Police Careers Begin with Academy

Ten new police recruits, including for SHSU graduates, participate in rifle shooting and the FBI/Conroe Police Department Firearms Training Facility.
Ten new police recruits, including four SHSU graduates, shoot rifles at the FBI/Conroe Police Department Firearms Training Facility.

Four recent College of Criminal Justice graduates found law enforcement jobs just 30 miles down Interstate 45 at the Conroe Police Department, joining a suburban police force that is one-third Bearkat.

After four years at Sam Houston State University, Caitlin Gullo, Sylvie Acklin, Alex Hons, and Paul Caughman found themselves returning to the classroom at the Conroe Police Academy to learn criminal codes and to get practical experience on how to do their jobs. After six months in the academy, they hit the streets in November with field training officers to practice their skills on real life cases, including arrests, traffic stops, DWI testing, and evidence, to name a few

SHSU Alumna Officer Caitlin Gullo hit the streets of Conroe in November.
SHSU Alumna Officer Caitlin Gullo hit the streets of Conroe in November.
“You learn how to interact with all kinds of people,” said Caitlin Gullo, a probationary police officer. “They teach you in the academy, but in the real world when you apply it, it’s definitely more stressful.”

In addition to preparing police officers in Conroe, the academy also serves smaller departments, such as Huntsville and South Houston. It covers all the mandatory requirements from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education to become a certified peace officer, and it also offers hands-on practice to handle everyday situations in the field.

“It offers mock scenarios from different police calls to let them work through it,” said SHSU graduate Sgt. Jeff Bradford, training coordinator for the academy. “We are able to teach more than the test, we are able to teach you to be a police officer.”

The Conroe Police Academy is conducted at the state-of-the-art FBI/CPD Firearms Training Facility, providing two live fire houses, a simulation facility that uses paintball guns, three pistol ranges and a rifle range for use in classes. Unlike many other local departments, Conroe pays recruits during the training.
The Conroe Police Academy began three years ago and recently graduated its third class.

Officer Alex Hons practices searching a vehicle at the academy.
Officer Alex Hons practices searching a vehicle at the academy.
Gullo said the academy is modeled after the military and is taught by instructors with firsthand experience in the field. In between academic classes to learn the penal code, Criminal Code of Procedure and family codes, there are opportunities for shooting practice and tactical training. Gullo said she enjoyed the daily PT sessions that are part of the training.

“It was nerve racking to ask ‘am I prepared for this?’” said Gullo. “With the knowledge from the academy, you know where you are and where you need to be. You know what you need to know to do the job.”

For Caughman, the academy was a place to transition to the real world.

Officers Paul Caughman and Sylvie Acklin simulate the arrest of a suspect at the academy.
Officers Paul Caughman (l) and Sylvie Acklin (c) simulate the arrest of a suspect at the academy.
“The police academy is a place to transition and help you get ready to work and increase your self-confidence,” said Caughman. “Sam Houston helped me with my study and test taking skills and my ability to read and comprehend things quickly. It also helped me to talk to people and helped me to interact.”

Once a cadet graduates the academy, they are certified peace officers, but their training is not done. They are paired with a field training offer for two to five months to learn the rules of the street.

For Gullo, the number one rule is safety, and her FTO will point out her mistakes to show where improvements can be made.

“It is a positive experience,” said Gullo. “Ultimately, everyone needs to go home at the end of the day and you won’t if you do not do things properly.”

After graduation, Caughman said people began to look at him differently and he began to understand his greater role in society.

“The biggest thing I learned it that everyone will look at you different because of the badge and they look to you to make important decisions,” Caughman said. “You also have to be aware of what you do outside the job because people will remember you.”

Conroe Police Chief and SHSU Grad Philip Dupuis.
The cadets will join a department full of proud Bearkats, which include Chief Philip Dupuis and Deputy Chief Mike Hansen among their ranks.

“We love to have Sam Houston graduates,” Sgt. Bradford said.

Gullo said she would like to make a career with the agency.

“I am very impressed with the Conroe Police Department, its mindset and internal structure,” Gullo said. “I see myself staying in Conroe for my career.”

Member of The Texas State University System