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New Mexico program fast-tracks veterans to civilian police

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If not for an innovative program that lets former military police officers transfer their skills to civilian police departments — which are chronically understaffed and starving for recruits — Mike Sine might be fighting boredom in a months-long police academy.

Instead, the former Kirtland Air Force Base cop is on the job, but wearing a different uniform.

Sine, 26, is the first person to go through the New Mexico Department of Public Safety’s Transition With Honor program, which streamlines the process for veterans with military police training to become civilian cops.

The program, established by the DPS Secretary Gorden Eden, allows qualifying veterans to take a weeklong refresher course that helps them shift from military law enforcement to its civilian counterpart — at no cost to the veteran.

The 40-hour program culminates with the veteran taking the Law Enforcement Officer Certification Exam which, if passed, qualifies him or her for a job in law enforcement.

Without the program, the veteran would have to complete DPS’ 16-week Law Enforcement Academy to obtain the needed certification.

DPS spokesman Tony Lynn said the program provides a needed bridge between job-seeking former military cops and police departments statewide facing a critical shortage of qualified officers.

“We went through and looked at the (law enforcement) training for each branch of the military to see how much of that training would translate to civilian law enforcement requirements,” Lynn said.

Between 2003 and 2005, the military changed its law enforcement training curriculum, he said, which more closely matched that of the civilian world. For the Army and Marines, the changes occurred on Sept. 1, 2003. For the Air Force and Navy, Lynn said, the changes occurred on Sept. 1, 2005.

“We felt that anyone who was trained from those dates forward had sufficient law enforcement knowledge to be eligible for the Transition With Honor program,” he said.

Lynn said the program is open to veterans, Reservists and NationalGuard personnel.

Sine, a Pennsylvanian who joined the Air Force in 2007 and had been stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base since completing military police training, said the program was ideal for him and his family.

While serving with Kirtland’s 377th Security Forces Squadron back in 2012, Sine heard about the program from Lt. David Gallegos with the Bosque Farms Police Department. Knowing he was leaving the military the following year, Sine followed up and got in contact with Jack F. Jones II, director of the DPS Law Enforcement Academy.

Sine attended the transition course in June 2013 and, two months later, joined the 15-member Bosque Farms Police Department. He’s now considering moving to Texas for a law enforcement position there.

“It was a pretty easy transition,” Sine said last week. “A lot of the things I learned in the military transitioned directly over into the civilian world. The one thing that didn’t was New Mexico criminal law, which we didn’t deal with as much on base as we do out here.”

The transition course gave him a working knowledge of state criminal law, and he’s been putting that knowledge to use on the beat.

“It was a very good experience,” he said, and one he hopes to share with his former colleagues.

“Hopefully, I’ll be helping a lot of people on base make the transition. Some of my old coworkers have been contacting me, so hopefully that program will continue to expand.”

Lynn said 18 military law enforcement personnel from Kirtland, Cannon Air Force Base, the National Guard and Naval Reserves started the Transition With Honor program this week.

“Once certified, they have a year to be hired by a law enforcement agency,” Jones said. Because of the veterans’ maturity, background and training, he said, “They will be a great asset to any law enforcement agency in any community.”
 

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