It’s seven days before graduation and nine students of the Thornton Recruit Academy suit up to begin scenario training.
In a simulation of clearing a building where a security alarm has shown evidence of breaking and entering, four cadets enter and begin sizing up the scene.
“I see a suspect and a gun!” Adis Sarac, 32, yells.
Three cadets are alongside him and Officer John Patterson, who joined the force in 2008, follows behind as a supervisor to see how the students react and respond throughout the scenario.
The four cadets work together to take the suspect, a citizen volunteer, at the doorway into custody. They handle the evidence and then proceed to clear the remaining suspects out of the building.
When Patterson calls “end scenario!” the cadets take off their helmets and discuss what happened. This enforces good habits like never turning their backs on an area that hasn’t been cleared as safe and how to work together to guard open hallways and check under bedframes and behind furniture simultaneously.
“Our scenario training is specific to scenarios that the supervisors have gone through,” Thornton Police Department Recruiter Kimberly Twinem said. “These are real-life calls but in a controlled environment.”
The Thornton Police Department received approval from the city to hire 50 new officers in January — the largest expansion in the department’s history.
The department’s allocation for sworn officers is now 232, according to Twinem.
With 133,542 residents, Thornton is the state’s sixth-largest community and this expansion will bring the city to a ratio of 1.7 police officers per 1,000 residents.
The first class of nine recruits will graduate from the Thornton Recruit Academy on May 19, finishing their work on a local police-specific training course with curriculum designed to train officers that will dispatch in Thornton.
“This academy is designed to train and certify recruits on Thornton-specific skills, tools, and municipal codes,” Twinem said.
Students master techniques like defensive tactics, crisis intervention strategies and report writing training.
There are between 30 and 40 scenario exercises where the recruits handle anything from a burglary to a search warrant case.
Over the 10-week academy, the group has bonded like family, with each cadet taking on roles. One may be silly, another the serious brother watching out for the well-being of the group, according to Twinem.
“They are like siblings,” she said. “My instructors have enjoyed training this group, as their effort and attitude has been infallible through the entire academy.”
The graduation ceremony is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Thornton City Council Chambers, 9500 Civic Center Drive. It will include speeches from a district court judge and the Thornton police chief.
Following graduation, the group of six men and three women will enter a Field Training Officer Program on May 21 where they will, through four phases, begin to take on all the responsibilities of being a police officer, according to Twinem.
The four-part program will pair the officers with a new mentor through each phase who will evaluate the work of the recruit and prepare him or her to be a solo officer.
The goal of the expansion is to move to a proactive community policing style, Thornton Police Chief Randy Nelson said in January. The department will have more resources on the street,which will help identify pattern crimes, reduce hot spot crime and enforce traffic concerns.
“You can truly understand and come up with better, creative solutions to deal with the community problem,” Nelson said in January.
Beginning on May 21 will be the first time this historic police department expansion will affect the amount of officers on the streets of Thornton.
“With more manpower we can begin transitioning from a reactive police department to a proactive one,” Twinem said. “This will allow us to be more involved with our community outside of just calls for service.”