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What it takes to wear the badge

Officer Joseph Zayden from the Dickinson Police Department speaks to a woman involved in a car accident on Thursday.

Motorists pull to the side of the road as Dickinson Police Department officer Joseph Zayden hurries with lights flashing and sirens blaring Thursday. A domestic disturbance has been reported and he must get to the residence as soon as possible.

Zayden responds to calls like this, and others throughout Dickinson daily since he graduated from the Law Enforcement Training Academy in Bismarck.

He was hired in August, but North Dakota does not require officers to have basic law enforcement training before being hired. However, officers are not handed a gun and thrown to the wolves.

"It wasn't easy," Zayden said about the processes of becoming a licensed peace officer.

North Dakota law requires that departments send new hires to the first certified basic law enforcement training course that is open. This is usually within a year.

Zayden said he was a little surprised that he could be hired without any experience.

"I was glad, because I wouldn't be a cop if I had to quit work for three months and go to basic on my own," Zayden said.

He added potential officers must pay to attend training but if they are hired before being trained, it is free.

Lt. Rod Banyai from the DPD said he thinks it's a good policy, adding most local officers are sent to the academy after they are hired.

"We would just as soon hire someone who fits our organization, fits the philosophies we have," Banyai said. "If they have basic (training) that is a plus, but we won't hire them just because they have basic."

Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said he prefers new deputies to have gone through basic training before being hired.

"If they've been to the academy, those are the ones that we look at first," Tuhy said. "We try to take the people who are already licensed or who have gone to the academy."

The DPD takes an extra step by issuing an additional test to anyone who applies. Applicants must pass before the department interviews them.

"The company feels pretty confident that if they pass the test, they're a good candidate for a police officer and if they fail the test, they're not a good candidate for a police officer," Banyai said.

The Sheriff's Department does not issue a test.

However, new officers at both departments must go through training to receive a temporary officer's license until they can attend basic training at a police academy.

The training includes psychological and physical exams and weapons training along with learning department policies and city ordinances, Banyai said.

He said new hires are then partnered with an experienced officer for field training.

"They can be put on the street then," Banyai said, adding new officers are closely monitored.

He said the department training teaches officers enough for the department to be comfortable with them being on patrol but not far from the help of another officer.

"The academy goes much more in depth than we would go," Banyai said.

Zayden said officers must maintain an average of 70 percent or better on testing at the Bismarck academy.

"It's a very intense 12 weeks of training," Zayden said.

The training prepares him for what can be an intense job. And while not all calls have a happy ending, the domestic dispute he responded to on Thursday was settled within minutes.