23 cadets chosen to take part in El Paso Police Academy face harsh reality

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This week on Becoming the Badge the preparation of the 23 cadets who were chosen to take part in the El Paso Police Academy is put to the test.

While some of them were ready for what lied ahead, others received a harsh reality check.

Here’s a look inside of week one.

It’s a sunny Monday morning, and day one is officially here. It was far from perfect.

“This is a controlled environment, if they can’t handle this stress, you think they’re going to be able to handle the stress out on the streets with high quality decision making? No,” EPPD Academy Senior Instructor Joe Lopez said.

At exactly 7:30 a.m. some of the cadets were not in line.

The morning started out with a uniform malfunction. A female cadet showing up with the buttons to her uniform not connected properly. She was told by an instructor how “embarrassing” that was and was sent to go fix her button up.

“Who in their right mind would not see that their buttons are off, even after being given the chance to adjust and fix herself, she came back without making any adjustments,” Lopez said.

And if you thought that was intense, Cadet Francisco Chavez showed up with no uniform at all.

Dressed in khakis and a black polo shirt, he said his uniform did not come in on time.

“Saturday I texted the sergeant from HR and he was like, let me get with the academy supervisor, he told me to come in what I was wearing that day,” Chavez said.

But Officer Lopez said he should’ve took more initiative.

He wasn’t even wearing his combat boots, he had his excuses but we know that Walmart sells dickies, we know that Premier is not the only place where they can get this equipment,” Lopez said. “If he really cared, he would’ve made the effort to at least partially look like everybody else.

Chavez said he takes responsibility and from that day forward pledging he’ll do what it takes to prove himself.

I really do want to be here,” Chavez said. “After day one I got all my stuff. I’m not typical to do that, it’s not me to come out of uniform or be missing things like that. So I knew as soon as I got my uniform that was going to be the last time that ever happened.

While Chavez is one of the youngest in the class, Cadet Christopher Shingles, a 48-year-old Air Force veteran is one of the oldest, struggling to keep up.

“I wasn’t quite expecting that much, we didn’t even have that at boot camp 20 years ago, so it’s a process,” Shingles said. “My motivation is my daughter, pure and simple, my daughter. It’s all about her future, making her future a lot easier than it is for me.”

Every single cadet, showing up with their own motivation.

“My biggest motivation is always my wife, like honestly, being able to provide her with the life that we both never had,” Cadet Miguel Martinez said.

For Cadet Celine Galaviz, her motivation is her son.

There was a super quick two seconds where I thought I should just leave, but if I’m being honest, I’m doing this for my son,” Galaviz said. “I just pictured his face, his videos, sleeping with him, everything that I’m doing is for him, to give him a better future.

But the vision each cadet shares for their loved ones, and their future faces a test of time… and endurance.

Week one was just the beginning of 42 more weeks of physical training, classroom instruction and even martial arts.

“My name is Stephanie Han, I’m an officer with the El Paso Police Department. I have a background in martial arts,” Han said. “It’s scary out in the streets because you don’t know when backup is going to come, so you have to do your best.”

For these cadets may have no choice one day but to get up and fight because at the end of the day, getting home to their families is the top priority.

Cadet Nathaniel Guevara knows what it’s like first hand to walk the blue line from both sides. He grew up with a father who is a detective with the police department.

All my life I saw him doing his job, coming home in his uniform and it really inspired me,” Guevara said. “I don’t see myself quitting, I’ll do anything it takes to earn my badge.

Based on how week one went, the journey to becoming the badge, for some, is going to be a long march ahead.

“How long were we out there? An hour? Maybe an hour and a half of that. Putting things in a bag, putting things above over your head, how hard is that? Well these officers are being shot at, police officers are being assaulted, they’re being punched, they’re being tackled, they’re having to run after people. That is hard,” Lopez said.

Lopez said how these cadets are trained and treated is all done with a purpose, to prepare them for the streets.

If you’re small, you might be victimized,” Lopez said. “Police work is truly a gender less job, police work does not care whether you’re a female or male, it doesn’t care whether you’re big or small, or whether you’re fast or slow, it doesn’t care.

Despite the challenges, these recruits say the reward is worth the work, all 23 making it through week one.

“It’s all mental, it’s all a mental game, you just got to focus and try to get through the pain,” Shingles said.

“It would take them like literally kicking me out out physically of this academy for me to give up,” Martinez said.

Next week on becoming the badge, the cadets learn the importance of team work, professionalism and leadership. Why instructors tell KFOX14 these values are more important than ever as they try to regain trust from the community.

You can watch our weekly segments every Wednesday on the KFOX14 Morning News and Sunday nights on KFOX14 News at Nine. Missed last weeks segment? You can watch it online using this link.

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