Cadets get ‘teachable moment’ as they undergo pepper spray training at LSCO police academy

Kareem Bartlett stands calmly as he is sprayed with pepper spray by Instructor Josh Cummins with the Liberty County Sheriff's Office Basic Peace Officer Academy on May 31. After being sprayed, cadets had to provide their name and other information before being led through an obstacles course.

By Vanesa Brashier,

The cadets at the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Basic Peace Officer Academy hope they will never need this training. More than likely, however, as future peace officers, they will eventually encounter a combative suspect and have to fall back on the pepper spray training they received May 31 outside of the Hartel Building in Liberty.

The 17 cadets enrolled in this year Academy took their turns standing in front of Instructor Josh Cummins as they took a hearty shot of Oleoresin Capsicum, the active ingredient in pepper spray, to the face.

“They get a direct exposure to the spray. Then they have to go through a series of obstacles where they have to do strikes and knee kicks, and then handcuff someone. The reason for this training is that any time an officer uses OC spray, they are going to suffer some effect, whether from the wind or contact with the suspect,” Cummins said. “We put them through the worst possible scenario in a controlled environment. We make it hard so it will be less difficult when they are in the field and have to rely on this training.”

In recent weeks, cadets also have undergone taser training where received a non-lethal burst of electricity that incapacitates most people. They also went through ASP baton training. Cummins said he is certified through ASP (Armament Systems and Protection) to teach the Academy students. His role as instructor is defense tactics, which includes taser, baton and pepper spray training.

After recovering for a half-hour, most of the cadets were ready to give a thumbs-up to having successfully completed their pepper spray training on May 31 at the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Basic Peace Officer Academy. Pictured left to right are the red-eyed cadets Willie Davie of Dayton, Curtis Johnson of Batson, Billy Noey of Cleveland, Kareem Bartlett of Kingwood, Eric Watson of Hull and Maggie Lopez of Baytown.

By the time cadets reached this section of the nine-month course, which began in January, they had completed much of their book work, which covered the Texas Penal Code, traffic laws and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

“They are getting ready to take their second quarterfinals. Once a quarter in the Academy, they take a comprehensive test on the knowledge they have attained since the beginning of the course. We are trying to help them retain as much information as possible so they will be ready to take their peace officer certification tests later this year,” Cummins said.

Of the cadets who have gone through the last six sessions of the Academy, a perfect 100 percent have passed the certification test on the first attempt, a bragging point for Cummins and the sheriff’s office.

“We’re pretty proud of that. We’ve been able to brag on the fact that we have had 100 percent passing and want that to continue,” he said.

He attributes the success to the quality of training the cadets receive from instructors, including Liberty County Pct. 3 Deputy Constable Hugh Bishop, who teaches them on Crisis Intervention and the Texas Penal Code, and Investigator Christine Taylor with the Liberty County District Attorney’s Office, who teaches them the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader (left) visits with Deputy Bryant Kutra and Liberty County Sheriff’s Academy Instructor John Cummins on Friday, May 31, when cadets in the academy were undergoing pepper spray training at the Hartel Building in Liberty.

“We have had some drop out early on in the Academy because of financial issues or problems with their jobs. The cadets are working their regular jobs and then attending the Academy five nights a week, 6 to 10 p.m.,” Cummins said. “It’s a commitment. Both of the dropouts this year were due to financial issues and we can’t fault them for that.”

Compared to other law enforcement academies, the one organized by the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office is affordable with tuition at $1,525 for the whole nine-month course. Cadets also have to pay for their uniforms, duty gear and firearm, which brings the costs closer to $2,500.

“It’s an investment in their future careers. Once they pass the state exam, they receive their peace officer license and are eligible for jobs at the sheriff’s office or other agencies,” said Cummins, adding that the requirements beyond the peace officer certification vary for agencies, so some additional training might be required.

If you are interested in a career in law enforcement and missed this Academy, the next one is in 2021, as they are held every other year. Applications will begin in the fall and early winter of 2020. Each cadet must undergo physical and psychological evaluations, a requirement by the state.

“If anyone needs their peace officer license before then, they will have to attend classes elsewhere in Harris County or Beaumont,” Cummins said.

After graduation this fall, cadets will be encouraged to apply for open positions with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.

“The Sheriff likes to hire from the Academy. We know what kind of quality person we are getting by then. We’ve had them for nine months,” Cummins said.

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