SIDNEY — The Sidney Police Department has welcomed four 2022 academy graduates into their ranks this year. Officers Kiarra Ibarra, Virginia Helton, Aarron Swiger and Jordan Fox all graduated from the academy and joined the SPD.
Sidney Police Department requires its officers to be certified either through the Ohio Peace Officer Academy or a similar program before they can begin field training. If an individual is not yet certified upon swearing into the department, SPD will send candidates to the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy (OSP Academy), if all OSP Academy spots are filled, new officers will be sent to other nearby academies to complete their certification.
Every officer has different experiences with the police academy even though they all receive the same basic training despite which academy an officer trains with.
Officer Kiarra Ibarra, 26, of Anna holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Without prior experience, Ibarra made the decision to apply as an SPD officer due to her time as a dispatcher which allowed her to discover that women are just as capable of becoming police officers and she made the decision to apply as an officer to push herself.
Ibarra was hired as an officer by the SPD in September 2021 and sent to the OSP Academy in February of 2022. The OPS Academy lasts 21 weeks and classes run Monday through Friday. Students live at the academy during the week and return home on weekends.
Ibarra’s Academy class consisted of 40 officers, three of which, including Ibarra, were women. Despite women being outnumbered in her academy class and in law enforcement in general, Ibarra did not feel as if the women were isolated or treated any differently than their male counterparts. Even though they were not treated differently, there are unavoidable physical differences between the men and women, such as women typically being smaller.
Ibarra recounted instances in their defensive techniques classes where she and the other women purposefully tried to be put against the larger men in their class to practice for the likely reality that they will end up fighting someone larger than them, but also to prove to themselves that they belonged in the academy.
Days at the OSP Academy typically lasted from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and included specific training for standard field sobriety tests, firearm safety and proficiency, self-defense tactics, radar for speed measuring and more.
At the OSP academy, students were only allowed to have access to their cell phones for half an hour, typically from 8 to 8:30 p.m. nightly according to Ibarra, to call home and update their families. The lack of contact with anyone outside of the Academy was hard for Ibarra because between classes, PT and studying, students at the Academy did not have a lot of down time to get to know other students and create personal connections with them.
“You didn’t feel like you had anybody to rely on or to confide in, you just felt like you were doing everything on your own. Those first couple of weeks, until I really got close to people, were the hardest,” said Ibarra.
Ibarra graduated from the OSP Academy on July 8 and has since begun her field training with the SPD. Field training lasts about 12 weeks, and each trainee will work with two field training officers on two different shifts to gain a better understanding of how the department works overall.
The other recent graduates, Helton, Swiger and Fox, completed their training through Rhodes State College in Lima.
Differences between the OSP Academy and Rhodes State College Police Academy include lodging, schedules and social experiences.
While Ibarra stayed at the OSP Academy during the week and returned home for weekends, the three officers attending the academy at Rhodes State made the drive to Lima and back every day in a training car provided by the SPD.
The academy at Rhodes State lasted for 16 weeks from April 25, 2022, to Aug. 13, 2022, and the three officers attending the academy spent six days a week in class from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with either Sunday or Monday off. Classes included lectures and hands on training. Some days students were in a typical classroom setting and on other days, students worked on subject control or self-defense or spent time at the range practicing with their firearms.
“You would think that after such a long, hard schedule that you would accrue some type of stress, but I was fine. I really want to be in this field and that is just something you have to deal with. And to be honest, the academy was quite fun at times, so I was looking forward to going most days,” said Swiger.
According to Swiger, attending the academy at Rhodes State allowed himself and the other SPD officers to create and foster connections with others in attendance from different departments.
“You get to get pretty close with your classmates, so it was a blast, getting to make all these new friends and going through such a big experience together,” said Swiger.
Despite the differences in the academies they attended and the experiences they got from them, these four officers have all received the same level of training and certification which allowed them to move onto their field training with the SPD.