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Special Report: Passion for Policing

Passion for policing
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 6:53 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - During a time of intense scrutiny on police, why would anyone want to be a police officer? Body cameras and cell phones capturing quick decisions and, in some cases, ending with the officer behind bars.

Students in the Ingham Intermediate School District’s law enforcement program are scrutinizing those cases as well.

Reginald Tyson wants to be a part of that improvement. He’s a junior at Waverly High School and just completed his first year in the Ingham Intermediate School District’s law enforcement program. The program immerses students in a police academy setting.

“They” are the officers, learning how to handle everything from a traffic stop to when its appropriate to use deadly force.

Ayden Villatoro is a Haslett High School senior.

“The important thing is to make sure you know how to de-escalate correctly and how to calm yourself down so you don’t make a mistake that could put someone else’s life at risk,” Villatoro said.

That means using other tactics on a “use of force continuum,” with firing a gun as the last option.

Criminal Justice Instructor Noel Garcia said, “I was fortunate that not only did me and the people working with me at the time make the right decisions, but even though there were some close calls with guns pointed at us and such, I never had to use my gun to take someone’s life or to protect my life or others.”

Garcia is one of two instructors in the Wilson Talent Center’s Criminal Justice program.

He spent 25 years on the Lansing Police Force, rising to the rank of lieutenant. From routine patrol to investigations and the SWAT team, he says he experienced many incidents where use of force was needed. He was even on the team that captured one of the most dangerous criminals in Lansing’s history: serial killer Matthew Macon.

He recalled the experience for News 10.

“I get out of the car, and as I’m running towards him he kind of stops and he kind of glares at me,” Garcia said. “You can tell he’s making a decision whether I’m going to fight or run, or cooperate. And I think we were on top of him quick enough where he couldn’t make that decision.”

Real-life policing experience, real-life scenarios. Merging in a classroom where a passion for policing is the solid foundation for our officers of the future.

“We don’t shy away from any discussion in our classroom,” Garcia said. “And before I give them what I feel or what I think about the force that was used, I challenge them. I actually make them write some of their thoughts about what they think whether force was necessary or not.”

Villatoro said, “As a police officer you have obviously, a very high responsibility and if you’re having a bad day or something like that, that could very much effect everything that’s happening around you.”

At the heart of every lesson is what attracts these students to a career that connects them with people in the community they serve.

“I wanted to make improvements with how my Hispanic culture viewed the police,” Villatoro said. “That’s what motivated me to do it.”

“I believe that I can honestly make a change by being an African-American police officer,” Tyson said. “Throughout those communities I can relate to those people out there.”

Whether they join the force or not the experiences in this classroom are changing lives for these students who want to be the change themselves.

Tyson said, “It’s the career I want, I go in, I plan to make it home every day.”

There are two full-year classes in the Ingham ISD’s Criminal Justice program; investigations and law enforcement. Noel Garcia has been an instructor for eight years and tells us at least half of his students end up in a law enforcement career.

More about the program is available on the Ingham ISD website.

https://www.inghamisd.org/wtc/wtc-programs/criminal-justice/

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