April 29, 2005
And then there was one. Chandler police recruit Jose Rangel, who was one of two recruits to beat 143 other candidates for the chance to get into the police academy, was dismissed from the academy.
That leaves 22-year-old Blake Fairclough as the last recruit standing. Officials could not disclose why Rangel, 23, was released earlier this month because it was a personnel issue. "He didn’t meet standards," Sgt. Mark Franzen said.
Rangel would not go into details about the dismissal. "What happened, happened. I made a mistake," the 23-year-old former Army sergeant said. "Now, the next time, I know. I better know the answer and not make an excuse for it. I made a bad decision in my life and I’m trying to get back into it."
The loss of another job candidate is a blow to the department which, like most Valley police agencies, is struggling to fill vacancies with wannabe officers who are qualified for the job.
Last year, 32 percent of the recruits washed out of the academy.
"It happens. That’s what we’re all facing," Franzen said. "We do our very best to get these cadets and recruits through. It’s why it’s a lengthy academy and testing process. Still, in the end, we want the very best. It’s tough standards."
The Tribune has been following the progress of Chandler recruits as part of an occasional series exploring everything from the testing process to the rigors of the academy to the reality of life on the streets.
All bets now are on Fairclough, who is nearly halfway through the 16-week Arizona Law Enforcement Academy.
So far, he has survived the rigorous academics, physical training and military-like rules and punishments.
In one day alone, he was sentenced to 75 push-ups and 75 sit-ups for failing to greet a staff member, and then a trail run for having a bit of hair on the back of his neck.
"I won’t say it’s not challenging. There’s no way I’d quit," Fairclough said.
With a good portion of the academics behind them, cadets will begin hands-on training in defensive tactics, firearms and driving starting this week.
"It’s all new to me but it’s very interesting," Fairclough said. "It could save my life."
And while most recruits wash out of the academy due to poor grades — fail three tests and you’re out — the next portion of the academy won’t be any easier, said Scott Picquet, who’s in charge of hiring for Chandler police.
The recruits will be tested in field scenarios where they will be ultimately graded on whether they can make the crossover from the classroom to the street.
"They need to be able to demonstrate what they’ve learned in the past few weeks, that they can do it in the real world," Picquet said.