CCC students visit Arizona Law Enforcement Academy

Coconino Community College students listen to Sgt. Sonny Hudson of the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy talk about what they will face when they undergo simulated "real-world" scenarios police officers face.

MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Coconino Community College student Ferdina Hurley stood, dressed in tactical vest, helmet and goggles, facing the agitated man. She watched him pace back and forth. Also dressed in tactical vest, helmet and goggles, he held a simulated knife.


She tried to calm him, her hand poised above her weapon, which contained “simunition” paint balls as bullets. He wouldn’t listen, and, without warning, he charged.


He was on her before she could move to get her weapon out of the holster.


“I went out there with confidence,” Hurley said. “I thought I was going to be more reactive and active, but I froze.”


Hurley was one of 17 students in CCC’s Administration of Justice 101 class who took a field trip down to Phoenix in March to visit the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy.


“The whole purpose of the class is to expose the students to every aspect of justice studies,” said CCC’s AJS Instructor David Ramos. “By taking them down to the academy, we give them a real-world exposure that they can only receive in that type of setting, and that way, they can make a more informed decision about career path.”


At the academy, located in South Phoenix, Sgt. Sonny Hudson welcomed the students and introduced them to Instructor Jason Hall. Hall immediately had the students observe an image of an accident scene and then answer questions about it. After the test, Hall told the students that determining quality of observational skills was one of many tests new recruits take on their path to becoming police officers in Arizona. Recruits also take a written test, a physical fitness test, and undergo psychological evaluations, a drug screening, a medical check, a background check and take a polygraph. The process can be as long as six months.


The Arizona Law Enforcement Academy trains about 50 percent of the officers in the state. The academy lasts 18 to 19 weeks, and recruits learn ethics, the criminal justice system, criminal law, traffic law and more. They undergo strength training, cardio training, survival training, defensive tactics, firearms training, driving and traffic control, investigations, searches, arrests, interviews, interrogations, and how to handle problems “in the field.”


“In reality, the training never stops,” Hall said, adding that officers are constantly undergoing training to keep their skills sharp and acquire new ones.


The students took a tour of the grounds with Sgt. Hudson, and visited the classrooms, the obstacle course, the Tactical Village, the Armory and more. At the Tactical Village, the students watched Taser demonstrations and then donned protective gear to participate in reality-based scenarios meant to approximate the “real thing” as closely as possible.


The students were put through a scenario involving a suspect with a gun who ambushed police officers at a convenience store, a man with a gun outside a home threatening suicide, a traffic stop, and an agitated man holding a knife. All of the students participated in at least one of the scenarios.


Student Chris Stinson participated in the traffic stop with fellow student Zak Holland, whose father spent a career as a police officer with the Flagstaff Police Department.


“Honestly, I was on edge the entire time,” Stinson said. “It was view changing.”


Stinson’s parents are in law enforcement, as well, and he wants to join the U.S. Coast Guard after he finishes his studies at CCC. Eventually, he would like to belong to a tactical team with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Taking part in the scenario, Stinson said that his plans didn’t change.


“It makes me want to do it more,” Stinson said.


But Hurley said her views did change. When she first arrived at the academy, she was interested in becoming a police officer, but her participation in the scenario with the armed man caused her to change her mind. She’s considering a career as a detention officer as an alternative.


“I’m going to look into that for next year,” Hurley said. “I want to help people, and not only that, my mom and dad have high expectations … and that field would be great.”


For a photo essay of the trip, visit

Wednesday, 12th April 2017

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  • Wednesday, 12th April 2017