Future police officers spend a week behind the wheel on the driving course

Along with firearms training, driving techniques are vital for cadets to master

TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – Future police officers spent their week learning different driving techniques they will use when they are on the streets.

Police officers on patrol will spend 80 to 90% of their time during a shift in their vehicles.  That’s why each class of cadets spends a full week on the driving course.

“It helps avoid collision with other traffic, other objects, helps them be more aware of what’s going on in the car and aware of their surroundings,” said Blake Burress, the lead instructor at the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center.   The cadets start the week with the serpentine course, which teaches them to use the shuffle steering method, instead of hand-over-hand steering.  From there the cadets learn other maneuvers such as the Arkansas turn around and the clover leaf.

“It’s another thing to practice on shuffle steering, feathering gas, and laying off your brakes, that way you don’t use too much of your brakes and wear your brakes out,” Burress said.

Throughout the week cadets learn a lot of different maneuvers and tactics on the driving course, but the number one thing is safety.

“Cadets will be doing this, once they get on the street, the vast majority of their time, going to be driving.  There are almost as many officers killed every year, versus gunfire, so we have to teach them fundamentals, how to learn their own abilities and take care of themselves and their communities,” said Dean Bearden, director of the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center.

Future police officers say driving week is intense and crucial for their safety and the public’s safety.

“You have to know your own capabilities behind the wheel. I’m not the best driver out here, can’t go out here trying to be the best, have to know my own limits and capabilities and that’s what the course is all about,” said Cadet Damien Swick.

“It’s a little bit different from what I expected, we are going faster than I expected, taking sharp corners at high speeds and learning the evasive tactics,” said Cadet Morgan Zeiske.

For the first two days of driving week, Class B 71 had a special guest.  Tupelo Police Chief John Quaka, although he had extensive training during his time with the FBI, had to get in some training to meet state requirements.

“State of Mississippi has requirements for all certified law officers.  So even me being chief of Tupelo, I have to have the same training as cadets. That’s what I’m doing, I have to get in sixteen hours of driving and today is day one,”  Chief Quaka said.

We rode along with the chief as he went through the course.

Chief Quaka says driving week also teaches cadets when to back off of a pursuit.

“Once a pursuit starts, we will end it if there is any chance of anybody being hurt. We take pursuits very serious and I’m inclined to end them, I don’t want anyone to get hurt, and if someone’s doing wrong, we will catch them another day,” Chief Quaka said.

Class B 71 has five more weeks of training before cadets are ready to serve and protect their communities.

Graduation ceremonies for Class B 71 are set for November the fourth.

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