Their uniforms have been tailored and their badge numbers assigned.
All the six recruits entering the Tucson Public Safety Academy at the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center next week as potential Oro Valley cops have to do is earn the right to wear them.
For that privilege, this historic class of Oro Valley police recruits will be tested to the fullest. They all have the education, physical abilities and confidence to join the ranks of one of the world's most maligned and misunderstood professions. What will be tested most will be their heart.
This class is double the number of recruits the town typically sends to the training academy. Its members are also the first to take part in a weeklong series of lectures and drills to ease them into the rigors of the next 16 weeks they will spend at the academy.
Twenty-nine people applied to become officers in Oro Valley. Only these six remain in contention for jobs after background checks, written exams and physical tests.
In a three-part series over the coming months the Northwest EXPLORER will follow the career paths of these remaining cops-to-be. We'd like you to get to know the people who may be risking their lives for you in the years ahead and the pains they took to get there.
Getting through the academy and becoming a cop "will be, in my estimation, the greatest accomplishment of my life," says Jeffrey Wadleigh, 23. "Helping people is the greatest thing you can do. There are a million jobs out there, but this one carries with it a special kind of responsibility. There is danger out there, too, but I feel this is what I was meant to do with my life."
Wadleigh graduated last year from the University of Arizona with a bachelor's degree in public administration. Criminal justice was his major. He plays the guitar and remains an avid runner, following up on his days as a cross-country and long-distance mile runner on the Catalina Foothills High School track team. He has also served an internship with Oro Valley police detectives, learning a little about police work from the inside and hopes one day to do undercover work and serve on a Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT team.
He was born in Bellflower, Calif., the son of a doctor who, when Wadleigh was about two years old, was given the choice of continuing his practice in Tucson or Alaska. His dad chose Tucson.
Wadleigh's sister also attends the UA, where she is a junior. An older brother is in law school in San Diego.
For Wadleigh, at the end of his first day of preacademy training, his greatest anxiety was the prospect of being yelled at day in and day out by instructors seeking to weed candidates out based on their ability to cope with the stress that goes with the academy's rigid regimen.
"It might be hard to manage and may come as somewhat of a shock," says Wadleigh. "But I'll adjust to it. I'll just have to. I imagine I'll be out there at the academy hurting like the rest. But it's nothing I fear."
Wadleigh and his classmates ended their first day of preacademy training on a high note when they were given some of the tools of the job -- handcuffs, firearms and batons and were measured for uniforms.
Sharing in the sense of elation was Garrett Ryan, 24, another UA grad of 2000 and a Regents Scholar who received his bachelor's degree in history and minored in political science, carrying a better than 3.5 average.
Ryan is originally from Auburn, Wash., but has lived in Tucson since the second grade. He is a graduate of Canyon del Oro High school, ranked in the top 5 percent of his class, lifts weights and looks every bit capable of succeeding in the strongman competition he aspires one day to take part in, a natural succession to his participation in the annual Highland Games competition.
One of Ryan's three brothers is a chief of police in the small town of St. Francis, Kan. His brother served as Ryan's role model.
"He had no direction as to what he wanted to do."' Ryan says of his brother. "He found it in law enforcement. I've seen how it has fulfilled his life and if I could just have a portion of his success I'd be very very happy.
"I've been stewing about this for some time," he says of his entry into a law enforcement career. "From February, when it all began, to now the process has been so long that every once in a while you question yourself: 'Is this what I really want to do' The answer kept coming back yes."
Ryan says he likes the idea of having a career in which you're not doing the same thing every day, of having an opportunity to impact everything that comes your way and never knowing what that will be.
While at the UA, Ryan took part in ROTC training at Fort Knox, Ky., so he has some experience of the drill sergeant atmosphere he faces at the police academy. He looks at what's ahead not as an obstacle, but merely a challenge he's convinced he's up to and appreciates the opportunity provided by Oro Valley's Police Department to meet his fellow recruits ahead of time "before being thrown to the wolves" at the academy.
Ryan says his goal is simply to one day serve the community in the best way he can and while at the academy to take advantage of everything it has to offer to learn what's needed to be a complete police officer.
"I believe I'm up to the challenge," he says.
Chris Palic, 22, a former punter on the UA football team, says he and his classmates are taking the department's stress on teamwork to heart, already checking each other's uniforms to see everything is correct, and forming study groups.
"Someone comes up with an idea and someone else has already thought about it. That's good, it shows we're all of the same mind, working together and that will continue to serve us well, not only at the academy but in the years ahead when we will be working here," he says.
Palic just graduated from the UA in May with a degree in religious studies and minors in criminal justice and Spanish. He sees his religious studies as an advantage in law enforcement because of its emphasis on different cultures, different values.
"You learn people aren't going to see eye to eye with you all the time, something you're going to encounter in law enforcement," he says.
Palic, who graduated from a small Catholic school near his home town of San Gabriel, Calif., entered the UA as a business major but by the first day of orientation, realized it was not the path for him and decided to get his degree in a field in which he was truly interested.
"Too many people get a degree just to get a degree and then they don't get the job the degree was targeted for," he says.
He and his wife, who is scheduled to graduate from the UA in May, are the parents of a 13-month-old boy and are expecting another child next year.
Palic traces his dreams of law enforcement back to the age of about five when he met a friend of his godmother who was working for the Temple City Sheriff's Office in California. He was so impressed with the friend he decided one day he also wanted to have the kind of influence on people's lives the friend had, to be able to walk down the street and be regarded by them as someone important, someone out there helping them.
Palic's only previous experience in law enforcement was as an intern with the Pima County Juvenile Court's Juvenile Intensive Probation Supervision program, assisting probation officers in serving warrants, making arrests and checking records. He sees his lack of experience as an advantage in that he's entering the field fresh, with no bad habits.
"I'll be like a sponge," he says "absorbing, absorbing, absorbing, correlating everything with my own experience so it all fits in."
Heidi Hardman, 25, a native of Bountiful, Utah, believes she may have a bit of a "heads up" on her fellow classmates since she went through a similar 14-week academy just nine months ago to become a corrections officer with the Salt Lake City Sheriff's Office.
Although the forthcoming academy will be more patrol related, many of the demands of the training back in Utah will probably be pretty much the same and the lessons acquired are still fresh in her mind, she says.
The Utah academy was conducted in a mostly paramilitary fashion, Hardman says, "but people weren't getting in your face as much as I hear they'll be doing here."
Hardman came to Tucson in August, joining a roommate who was accepted into law school at the UA She had been working as a corrections officer for the Salt Lake City Sheriff's Office, but with her dad retired, her mom working as a lawyer and her 18-year-old brother well situated, "it was time to break out," she says.
From the age of 16 a career in law enforcement had always been intriguing, Hardman says. "I've always been a by the book person," she says. "I get upset when I see people breaking the law. I guess I grew up pretty quick."
Prior to being accepted as an Oro Valley candidate, Hardman had applied with four different agencies. She turned down an offer from the Arizona Department of Corrections and was in the final stage of the hiring process as a corrections officer with the Pima County Sher-iff's Department when she decided to narrow her choices to the UA's Police Department and Oro Valley, finally choosing Oro Valley.
Through her re-search and talking with a number of friends, Hardman discovered that Oro Valley had a good reputation for community policing and residents had a high level of respect for the department's officers. "I knew it would be a place I'd enjoy working," she says.
Hardman received her bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Weber State University, minoring in psychology. Once she's done with her probationary period, she plans to enroll at the UA to earn her master's degree in public administration, with an emphasis on criminal justice. In the meantime, she'll take nongraduate classes to prepare for graduate work.
To stay in shape, Hardman plays soccer with members of UA's law school every Friday night to keep up with the sport she played all through college, and runs three miles every other day.
As for her classmates, Hardman says she's amazed that six people could come together and gel so soon. Common goals, the same experiences and being aware of the need to support one another have been major factors, as well as their relatively similar backgrounds, she says.
Kristine Filippelli, 24, has always wanted to be a cop, but says she didn't know how realistic that hope might be in terms of someone her size doing the job, so she put the idea on the back burner.
After meeting her husband, a Tucson Fire Department firefighter, she began learning more about what police officers do and realized fulfilling her dream wasn't out of line despite being only 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 107 pounds. "I finally realized that this is what I want out of my life, this is what I wanted to do," she says.
Prior to applying for the Oro Valley police job she focused on massage therapy at the Desert Institute of Healing Arts, worked in accounting and received an associate degree in tourism from Pima Community College in 1998. "Accounting just didn't fit my personality," she says.
On the surface, Filippelli's background might indicate her chances for success might be better in a career outside law enforcement. What she left out in an interview with a reporter, however, is her family law enforcement ties.
Her father-in-law is currently a homicide detective with the Tucson Police Department who has been on the force for more than 25 years and her grandfather in-law was also a TPD officer for years.
Bob Easton, head of Oro Valley Police Department's Office of Professional Development, also notes that one of the finest officers she ever knew was a 5-foot-9-inch, 130 pound former mortician's assistant while another officer was unable to meet the psychological challenges of the job despite being a former decathlon athlete and Army captain used to the stresses of the military.
Filippelli says her biggest concern heading into the academy is its paramilitary atmosphere. "It may be a bit shocking, but it's something I know I can adjust to," she says.
The physical aspects are of less a concern to her. "I've been working out six days a week my whole life," says Filippelli, who married just four months ago. She and her husband are building a home just a mile and a half from the Oro Valley police station.
"I know the academy is going to be tough, but I've never wanted anything more in my life," she says.
Leigh Horetski, the final member of the training class, is following in the footsteps of her two younger brothers who are already Oro Valley police officers.
Horetski, a graduate of Canyon Del Oro High School and 1997 grad of the UA's College of Agriculture, has been working as a records clerk in the Oro Valley Police Department for the past three and a half years.
The diversity of police work, its daily challenges and the opportunity to give something back to the community were the major factors in choosing law enforcement as a career, she said, though at one time she had considered becoming a veterinarian because of the opportunity to work outside and be involved with animals.
"It just didn't work out," she said.
Another factor in her choice was the family atmosphere that seemed to exist within the Oro Valley police community itself that she wanted to be a part of, she said. Horetski said she was a bit surprised by how quickly members of her recruiting class seemed to bond and get to know one another despite their disparate backgrounds.
"I think we bonded a lot faster than people from all different backgrounds usually do," she said.
Like most of her classmates it is the military aspect of the training academy that concerns her most. "I've never been in a military atmosphere before, but right now I'm just looking forward to getting there, staying focused, getting my bearings and getting through," she said.
As part of her own weekly regimen, Horetski usually combines an hour of weight work with from 40 minutes to an hour of cardiovascular exercises with alternate days of four to six-mile runs.
"The whole time I've been here the idea of becoming a police officer has been in the back of my mind," she said. "I've talked with my brothers about it a lot and they've been very supportive. I pretty much know what to expect, I just have to get through it."
In the Oro Valley Police Department's first address to the recruit class, the emphasis was on their training as a team.
"I want you to support each other, to work together as a team," Easton told the class. "To do this alone is nearly impossible. You need the camaraderie. I'm challenging you to support each other and to work together. It begins here and now. It's all about discipline. You either learn it, starting today, or look forward to facing a miserable 16 weeks."