The flashing red and blue in your rearview mirror, or behind someone on the side of the road is usually how we see a Pima County Sheriff's Deputy.
But new recruits fresh out of the academy, the ones we could face or call for help one day, find there's a lot more to the job. And for Deputy Jesus Rodriguez, entering the field is an eye-opener.
"You feel like you have a pretty good understanding of what to expect, but the first couple of days out on the street, actually the first hour on the street you can tell it's completely different," Rodriguez said.
"That's the one thing I've been working on with him, is basically to sound like he's in charge," said his field training officer, Deputy Jose Valenzuela.
Rodriguez was tested on that right away, as he questioned a man on Tucson's southwest side.
"If you read the dollar bill, what does it have on it? My name - God," was part of many things the man said as he was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol vehicle and taken to a mental health facility.
Deputy Valenzuela critiqued where Rodriguez and another deputy in training stood while speaking to the man. He showed how they could keep more control in the situation.
"He got up and was being cooperative but at the same time, could he have jumped up and just took off running? You guys had the perfect position because he was over here, and you were over there, and he had his hands right here," Valenzuela said before motioning to show how the deputies could have swooped in to pick up the man. "You know what, Joe? You gotta come with us."
At many calls, the biggest challenge is figuring out the real story.
"What do they look like? You said one of them was a little heavy set?" Rodriguez asked a woman who called about two men who wouldn't leave her balcony.
But her responses revealed she was the one who needed attention. Valenzuela reviewed with Rodriguez what to do.
"What's another resource we could use if we wanted to seek some help for her?" Valenzuela asked Rodriguez.
"I forget the acronym but it's the meds that comes out here," he responded.
"SAMHC," Valenzuela said.
"SAMHC," Rodriguez repeated.
"There's so many things that, thanks to the FTOs, that you don't realize, but when they point them out it's just to make you better," Rodriguez said.
"It's something new every day. Never see the same thing twice," said Deputy Samantha Sanders, who is also in field training.
Sanders was a county corrections officer before going into the academy. But now she's serving you and me, not handling inmates. She, too, has a field training officer.
"They're very raw. Simple things … listening to the radio, orientation, map reading, simple investigations can seem complex," said Deputy Gilbert Caudillo, her field training officer.
He watched Sanders take information from a woman who said that she was followed from her son's daycare.
"I was afraid he was going to approach me, and he would not leave me alone," the woman later explained.
And Sanders sifted through a heated disagreement between a father and son before it took a turn for the worse, all while Caudillo watched and waited for times when his assistance was needed.
"I stepped in when her line of questioning got bogged down a little bit and kind of ran out of things to ask," he said.
"We just have to be prepared at all times. I think that's the biggest challenge is just making sure that we're on edge and ready for anything," Sanders said.
More classes of new deputies will hit our streets soon. Their field training officers will be watching to make sure we get men and women who know what they're doing, for the protection of everyone involved.
"You're always going to have - even your squad mates - everybody's always going to be watching you, looking out for you," Rodriguez said.
"I know the deputies we put out there are going to be squared away and they're going to know what to do and will go home safe every night," Valenzuela said.
During field training, they have four phases, and could have to repeat a phase if they don't do well. They also have a year and a half of probation after field training. Some have quit, and others have been terminated.
43 recruits started this academy, 29 graduated, and now 26 are in field training.
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