First Assignment

By Bill Bernsen 1974

The Training Program at Firestone Park Station begins when a new deputy (cadet) hears his first story of chivalry from an ex-FPK deputy. From that day on, the cadet, if he is impressed, becomes a trainee at FPK.

A trainee, - prior to arriving at FPK, evaluates himself, i.e., “Do I possess the ability that it takes to be the best?” So often a new deputy denies himself the best training available. Perhaps this is due to a lack of self esteem: the deputy who has the self esteem to sign his name on the request for transfer to FPK has passed the first test and is un­officially enrolled as a trainee at FPK.


As the new trainee enters the station for the first time, he is immediately looked upon by the regular deputies as: “will he back me up, can he write good paper, or is he a lame? As the trainee enters the basement for his training orientation, he somehow senses that he has been in the same situation before. As a matter of fact, several times; his first day in school; his first day in the military; and his first day in the Sheriffs Academy. Everyone is wondering, “who will make it and who will not.”

The training Lieutenant enters the base­ment and immediately the trainee feels a sense of organization as the Lieutenant passes out the do’s and don’ts at FPK. The same thought keeps passing through the trainee’s mind; “will I make it?” The trainee is re­quested to submit a resume within one week. The majority of trainees complete the resume within two days. The first draft of the resume is re-written several times. Perhaps if the new trainee was required to write the resume the first day and submit it prior to leaving the basement, the resume would reflect his true ability to write.


After a few war stories and words of wisdom, the trainee is advised that FPK has the best training program in Los Angeles, which is quite obvious from the stories he has heard. Next he is presented with a training officer, not in person, but a name on a piece of paper. The trainee silently introduces himself to the paper, but the paper does not answer; which the trainee finds out later, the T/O, in person, reacts in the same manner, not once, but several times throughout his training period. After the orientation, the trainee is assigned a locker. Luck has an important role here, but there seems to be no real com­plaints. From this point on, his training is as individual as is his locker combination.

The first night the trainee enters the briefing room and meets his T/O; the training officer looks at the trainee and feels he says to himself, “will he back me up, can he write good paper, or is he a lame?” The trainee looks

at the T/O and says to himself, “Can I make it?” After a thirty minute briefing on recent crimes in the area, which sounds like a rap sheet from a John Dillinger movie, the trainee, with great difficulty, writes every­thing in his notebook, and leaves the briefing knowing that some day he will learn the difference between the words: workable and unworkable.


After Briefing, the T/O picks up the keys to the unit, a shotgun from the Armory, and checks the desk. With a few directions, the trainee could have done the same, but the training officer is thinking that the trainee may not find the correct keys, blow a hole in the Armory door, or receive a missing child report from the desk.

The trainee retrieves his booking gear and he heads for the parking lot. Suddenly the trainee finds himself alone, like a puppy. He looks in all directions, but no one is there. This feeling will be a common occurrence through­out his training period, but the trainee will adjust. The T/O reappears and the trainee feels safe once again. After a quick inspection of the unit: lights, siren, trunk, and under the rear seats. Why under the rear seat? The trainee asks himself, but he is reluctant to ask his T/O because it is obvious to the T/O so it follows that it ought to be obvious to the trainee. The T/O hands the trainee a piece of paper with writing and coffee stains on it and tells the trainee to write the information down in his notebook. Silently, the trainee thanks his T/O for the coffee and follows orders. As the two of them leave the station’s parking lot, the T/O picks up the radio microphone and whispers into it, “eleven is ten-eight, one-one” many times. Throughout this period the trainee will see his T/O leap tall fences at a single bound, drive faster than a speeding bullet, and have a powerful knowledge of the law. On the other hand, the trainee will rip a uniform climbing over a fence, will be lucky if he gets to drive at all, and will learn how to put the T/O’s knowledge of the law in writing.

One day during his training, the trainee will see his T/O leap a fence and the T/O will see the trainee use a gate to the same fence. There is usually a gate for every fence; this will strike the trainee after ripping a uniform:

Upon pointing the gate out to his T/O, the T/O ignores the trainee and later advises him that his T/O taught him to jump the fences. Somehow, in time, the trainee learns that his T/O was right. Deputies always jump the fences; it is the correct way, perhaps not

safe, but is more adventurous.



Most calls the T/O responds to he will drive in a sane manner, but emergen­cies (request for assistance by another unit, the only real emergency) the T/O will drive like a .357 mag The trainee will wonder what it would be like to drive, but when the trainee asks his T/O, the T/O states that his T/O would not let him drive, so why should he let his trainee drive.

The T/O’s powerful knowledge of the law seems to settle every disturbance call to conclusion, every violent crime is somehow extracted from the victim’s incoherent speech, and every theft leads to the thief. Part way through his training the trainee acquires this power, on a limited basis. The trainee’s disturbance call turns into a fight, and his T/O steps in and extracts the trainee. The trainee’s finished theft report somehow sounds as if the trainee was the thief, but with the help of T/O, the trainee is found not guilty by the watch sergeant.



After several months of trying his com­bination, the trainee finally opens his locker and is declared off of training. As the trainee enters a unit alone for the first time, he wonders, “Will l ever forget the combination?” Somehow, the combination never leaves his mind and even if it does the new regular deputy knows how to obtain it from another deputy.

He leaves the station equipped with a pack of cigarettes, a pack of Rolaids and wishing he had a pachyderm for a partner. While enroute to his assigned area he looks at the clipboard, which shows the following calls: 211 R, 459 R, 488 R, and 594 R. These calls can only add up to one numb index finger.


He is hungry now, but there is no time to eat; he must be content to be nourished by his-thoughts.

Receiving a Robbery in Progress call, he arrives, surrounds the building alone, armed only with his six-shooter and sixth sense. His assistance is just two minutes away. The suspect is apprehended. Now an arrest means just that—a-rest as he reflects on his first year at Firestone.