New Madison police officers start solo patrols
16 new officers on their own after nine months of training
When dispatchers crackled over Ryan Henderson's patrol car radio about a car chase nearby, he grinned and turned on his siren.
"First call," the Madison policeman said.
Henderson, who would arrive on scene as neighboring Monona Police questioned two theft suspects, was one of 16 new officers in Madison on patrol alone for the first time Sunday.
The officers graduated Friday after nine months of classroom and field work, which they did with training officers.
Henderson, who was a Spanish major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, got called about the job opening while he was working part-time at Madison and Middleton schools.
"I was baffled," said Henderson, who applied twice before getting accepted and had never shot a gun before getting into the police academy.
He said he's most looking forward to working with kids and teenagers on patrol, showing them that police officers aren't just out to get the bad guys.
"Driving fast and foot pursuits and stuff like that, that's such a small part of the job," Henderson said. "You get to help people and have an influence on people's lives, and that's important to me."
The new class of officers have a variety of backgrounds, from domestic violence prevention advocates to social service providers to teachers.
The average age is 28, and women and minorities make up more than half the class, Joel DeSpain, a department spokesman, said in a statement.
Henderson said he had a slow day getting to know Madison's South District better, and said he was both "nervous" and "grateful" to be learning while on patrol alone.
"A lot of these officers have been working together for years," he said. "They trust each other and they respect each other. That's something (the new officers) have earn with them."
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