‘We need the strength out on the road’: Record-breaking class of MPD recruits begin field training

The Madison Police Department’s record-breaking class of 50 recruits are on the road starting their field training.

Beyond former Chief Mike Koval, police said the department is dealing with a number of recent retirements, and the newest class of recruits will help fill out the ranks.

“It’s new,” recruit Fabiola Ortiz said. “I don’t think there’s any other experience I can relate this to.”

Getting out on the road on patrol for the first time can be stressful.

“It is a lot to learn,” Officer Kim Alan said. “I try to stress that to trainees, try not to get too overwhelmed.”

Having a longtime officer such as Alan to offer advice helps pave the way.

“Someone like me who’s been out for going on 13 years, I can say this is what I did, or this is what someone I knew did, because I have that huge base of experience,” she said.

“(Alan) said, ‘Don’t mistake my excitement for nerves,’ and I think that was a lot to do with how I was feeling at the start,” Ortiz said. “Now, I’m excited every day.”

Ortiz is excited to drive a squad car, use the radio and most of all, respond to calls, including a missing person call Sunday afternoon.

“You know somebody is in need, so getting there is the first step, then being able to help as much as you can,” she said.

Alan said the 50 new recruits will help current officers, too, especially when they’re feeling the effects of a lack of officers.

“(Training) can get stressful, but we’ve got to get through it and replace those who retired, and we need the strength out on the road,” Alan said, adding that she gives credit to trainers at the Academy for getting the recruits ready for field training.

To retain the to-be-officers, she said it’s important to be there for them, especially when they hit bumps in the road.

“I try to make sure they have my phone number and email,” Alan said. “You need to see each one as an individual person and provide them with mentoring and support … You try to make sure they feel like they’re a part of the brotherhood or family here.”

That helps set the career path for officers such as Ortiz, who’s enjoying each step of field training before hitting the road on her own.

“Just that initial, ‘Hi I’m Officer Ortiz with Madison Police Department.’ That first line gets engraved in you to use it, and you know you’re using it right and things are going to go forward from that moment,” Ortiz said. “It’s a pretty good feeling.”

If all goes as planned, the newest class of recruits will be done with field training and out on their own in February.

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