Soldotna residents may have noticed a new face in law enforcement around town.
Soldotna Police started field training one new recruit, Mitchell Burdick, last month, and another officer, Ian Koenig, will arrive in January. New Alaska State Troopers are scheduled to arrive at the Soldotna post for field training Monday.
Burdick said going into field training, it was “nice” to start applying what he learned at the Alaska Department of Public Safety Training Academy in Sitka. Soldotna Police hired Burdick in July. He began field training with the department on Nov. 24.
Burdick grew up in Soldotna and became interested in law enforcement because he wanted to give back to the community.
New police officers train for 14 weeks with three different field-training officers — one primary and two secondary, Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik said. He said the training gives new officers a “pretty good foundation.”
“(Field training) covers basically everything — laws, statues, procedures — pretty much everything you’re going to encounter,” Mlynarik said. “It’s set up so that if you get everything and learn everything, you should have covered almost everything, so you’re going to be pretty much prepared to be on your own.”
Burdick said he arrives early to begin his typical field-training day and checks emails and inspects his car and gear. After checking in with dispatch, he is ready for calls. Wherever he goes, his field training officer shadows and grades him on various aspects of policing. Burdick also patrols the city with the training officers, which he said is probably his favorite part of the job — interacting with the community.
Mlynarik said the two new officers will bring the department up to full staff. A Community Oriented Policing Services grant from the federal government will fund one of the positions for three years. The City of Soldotna is required to fund the position for at least one year after those three years are up, he said.
Koenig, who is coming to Soldotna from the Nome Police Department where he was a sergeant, is scheduled to arrive on Jan. 6, 2014.
Burdick completed 15 weeks at the academy in Sitka before he started field training.
Academy Deputy Commander Sgt. Cornelius Sims said the academy is a “very paramilitary type school.”
Having served in the U.S. Navy for five years, Burdick said it was easy for him to get used to that lifestyle at the academy.
Recruits have to complete physical, firearm and law enforcement knowledge tests, and every Monday through Friday, recruits begin their days with physical training, Sims said.
He said the academy is “pretty intensive” especially near the beginning of the program, but toward the end of the 15 weeks recruits occasionally get a Saturday or Sunday off.
Firearms and defensive tactics training begins about four weeks into the academy and recruits have to pass written firearms tests as well as shooting tests with handguns and shotguns, Sims said.
Recruits complete more than 700 hours of classroom time covering topics such as domestic violence, ethics, use of force, criminal law and traffic stops. Instructors test recruits nearly every Saturday and administer a midterm and final test, Sims said.
“For them to take 10 tests in a week is not rare,” Sims said. “It’s usually not that often but there’s … a couple different weekends that they’ll take up to 10 tests.”
The testing doesn’t end after graduating from the academy. Burdick said in field training he is tested weekly on laws and statues.
The academy has six corporals who are full-time instructors. It also brings in lawyers and investigators to teach courses related to their work.
Recruits training to be troopers stay at the academy an additional three weeks for Trooper Basic to cover wildlife and fish regulations, wilderness survival, AR15 rifle training, search and rescue and other trooper-focused topics, Sims said.
After completing the additional three weeks, recruits go to one of three training posts, Soldotna, Fairbanks or Palmer, where they complete 15 weeks of field training.
New Soldotna trooper post recruits are Dustin Akana, Jason Bohac, Kevin Gill and Timothy Tefft.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.