The 99th Wilmington Police Academy Opens Today; the 40th Wilmington Fire Academy Will Open Next Week
32 recruits are training to become police officers and 17 recruits will train to be firefighters; the academies will fill through attrition vacancies in each department
Mayor Mike Purzycki, Police Chief Robert Tracy, and Fire Chief Michael Donohue today celebrated the opening of the 99th Wilmington Police Academy, which started this morning, and next Monday’s scheduled opening of the 40th Wilmington Fire Academy. The Mayor and Chiefs thanked the recruits for the respective departments for choosing a career in public service. Both academies will provide the City with new police officers and firefighters this summer to fill vacancies that came about through attrition.
When the 99th Police Academy class graduates on August 9, 2019, the Wilmington Police Department is expected to be operating with a full contingent of 315 officers. When the 40th Fire Academy class graduates on Saturday, June 8, 2019, the Wilmington Fire Department will match its authorized strength of 156 firefighters.
“It takes a special individual to step into the role of a police officer or firefighter,” said Mayor Purzycki, “and I join with all of our citizens in expressing the highest regard for the men and women who have chosen a career to protect us, defend us and save lives. Wilmington’s public safety personnel are the finest first-responders in the State, and they serve our City with dedication and distinction. Few careers are more rewarding yet challenging at the same time.”
The 23-week Police Department training academy, which started today, has 32 police cadets. Eleven members of the new class are minority cadets, including five black males and two Hispanic males, as well as four females – one white, two black and one Hispanic. They are among the more than 175 applicants who applied last year to become officers. Of the 32 cadets, seven currently live in Wilmington while the others will have to move into the City after graduation in order to satisfy Wilmington’s five-year residency requirement.
“We continue to be pleased with the number of individuals who are interested in becoming part of the Wilmington Police Department,” said Chief Tracy. “The high level of interest in our application process is a testament to the dedicated efforts of our police officers in ensuring public safety in our state’s largest city. These recruits see the positive work that is being done, and they want to be a part of what we are doing here.”
Chief Tracy said the Wilmington Police Academy is a rigorous process that prepares the cadets for a challenging yet rewarding career with the department. The cadets begin each morning at 5:30 a.m. with two hours of physical fitness followed by eight hours of classroom time. Cadets will participate in thorough training and educational programming around the fundamental principles, procedures and techniques of law enforcement. Cadets will learn about criminal law, patrol functions, investigations, report writing, traffic enforcement and accident investigation. They will also receive extensive training in defensive tactics, firearms, police vehicle operation, first aid and CPR.
In addition, cadets will learn about the tenets of community policing, cultural diversity and leadership – key components to the departmental strategy of fostering strong relationships with the community. The cadets will also participate in various community events during their time in the academy so that they can become a part of the Wilmington community even before they complete their training. Chief Tracy today thanked Captain Tashawn Counts, commander of the WPD Human Resources Division, and Master Sergeant David Prado for helping to organize the latest academy.
The 13-week Fire Department training academy will begin on Monday, March 11, with 17 recruits who are seeking to become City firefighters. The new recruits – including 15 white males, one African-American male and one Hispanic male – are among 185 applicants who applied last year to become firefighters. Only one recruit currently lives in Wilmington, and the others must move into the City upon graduation to satisfy the residency requirement. The recruits, who have been hired by the City, are still considered to be probationary firefighters until they graduate from the academy.
Chief Donohue said that the first portion of high-intensity training will be an accelerated Emergency Medical Technician course lasting approximately 5½ weeks. The EMT training prepares the recruits to render emergency medical care to those suffering from minor emergencies, cardiac arrest, and severe trauma. At the conclusion of EMT training, all recruits will take the written and practical exams to attain certification as a National Register Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT). The remainder of the academy will be intensive firefighting training both in the classroom and on the drill grounds. Among the topics covered during firefighting training are fire behavior, building construction, health and safety, flashover simulator training, water rescue, and vehicle rescue. Once all firefighting training has been successfully completed through written and practical examinations, the recruits will have attained national certification as Pro Board Fire Fighter Levels I and II (NBFSPQ). As recruits, they will start each morning with physical training followed by classroom and hands-on practical firefighting exercises.
The Mayor and Chiefs today congratulated the cadets for making it through the initial screening process, which included a written exam, a physical agility test, and interview panels including a Chief’s interview. Mayor Purzycki, Chief Tracy, and Chief Donohue wished the groups well on their journey through the academies.
Staffing for both the Police and Fire Departments is currently below 95% of the authorized or budgeted levels (due to retirements and other forms of attrition), which is the trigger that enables the City to schedule new academies to replenish personnel. A Resolution was approved by City Council in August authorizing the City Administration to commence new police and fire academies in early 2019.