While new Beverly Hills PD officers Jason Cooke and Berlynn Medina graduated from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Academy last week, both acknowledged that some of their most valuable officer training came well before they entered the academy.
Cooke and Medina credit BHPD’s Community Service Officer (CSO) program for preparing them for the 22-week Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Academy.
Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli created the department’s CSO program as a way to attract future officers, not only to a career in law enforcement, but a career as an officer in Beverly Hills.
“It definitely gave me a leg up as far as the academy goes and as far as my career goes,” said Cooke, 25, a native of Seattle who was drawn to a career in law enforcement while earning a criminal justice degree at San Diego State University. “Getting those inside tips and being able make decisions in order to prepare me for patrol, as compared to someone who just comes directly out of college or somewhere else to start a law enforcement career.”
While Cooke had considered a law enforcement career at the federal level, he decided working for city agency would give him a chance to know the community he was serving.
Cooke started as a part-time cadet and then spent six months as a CSO, going out on patrol with an officer and then working alongside detectives who were investigating property crimes. In the past, CSOs were assigned to a specific bureau within the department. Now, they lateral through different bureaus, getting a primer in all areas of the department.
“That was great exposure responding to all kinds of calls and learning how they handle them, and getting to write reports,” Cooke said. “I’m more trained and prepared for what’s to come.”
Medina, 23, also spent time as a cadet before becoming a CSO, working with detectives and traffic control officers, developing street experience as she issued citations, impounded vehicles and responded to traffic collisions.
“Not only do you get a better understanding of law enforcement, you really get to know the department,” said Medina, who was inspired to become a police officer by her father, now a retired correctional officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. “I think for new hires and new officers, it’s the little nuances and all the details that you don’t realize you don’t know.”
While serving as CSOs, Medina and Cooked prepared for the physical, academic and mental elements of the academy. Twice a week, they met with officers who served as advisors and received “insider tips” that helped prepare them for the academy. They also were able to ask questions and observe what it is really like to be on the job in Beverly Hills, said Medina, who grew up in Whittier and attended college at Northern Arizona University.
“That is the great things about the CSO program,” she said. “They test you on all of that. Not only are you tested on all the streets and maps of the city, but you are tested on all the different vehicle codes, penal codes, health and safety codes, welfare codes. You’re ahead of the game definitely.”
As they worked alongside officers and detectives, Medina and Cooke were struck by how supportive the Beverly Hills community is of the community. Both said that the community support contributed greatly to their decisions to pursue their careers in one of the nation’s most iconic cities.
“The support we have from the community is really unheard of,” Medina said. “For me, that is one of the most important things … being able to find a city and a department that values their officers and the community so much during the times we’re in.”
Both officers are wrapping up a final month of training and will then work under the guidance of a field training officer before patrolling on their own.
Said Cooke, “I’ve been trying to work towards this ever since I got hired as a cadet and then being able to go through the academy with Beverly Hills and being able to graduate is something I was waiting for, for a long time.”