New officers hit the road: A first-hand look at the Merrill Police Deparment’s Field Training Program
In mid-January, Logan Lange-formerly of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office- was one of two Merrill natives hired as the newest additions to the Merrill Police Department.
Shortly after selection, Lange embarked on the intense 8-week Field Training Program which the department employs to prepare all entry-level officers for solo patrol in the city.
On the evening of Wednesday February 10th, the Merrill Foto News was allowed exclusive access as a backseat observer to the program in action, with Officer Lange and his assigned Field Training Officer, 7- year department veteran Matt Waid.
As Waid explains, as part of every shift, Lange is consistently given feedback and evaluated on a variety of tasks, including investigative techniques, officer appearance and communication skills.
“Each officer is assigned a Field Training manual which is designed by the department,” Waid said.
“Within the manual are a variety of tasks each officer in training must complete and is then signed-off on by their assigned training officer. This is my first experience as a Field Training officer and so far I really enjoy it.”
The night consisted of Lange in the driver seat, navigating the pair’s assigned patrol area, while Waid observed from the passenger seat.
Although the night ended up being rather uneventful-which both officers admit is rather common due to being a week night and the frigid cold temperatures outside-one traffic stop in particular displayed the one-on-one mentoring between veteran training officer and a new officer adjusting to a new patrol environment.
The traffic stop at hand began due to a minor violation. But the stop soon led to further investigation given the present and past circumstances of the occupants.
Based on those circumstances, Waid offered a few tips to complement Lange’s previous experience as a patrol deputy with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office.
Such tips included suggestions on conducting the ensuing investigation, as well as using available resources and databases contained within the patrol vehicle’s on-board Mobile Data Terminal (MDT), otherwise known as “the squad laptop.”
Although the stop resulted in the occupants carrying on with their travels, the dynamic of coaching was very clear, even for an experienced new-hire.
In terms of the last four weeks of field training, Lange admits the biggest adjustment has been the smaller patrol area and jurisdiction, compared to his patrol experience with the Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m used to getting out there and stretching my legs,” Lange explains.
“With the sheriff’s office, I was patrolling 300-plus miles on a given shift. But now I may patrol 30 or 40 at the most, so that has taken some getting used to. There is also some new policy and procedure that is new to me.”
On the flip side, Lange cites the immediate availability of assistance as a key benefit to working for the Merrill Police Department.
“If I needed assistance before, I may have to wait 20-30 minutes. But now assistance is right around the corner and most times fellow officers stop to offer assistance anyway, which is great!”
When asked of any particular experiences which stand out over the last month with the Merrill Police Department, Lange mentions a traffic stop from earlier last week.
“Officer Waid and I stopped a vehicle and we immediately observed a lot of movement from the occupants,” the 23-year old explains.
“Officer Waid approached the passenger side of the vehicle and I approached the driver side. We observed the passenger was reaching for something and they did not comply with our commands, which immediately became an officer safety issue. We later found the passenger was armed with a knife and we also found items related to drug activity.”
“The passenger was later taken into custody on a probation and parole warrant. I was very thankful I had another officer present. Things could have went south and had a potentially very different outcome,”