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S.T.O.P. keeps cops at top of game
Protecting and serving is not an easy job. Along with the inherent risks of law enforcement, those are always new techniques, regulations and procedures to learn. Part of being a peace officer in the state of California requires officers to meet certain training mandates each year.

For agencies throughout the region, that means a stop at the Stanislaus Regional Training Division center in Ceres and participation in the Sheriff's Tactical Operations Program.

"Basically, for California law enforcement there's a number of different subjects that are mandated by law that officers receive training on every year," said Lt. Jim Gordon, Director of the Stanislaus County Sheriff Regional Training Division.

Subjects include courses on defensive tactics, emergency vehicle operations and hazards materials.

With the training center, which includes classrooms, a gym, weight room, and shooting range, in a central location, agencies from throughout the county, region and even beyond have a localized area to complete their annual requirements.

"Number one, with so many small agencies out there, and different agencies doing their own thing, there's a redundancy in training," Gordon said. "People are spending lots of money and lots of time doing their own training and trying to schedule it in.

"Number two, with the staffing the way it is extremely difficult for agencies with say 20 or 30 officers," Gordon said, "it's difficult for them to try to set up class and pull their cops out to be able to go through a class in any feasible way that is fiscally sound."

S.T.O.P. met those challenges.

"About a year ago, we took a look at all the different mandates and said how can we do this to make it beneficial for all the agencies. To make it more interesting, and to make it more feasible so that the officers that are coming through will take something away from this rather than just coming in and sitting in a seat, putting their time in and saying 'Yes, we did the mandates.'"

The first couple of days of the four-day, 40-hour week includes activities in the gym and shooting range. Officers also participate in pursuit activity courses that are conducted at the old naval air station on Crows Landing Road.

The third and fourth days presented the biggest challenge in designing an engaging program.

"We wanted to give them a refresher on new trends," Gordon said.

What officers encounter is the training facility turned into a scenario village. Students get full equipment, partner with another officer and are dispatched to real-live type training scenarios.

An example is first aid training, which, Gordon says, is a subject that is tough to teach officers because they don't normally deal with it on a regular basis like paramedics and firefight

"Say they get dispatched to a shooting or something like that," Gordon said. "We ended up doing is utilizing the gym, have an officer down scenario where an officer is injured"

Officers in training are dispatched to the scene, like they would be in the field, and are required to do some tactical searching of the area.

As part of the training, proctors are on hand to supervise.

Once the exercise is completed, officers and proctors go through a critique and analysis of the exercise.

Then it's on to the next call.

One of the goals of S.T.O.P. is to ensure agencies develop a familiarity with one another.

"We're focused on making sure the agencies throughout the Valley work together," Gordon said. "Because we provide services, not only for the county, but throughout the region."

The interaction between the agencies is proving to be a benefit as well.

"It's kind of an interesting thing because you get guys from different cities, different counties from around the Central Valley," noted Gordon. "And we will always pick up something they've experience in their own jurisdiction. Other guys learn from that. They always leave here with a better understanding of different things they can do."

The training center not only serves an eight-county area, including Amador and Mariposa counties. In addition, agencies from Solano and Kern counties as well as Truckee send officers for training to the Ceres center.

Approximately 400 officers complete the program each year. There are 20 classes per year, with about 20 officers per class.

"What they're learning here provides them with a new appreciation for what they get at their agencies," noted training officer Ryan Killian.

The center also serves as an academy, graduating 180 officers from three classes of 60 each year.

"Recruits leave here with an understanding that community service isn't done with when they're done with their job," Killian said.