CCCC graduate's training put to the test in life or death situation
LILLINGTON - On a rainy night in December, a driver flipped his vehicle into a creek off Barbecue Church Road in Harnett County.
Emergency rescue workers and Harnett County Sheriff's deputies responded to the scene. The driver was retrieved from the car, but as he was taken to shore, he shouted, "My son, where is my son?" Deputy Michael Klingman plunged back into the freezing water and helped recover the son.
A graduate of Central Carolina Community College's BLET program, Klingman said later that he could not have attempted the rescue without the preparation he received from CCCC.
"I tried the passenger door, but it was locked," Klingman said. "Luckily, I was able to unlock the door from the inside. It was then that I felt a leg."
The 16-week Basic Law Enforcement Training program contains 36 blocks of intensive instruction, all of which apply to what law enforcement officers do on the road in the course of performing their duties, said Dr. Robert Powell, chair of CCCC's Justice Studies Department and director of the Basic Law Enforcement Training program.
In the case of the car crash, Deputy Klingman drew on at least four of the course blocks: Communication Skills for Law Enforcement Officers, Law Enforcement Radio Procedures and Information Systems, Law Enforcement Driver Training, and First Responder.
BLET students also study juvenile law, motor vehicle law, ethics for professional law enforcement, arrest, search and seizure techniques, traffic crash investigation, fingerprinting, how to handle explosives and hazardous materials emergencies, and much more.
"We cram a lot of information into their brains in 16 weeks," Powell said.
In another incident, Klingman's training in first responder procedures again proved crucial. He was called to assist EMS workers to revive a woman who wasn't breathing.
"My corporal checked her vitals and started CPR," Klingman said. "The paramedics started hooking her up to their machines. All of us were taking turns doing CPR. I'm getting nervous because nothing is happening. I regroup and start performing chest compressions again. Then the paramedic stops me and says he has a pulse."
The success of both cases was due to team effort, Klingman stressed: "It just so happened that I was doing compressions when the lady was revived, and in the case of the overturned vehicle, I was one of many rescue workers who helped the victims. Both incidents made me feel good. They gave me the opportunity to help someone, and that is why I got into this business."
According to Linda Scuiletti, CCCC dean of Institutional Effectiveness, the BLET program boasts one of the highest passage rates on the North Carolina Basic Law Enforcement Exam. In 2011-12, the CCCC BLET passage rate was 97 percent, 13 percentage points higher than the state average of 84 percent.
"CCCC is steadily climbing, while at the same time, the state passage rate has declined," Scuiletti said. "I think the college should be so very proud of our BLET program and its success."
Powell credits the unusually high passage rate to changes made in the BLET curriculum at CCCC. First, the course tests were re-written to scenario-based testing, making the academic portion of the program more relevant to the types of questions asked on the state exam.
A Class-A uniform was adopted and daily inspections are performed. For each demerit or "gig," on an inspection, cadets are required to climb to the top of the fire tower on the grounds of the college's Emergency Services Training Center in Sanford, where the program is located, and execute 10 pushups at the top and 10 sit-ups at the tower's base. Before long, gigs became a rare occurrence.
A change in teaching technique also promoted teamwork and attention to detail. For example, a daily flag-raising ceremony created a bond and sense of responsibility that were reflected in overall academic performance.
As a result of raising the bar, law enforcement agencies across the state are hearing about the program and want to employ its graduates, Powell explained. Recruitment opportunities have been received from as far west as Asheville and as far east as Duck, N.C. A total of 13 out of the 20 graduates making up the January 2014 class are already employed, while six were hired prior to sitting for the state exam.
"We insist on such high standards because we want our cadets to excel, not only in the classroom but also on the job," Powell said. "People's lives depend on it. When our cadets leave here, they are ready to answer the call. I would go through the front door with any of them. My instructors would do the same. That's the highest praise a law enforcement officer can get."
To Deputy Klingman, one the most satisfying parts of the job is the pride it inspires in his children. "My six-year-old daughter will call me at work and ask if I've caught any bad guys that day," he said, laughing. "When I get home, my son, who is three, will meet me at the door with his toy sheriff trucks."
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