work I attempt to perform to the best of my ability for the community and citizens I serve." Jim says. "Like all people I have good days and bad days." he adds.
Jim stresses that despite the recent arrests of Marcus Jackson and Timothy Gerald, and the resignation of two other police officers there are a lot of good officers working for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department; but he admits that there are some lazy ones too.
Jim doesn't offer an opinion of Chief Monroe, when pressed surprisingly Jim's thoughts on Chief Monroe are pretty neutral, but he is quick to point out that the people he works for, his chain of command, are the best in the business.
What he doesn't like are the cut backs in training. When Cedar Posts wrote about Frisbee Football and then Paintball Jim wrote to say that the two events are very different. While the Frisbee matches were just an oddball recreation idea the paintball event may have had a real purpose, training and team building.
According to Jim, training at the CMPD has become harder and harder to come by. Each CMPD officer has state mandated training that must be completed in order to maintain their State Law Enforcement Certification.
Police officers with the CMPD are required to attend the range four times a year firing approximately 200 rounds total, one hour day practice, one hour night practice, which includes day qualification and night qualification. (Total time about 2hrs) This also includes the time spend shooting of the department shotgun. 2 hours on the range every three months.
Officers are also required to take juvenile sensitivity training, hazmat awareness, weapons of mass destruction training, and keep up with the most recent changes in the law, all of which are completed on line.
There is also a once a year 8 hour block of situational training where basic defensive tactics are reviewed and practiced and then applied in a simulated encounter.
And that is all.
With little fan fare or public knowledge the street crimes unit was dis-banned in 2008. Jim was a member of the Street Crimes Unit/Task Force from its inception until it was shut down. While a member of the Street Crimes Unit, Jim says he and other officers trained together at least once a month.
Training would build on the previous month's training so that officer would become more proficient in the tactics being taught.
Topics would include shooting on the move, shooting to and from cover, movement drills, reloading on the move, reloading from cover, transition shooting (changing from shotgun to pistol), high risk search warrant entries, shoot don’t shoot drills, felony traffic stops, suspect extractions from vehicles, live fire shooting house entry and most importantly force on force training with simulation rounds.
It was through force on force training where the officer and supervising sergeants could evaluate the progress of the group and officers.
But thanks to recent budget and staffing changes the only members of the police department that now train at a monthly level or above are those officers assigned to SWAT.
In Jim's opinion this is a disservice to every officer out on the street.
Under Chief Monroe's direction each division has a focus mission team (FMT), that is directed by coordinators and manned with "High Risk Search Warrant" certified officers. These officers are often called to conduct search warrants, assist VICE with vehicle take downs or other high impact suspect arrests.
Yet, Jim tells Cedar Posts that even these officers are not allowed to train together with any regularity. They are not allowed to build the necessary camaraderie and skill sets needed to operate safely, decisively and effectively.
Jim points to a saying at the CMPD academy “Fight like you Train, Train like you Fight" which makes you wonder if CMPD officers can not train on the skills and tactics that are so important to their job and survival how will the fight will turn out?
It is this concern as well as an effort to maintain unit cohesiveness and to practice these skills that some CMPD officers have taken it upon themselves to train whenever and where ever possible and this includes getting together for a game of paintball.
Many officers have used their vacation time and or days off to seek out training outside the department at their own expense. Others have attempted to come together for an hour here or there while on duty to practice building clearing, vehicle extractions and high risk entries. CMPD no longer has the funds or ability to forgo the man power needed to keep their officers trained at a high level of proficiency and thus CMPD officers are now only trained to the bare minimum.
In Jim's opinion this is a receipt for failure and or death as new officers come aboard with no additional training and more experienced veteran officers retire.
Still many dedicated officers like Jim will continue to seek out ways to train, and attempt to maintain proficiency in all of their tactical skills. These officers purchase their own training ammunition and sacrifice their personal time and in order to continue to train sometimes playing a game of paintball to stay sharp.
Cedar Posts must admit that Paintball while a poor substitute for live fire and simulation work is better than nothing.
Kudos to officers like Jim who are working hard to over come budget cuts and policy changes put in place by Chief Monroe.