The Washington Times-Herald

November 16, 2013

Making the grade

BY Lindsay Owens Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — Rodney Helderman and Case Cummings spent 15 long weeks away from their families coming home only for a few hours on the weekends. They learned in break-out weeks about self defense, emergency vehicle operations and criminal law among other things. But the time away from home spent in Plainfield was well worth it when the two graduated from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy two weeks ago as members of the 200th graduating class.

“We logged 600 hours in the class,” said Cummings. “But we were well-prepared. Chief Healy and the other officers here prepared us really well.”

Helderman and Cummings said that in order to attend the academy, the two had to first be hired through an agency, in this case, the Washington Police Department. Both men had previously served as reserve officers.

The first day, all the candidates were subjected to a physical fitness test and got settled into their dorm-like rooms. “That first day is really about getting used to being there,” said Cummings. While Cummings and Helderman easily passed the fitness test, many of the class mates did not.

“We started out with 114 in our class and we lost a few that first day and some more in the later weeks,” said Helderman. “The academy I guess just wasn’t what some of them were expecting and the job wasn’t what they thought it would be.”

On the second day, Cummings and Helderman were ready to get down to business. “We had drill instructors that handled discipline and taught us how to march, how to stand and how our shirts and pants should be. And we had classes on human behavior, suicide management and line of duty deaths.”

The call to attention came at 6:30 each morning and the men attended classes Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. with breaks for lunch and dinner but that didn’t mean that their evenings were free. Nights were spent studying criminal law and other materials necessary to be prepared for the world of law enforcement.

In addition to course work, the two were tested on their ability to handle fire arms and took part in many simulated scenarios including traffic stops gone wrong where officers could potentially come into contact with chemical substances. Both Helderman and Cummings were subjected to the chemical spray.

“We learned about everything that could possibly happen on the job. Everything was very up-to-date so that we’ll be well prepared to go to work in the field,” said Cummings.

Since Cummings and Helderman were part of the 200th Academy graduating class, their graduation ceremony was filled with more pomp and circumstance than usual.

“We walked in behind bagpipe players who were all officers and there was an honor guard as well. Governor Pence was there as well,” said Helderman. “It was just a really neat thing. We also had a police officer brought in on horse drawn cart.”

Of the 114 men and women who started out, 74 graduated.

In order to graduate, no more than two parts of the 15-week course could be failed. If someone fails two parts, their agency must re-approve them for the academy. If the person fails three parts, they are indefinitely out of the academy.

While neither of the men enjoyed being away from their families for so long, both said their families were very supportive.

“It is hard when you have a family. It’s stressful to be gone that long but our families knew this was training that could save our lives,” said Cummings.