By Sandi Latimer
The first recruit class for the Columbus Police Department had one woman and the six weeks of training was all classroom work. Now, 75 years later, recruits, many of them women, start hands-on training the first day.
That’s part of the story Sgt. Ted Reardon told Sept. 29 during a public tour of the James G. Jackson Police Academy as the division observed its 200th anniversary.
Reardon briefly went through the history of training officers before showing a video of a recent class that showed them doing a lot of hands-on work – work that they would be expected to do on the streets. Sitting near the front in the auditorium were member of the current class, decked out in white shirts and ties, sitting ramrod straight and hardly moving during the presentation that also attracted several visitors.
“By 1952, the 19th class, training was now up to eight weeks and the academy was in the basement of the police headquarters,’” he said. “But it was still all classroom work.”
It wasn’t until 1965 that a training academy opened and gave recruits time to get out of the classroom, he said.
“That academy was the building blocks for what we have today,” Reardon said.
The following year, the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy opened and the state of Ohio mandated 120 hours of training. Standards and training requirements kept increasing. Now, the local academy puts its recruits through 29 weeks of testing.
“Our training surpasses state requirements” Reardon said, adding that “from Day One, recruits hit the ground running and it never stops.”
The academy strives to give the recruits some real-time hands-on training so they know what to do once they graduate and hit the streets. For instance, when learning how to use the radar gun, trainees are taken out to the highway, instead of training in the parking lot.
Throughout the training, the recruits are working on Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Ethics – PRIDE – a feeling that Reardon says he hopes they will carry with them throughout their career.
Physical fitness is also an important part of the training since it helps get the men and women into better shape and feel good about themselves.
“If you feel good about yourself, you’ll feel good about serving your community,” Reardon said.
Keeping in good physical condition carries over to the Police Olympiad where several local officers have competed and brought home medals. Laura Dodd has earned numerous medals for her running. Many local residents might remember Ohio State University women’s basketball player Stacie Huhn, whose major was criminal justice. She fulfilled her dream of being a police officer when she joined the force after graduating from college.
These women, and even today, Chief Kimberly Jacobs, can look back on Dollie Fisher, who on Aug. 1, 1921, became the first woman to join the force. The pay back then was $1,580 a year.
She served only until 1930 when she had to resign because of unspecified health reasons.
Westside resident Jeanne Bray left her mark in the police scrapbook. She was an expert marksman in police revolver competition, being the national champion in the women’s division five times. She served for 28 years before her death in 1988.
Along with displays about the women officers and the athletic roles of both men and women was an exhibit of the African-Americans in the ranks. Nelson Tate joined the force way back in 1895, the first black man to serve. That group of Columbus residents was slow to serve and between 1920 and 1940 only 12 black officers were on the force.
But Jackson, for whom the building was named, can thank them for paving the way for him. He joined the force in 1958 and steadily rose through the ranks until he was named chief in 1990. He retired in 2009. Along the way he became the first – and as yet only — officer to have the top score on the written promotional exams for sergeant, captain, and deputy chief.
Mary Lester holds the distinction of being the first black officer, rising to the rank of sergeant. And Joseph Edwards in 1972 became the first black officer to die in the line of duty.
Down the hallway – a hallway lined with photos of the early days of the force – is the forensic lab where officers are trained to take fingerprints.
This crime lab, organized in 1945, is one of the oldest in the country, says Jami St. Clair, director of the lab. On display was a handbook on marijuana put out by the FBI in 1951.
“Not much has changed,” she said. “The plants still look like they did then.”
Nearby Lisa Malloure of the Drug ID Unit was showing visitors how they weigh drugs and determine what they are. No longer do they use the scale with the moveable weights because the air circulating may cause a false reading, she said. Today drugs are measured inside a little box and the weight shows up on a digital reading on a machine outside that box.
If the drug is not immediately identifiable, she can put a little in a dish and add a liquid and watch it change color or texture.
Although the exhibit was just one day, visitors to the academy can see uniform of bygone days and some other objects of the job just off the lobby.