58th OHP Patrol Academy

Two firemen, a pilot, an algebra teacher and a coach, represent the diversity in the group of cadets who will begin the 58th Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy this Friday in Oklahoma City.

"We have a great group of people with diverse backgrounds, and we are looking forward to a very successful academy," said Cpt. Ronnie Hampton, commandant of the academy. "After a lengthy recruitment and rigid application process, we have narrowed the hundreds of applicants to a total of 57 cadets. We believe these cadets are the best and the brightest. Also, many of them have backgrounds representing every branch of the military."

Twelve of the cadets have military backgrounds, six from the U.S. Marine Corps, three from the U.S. Army, two from the U.S. Navy and one from the U.S. Air Force. The oldest cadet is 41 and five share the label of youngest at 21.

His first year serving as commandant, Hampton is anxious to announce new training procedures.

"We have changed things up quite a bit this year," said Hampton. "We are trying new things in the area of training including about 300 hours of scenario training. The cadets will be taken through actual scenarios, for example a fatal hit-and-run crime scene where simulated blood stains and car parts will be used and they will be required to successfully investigate."

Hampton said the new training will enhance Oklahoma's law enforcement effort. He emphasizes that most people don't realize that when an incident or crash takes place in a rural Oklahoma community, it's generally worked by only two people, a trooper and a local sheriff's deputy.

"We want our cadets to be well-rounded, not only with traffic enforcement training but also professionally capable of assisting fellow law enforcement agencies in the rural areas of our state," said Hampton. "We want our new troopers to be prepared for everything from domestics to manhunts, in addition to the 174 hours it will take them to successfully complete crash investigation training."

Hampton said all Oklahoma law enforcement officers are required to attend the Certified Law Enforcement Education and Training program that requires 11 weeks or 505 hours of basic police academy.

"In comparison, the OHP academy is residential, and it lasts 17 weeks with almost 1,200 hours of training," said Hampton. "Classes are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.," said Hampton. "Our new scenario training program will take about 300 hours with these cadets performing actual field-practical exercise."

Cadets are required to stay at the Robert R. Lester Training center the entire academy. In the fifth week, they will be allowed to go home for the first time with weekend liberty.

"Our goals and objectives include producing the best-trained, most highly skilled troopers who are not only prepared to work heavy metro traffic, but to assist fellow law enforcement with rural incidents," said Hampton.

Cadets are required to report for registration at the training center at 9 a.m., February 29.