Start of watch: RO Schmidl learning on the job as new recruit

JACKSON, Wyo. — Recruitment Officer Heidi Schmidl is a cadet of sorts for the Jackson Police Department. As the first-time police officer looks to officially join the ranks of the thin blue line in Jackson she is clearing the final hurdles in her three-month on-the-job training.

Until she earns her stripes, RO Schmidl is tethered to training officer Cpl. Christian Smith, who has been patrolling with the fresh recruit on the night watch beginning at 7 p.m. Once the bars close and the town streets get quiet, as the rest of us sleep peacefully, Schmidl’s night isn’t half over.

She and Smith hit the books—taking care of paperwork, writing reports, and stepping through training exercises. According to Lt. Roger Schultz, the training scenarios are intended to present young officers with an array of situations they may encounter in the field. Stuff that training manuals don’t cover. You have to see it and live it to learn it.

It was during one of these sessions that Schmidl was thrown a curveball. “We thought: Let’s show her something she’s never seen before,” Schultz said. “On the job, you are confronted with a variety of things you have never been exposed to and you have to respond professionally. As it happened, we gave her something she already knew how to deal with. Quite well.”

RO Schmidl found herself  “responding” to a motorist who appeared impaired in some way. During a simulated routine traffic stop, Schmidl learned the driver did not speak English. Okay, not unusual. Adjust.

But the driver appeared not to understand any language or anything spoken. Schmidl took a shot. She began speaking in sign language to the driver. Bingo!

Not only did the recruit figure out the scenario, she went above and beyond for the gold star. No one on the police force knew she could sign. It wasn’t exactly on the former EMT’s job application.

“She’s a great officer and we feel lucky to have hired her,” Schultz said. “I can see her doing great things.”

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