LAURINBURG — Amanda Williams signed up on the last day for students to register for Basic Law Enforcement Training at Richmond Community College last spring.
She’s glad for that last-minute decision; otherwise, she wouldn’t be wearing the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office deputy’s uniform that distinguishes her as a member of a force sworn to protect and serve the community.
A former member of the U.S. armed forces, Williams was enrolled in RCC’s Criminal Justice program when she signed up for the BLET program.
She said she wasn’t sure she could juggle both at the same time, but she made it work, graduating with her associate degree in May 2015 and getting hired on at the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office a month later.
“The BLET program at Richmond gives you the proper training you need to begin law enforcement work. It is very structured and planned out, and it gives you the best training you can get,” Williams said.
The BLET program utilizes N.C. Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission mandated topics and methods of instruction. Every law enforcement officer employed by an agency in North Carolina must successfully complete BLET and pass the BLET state exam.
General subjects of the program include criminal, juvenile, civil, traffic and alcoholic beverage laws; investigative, patrol, custody, and court procedures; emergency responses; and ethics and community relations.
Outside of classroom lecture, students participate in physical training, which culminates in a challenging test of strength, endurance and agility while maintaining mental alertness. Commonly referred to as the POPAT (Police Officers Physical Abilities Test), many of the exercises and obstacles involved relate to physical and mental tasks they might face on the job.
“The physical training was both difficult and fun. A lot of running, lot of push-ups and a lot of sit-ups,” Williams said. “My favorite part of the BLET program was SCAT, Subject Control Arrest Techniques, which teaches you hand-to-hand type maneuvers and strategies for safely controlling a subject while making an arrest.”
Other portions of the BLET program include firearms and defensive driving. Students learn how to safely use, carry and store a firearm, and they must pass a qualifying test on the firing range. As for the driving lessons, students learn how to think quickly behind the wheel at high rates of speed and how to plan the best routes when responding to an incident.
While law enforcement has long been a career goal for Williams, Thomas Thompson was making a career change when he enrolled in the BLET program last spring. The former firefighter decided to start a new chapter in his life and interviewed for a position at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. He was hired by the agency, which sponsored him through the BLET program.
“Every law enforcement agency is different, and you learn a lot on the job, but the BLET program teaches you the basics of law, how to investigate a crime and ethics. Ethics is very important because you are dealing with different people every day,” said Thompson.
As a sheriff’s deputy, Thompson’s territory includes all of Richmond County. He said he enjoys being out in the community and knowing each day is going to be different.
“You talk to a lot of different people and you see different needs of people,” Thompson said. “For the most part, the presence of law enforcement is well received throughout the county.”
RCC will be offering its next BLET program Feb. 22 through Aug. 10. Applications are due Feb. 12. Interested individuals are encouraged to apply early by calling 910-410-1700, or email [email protected]
Wylie Bell is director of Marketing and Communications at Richmond Community College