HPD cadet learning to protect and serve
The first thing HPD cadets learn is the proper way to stand at attention. It’s
the beginning of HPD’s six-month process of forming officers out of people from all walks of life.
Story and photos by Dave Schafer
This is the first in a series of stories following HPD cadet Anne-Marie Pearson through the police academy.
0650, June 25 – “How is everybody?” Officer Durrell Dickens asks the 64 cadets who are as rigid as their pressed uniforms.
“Good, sir,” they say. Half the “goods” start on the others’ “sirs.”
With that, Anne-Marie Pearson’s new life begins. Pearson is smiling, her 5’10”, 150-pound frame seated behind an arched table. Thick gray half-circles shadow her eyes – she didn’t sleep much last night – but those eyes shine with excitement.
She’s waited 20 years for this day. Ten years ago, she’d given up on seeing it. Now it was here, and it felt incredible.
“A few weeks ago, you all had jobs,” Executive Assistant Chief Charles McClellan says. “This is not a job. This is a profession.”
Pearson has worked enough jobs, always searching for more. Now, she believes she’s found it.
The birth of a dream
Pearson grew up watching “Adam-12,” “Cagney & Lacey,” “CHiPs,” and other police shows. When she was a husky 10-year-old, a police officer responded after a man stuck his middle finger out at her. She sat in the front seat of the squad car, next to the shotgun. In high school, Mrs. Whatley’s retired FBI agent husband visited her government class and regaled students with his adventures. He made it sound so cool.
By then, Pearson wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. Now, she knew how.
She got a bachelor’s in sociology from the University of Texas in 1987 and applied to the Austin Police Department. But she couldn’t cross the monkey bars during the agility test. Every time she reached for the second bar, she fell off.
In college, she’d ran, swam a mile a day and lifted weights. But none of her college workouts involved the upper-body strength she needed now. Finally, she gave up and stood there embarrassed. The recruiters’ images floated in her tears.
She was unable to comprehend what had happened. But it was just a little setback. “Wait six months, train a little bit, then come back and try again,” a recruiter told her.
She never returned.
The death of a dream
While she waited the six months, Pearson went bankrupt, the result of her yearlong involvement in a multilayered marketing scheme that stayed just this side of legal. Law enforcement agencies won’t hire people with bad credit, so now she had at least a seven-year wait.
She moved back in with mom and dad and built up her credit.
In 1995, she applied to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. She passed the group interview, the physical, the psychological tests, even the agility test, and her recruiter said they just needed a spot to open at the academy in Quantico, Va.
Her dream was about to come true. She stayed away from friends who smoked pot, quit her job, and prepared to move at a moment’s notice.
That spot at Quantico never opened. The DEA froze hiring. They lost her paperwork. When they found the paperwork, more than six months had passed, so she needed to retake the tests.
Now 33, she told the recruiter never mind.
Then she hung up and sat on the floor crying, her salty tears spilling out her lifelong dream.
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