July 26, 2005 > Rookies - beyond probation
Rookies - beyond probation
A bit over six months ago, TCV completed a series of interviews with three "rookie" Fremont police officers who had just graduated from police academy training in Sacramento, Ca. Matthew Bocage, Ramin Mahboobi and Matthew Snelson met with Tri-City Voice Publisher/Editor in Chief Bill Marshak every two weeks during their FTO (Field Training Officer) training to express their thoughts about the challenges of a particularly stressful period at the beginning of their career in law enforcement. The same group gathered on July 21 for a final meeting to reminisce, look forward to completion of their probation period and what lies beyond.
TCV: It has been six months since we last met. From your viewpoint, where are you now in relation to our last meeting?
Mahboobi: I am much more confident by far than when I was sitting in this chair seven months ago. However, every day is a learning experience. I am now able to tackle more complex projects and self-initiated activity. Seven months ago, I was feeling, 'Let's not dig up more trouble than I can handle. I need to focus on what I am dealt.' Now I am confident that I can handle the calls; it's all about learning to use the resources and information we have - how to obtain it and how to use it. We need to become familiar with the crooks out there; be aggressive to stop them and put them away.
Bocage: I agree one hundred percent. I would highlight two things Ramin just mentioned. Getting to know the crooks is a sign that you have arrived. I look at the officers with the department and they really know the names, faces, who they are looking for and who those folks are associated with. During training, you are into a lot of things, but what you are, primarily, is a call taker. Being proactive is a challenge for me - a goal of mine - each and every day. Lieutenant [Gus] Arroyo gave an inspiring speech at a recent shift change. He said that we want criminals, criminal enterprise, to be uncomfortable operating and living in Fremont, period. We don't want it to be easy for them.
Snelson: I feel that I have the "child food" part down; I can handle basic calls. I know how to deal with certain situations. Now I am trying to get into the more complex things because that is what I think good police officers do. I am trying to be more proactive and stir things up; find the crime that is occurring beneath normal society. It is as the others said; trying to find crime and uncover it is a continual challenge. It is an exciting time.
TCV: For those who choose to apply for a position as a police officer, what qualities do you feel are necessary for success?
Snelson: You need the ability to listen and speak clearly to people; to interact. Common sense - to make logical decisions - is necessary as well as an understanding of what is going on and how to apply basic law. A good officer needs confidence, but not too much. A high drive, a desire to work and the ability to work with a team is essential. Even though you may ride alone, if too prideful to ask for help, you will never make a good police officer. The team aspect is huge.
Bocage: Perseverance is a big part of where we are right now. You need to work hard from the very beginning to the very end of every day. That has really paid off. If I was to speak to someone interested in this type of work I would emphasize this. Just don't quit. It really does pay off in the end.
Adaptability is another essential element. You have to be able to adapt in so many ways - work schedules, the variety of crimes and calls - you need to be able to adapt depending upon the personality of the person you are speaking with. You may go from one extreme to the other within a matter of minutes. People going into this line of work should ask themselves if they have these two qualities intact.
Mahboobi: I echo what the others have said. You have to have a passion for the job. There is so much to challenge you in the beginning and throughout your career. If you are not truly dedicated to this career, you are not going to make it. That is where the difference lies. It is a complex job and requires so much from you. We are not superheroes to do this; we are just dedicated and didn't give up no matter what.
TCV: At this point in your career, do others around you treat you differently?
Mahboobi: My family is one hundred percent proud of me. I could not ask for any more support. They appreciate my hard work and have been there for me throughout my time at the academy and FTO program. My friends have all be great throughout my training.
It is only when you run into someone you haven't seen in a long time or are introduced to a new group of people - there is the awkward moment. For some reason, family and friends only know one way to introduce me; 'Hey, this is Ramin, he's a cop.'
I wish I could change that since it's an awkward introduction. That is the only negative thing I can think of with this career.
Bocage: I can relate to what Raman just said. It is a really strange doorway you walk through. While police work is a lifestyle and you become accustomed to it, it is not as though I just hang out with cops. I hang out with a lot of other folks too. Police personnel are just good people doing a tough job; that is how I look at it.
I go through the same thing when meeting people. It is a great icebreaker and party conversation. Everybody wants to know 'have you shot anybody? How many dead bodies have you seen?' The typical things they have seen on television. They want you to share your experiences and, believe me, we have a lot of them - some are hilarious. They are a lot of fun to share. Police work is a brotherhood, but I don't feel as different as I used to. My family is very comfortable with it. They are very proud of me and love what I am doing. They understand the long hours and sacrifices that come with the job.
Snelson: It is a very polarizing job. Strong stereotypes can come into play when someone realizes you are a police officer. I have had both reactions - some people love you and you can tell that others have had bad experiences. It is tough when you are first introduced to people that way and they view you in a negative light right off the bat.
A case in point: my wife and I were just in Tahoe at a Teppan Yaki restaurant where they cook the food in front of you. We were the only ones at the table and the chef was talking with us and asked my wife about her profession. She replied that she is a teacher and he asked some normal questions about teaching. Then he turned to me and asked what I do. When I told him that I am a police officer, there was this pause and an awkward, "oh." You just don't know what he is thinking; he was a young guy, about my age and he may be thinking that he didn't show up for traffic court and if I find out about that, I will arrest him.
Apart from the introduction side, there is a balance to be found. I try to turn it off; I don't need to be a cop around my family. I do, however, feel a little bit more aware and on guard, especially in Fremont. For example, my wife and I went out to dinner with another couple that we are friends with; his wife is eight months pregnant. We were sitting outside having dinner and a guy- a very violent person that I had arrested about three weeks earlier - walks by. I can guarantee that I am not on his "good" list. If he realizes who I am and decides to confront me, although I feel that I can handle myself, now I have to worry about my friend, my wife and his wife. There is some sensitivity there. On the other side, we just had an officer, Will Cannon, retire after 30 years service and to see the respect and honor from the rest of the officers is huge.
TCV: Any last thoughts before we close this interview and our series?
Snelson: I want to thank my wife and family for their support during this process; it is an enormous step to get through academy, FTO and now look toward the end of probation. It takes a lot of support to get through this and my wife has been awesome throughout. I couldn't ask for better partners to go through academy with me. The support of the department has been great. I feel that I have found the career I want to stay in for the next 28 1/2 years. I look forward to being involved in a lot of different things and keeping my mind active.
One of the midnight officers, John Anderson, said he loves the job because there is never a dull moment. There is always something going on that is making your mind work. The variables are always changing. It's exciting. I am constantly intellectually active and on the physical side as well. I have found the long term job for me.
Mahboobi: I look back from the beginning to where we are now and how we are only a fraction into this career. This experience, so far, has been amazing. There have been tremendous obstacles but looking back, I couldn't have asked for a better group to be with at the academy. We have formed a bond that will be there for the rest of our lives. Together, we conquered this. I don't know if I could have made it without their support, the support of my family and the department.
It is fun to look back, knowing my concerns and how difficult it was. Now I am proud to say I am here right now. This is definitely the career for me. I made the right decision and am still working hard to keep it. Every day brings new challenges.
Bocage: I agree with everything that has been said and would like to thank my family as well. It has been fantastic. I have had wonderful support from everyone, especially my future wife, Raquel Leon, throughout this entire process. I couldn't be happier than where I am. The camaraderie that I feel here has made all the difference in the world to me.
I am very grateful to have shared the entire process with these two guys. They are my friends and a barometer of my career. The staff and department have been fantastic. I really feel that I have found a home here. My life has changed so much in such a short period of time. I am at the very beginning of a career and cannot wait to enjoy it. I couldn't be happier than I am right now. It feels really good to be sitting here with these two guys. I think we have quite a journey ahead of us and I can't wait to proceed down the path.
Editor's Note: I would like to thank Officers Bocage, Mahboobi and Snelson for allowing me to enter their lives for a short while. It is my hope that this series of interviews can give our readers an appreciation for the rigors of preparation, training and the day-to-day activities of law enforcement personnel. I would also like to thank Sergeant Clarise Lew who facilitated the series and Chief Craig Steckler who lent his support and approval. Finally, I would like to thank all members of the Fremont Police Department and neighboring city police personnel in Newark and Union City for their support and encouragement.
The entire series will be published in booklet form and available from the Tri-City Voice.