Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Barron Officer No Stranger to Dangerous Duty

Eric W. Sowa graduates from CVTC Law Enforcement Academy

Article Photo - New Barron Officer No Stranger to Dangerous Duty

New Barron Police Department officer Eric Sowa, center, is joined by department Chief Byron Miller, left, and Assistant Chief Mike Freeman prior to the CVTC Law Enforcement Academy graduation May 20.

Being a police officer can be a dangerous occupation, but that will be familiar territory for new Barron Police Department Officer Eric W. Sowa, who just completed his training at the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) Law Enforcement Academy.

“I was in Iraq in military police,” said Sowa, who was born in Chicago. “I received treatment because of injuries. I was blown up by IED’s four times.”

The infamous IED’s that took so many American lives in the Iraq War are Improvised Explosive Devices, usually hidden as traps for the American soldiers. Sowa faced such danger at a young age. He left high school a year early and entered the U.S. Army, serving from 2000-08.

“They medically retired me,” Sowa said. “It took me three years to recover.”

Sowa eventually took a job with the Harley-Davidson dealership in Rice Lake, working there five years.

“I built a relationship with a lot of police officers,” Sowa said. “They would come in and I would make deals with them.”

Those officers started talking to Sowa about going into law enforcement in civilian life. “They knew my background and I always had a passion for law enforcement,” he said.

Sowa enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Rice Lake and was ultimately hired by the Barron Police Department, which sponsored his enrollment in the Law Enforcement Academy at CVTC.

Being a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin takes a great deal of training. The Academy graduates needed to complete 60 hours of college credits to qualify for admission. Many go through CVTC’s two-year Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement program, or through a university or other technical college. Some, like Sowa, are hired by departments that sponsor their Academy training. Others complete the Academy on their own and seek employment.

An Academy graduation ceremony was held Saturday, May 20. Barron Chief of Police Byron Miller and Assistant Chief Mike Freeman attended.

CVTC Associate Dean of Emergency Services Eric Anderson said the 720-hour academy instructs the recruits in six areas: policing in America, tactical skills, patrol procedures, legal context, relational skills and investigations. Completion of training at a Law Enforcement Academy is required to become certified as a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin. However, officers can start work with a department before completing the training.

Sowa was one of 21 graduates completing the academy, which Anderson noted is unforgiving by state law. A student who fails a test has one chance to re-take it. A second failure means dismissal from the academy.

Academy students inevitably become close to one another, as Rebecca Mayfield, an academy student selected to address the class, referred to in her remarks.

“We have the compassion and strength a family has,” said Mayfield, who also spoke of their dedication. “All of us had the courage to move forward. For myself, this is what I have been fighting for the past 20 years of my life.”

Academy instructor and former Chippewa Falls Police Department officer Rob Teuteberg also addressed the class and the family members attending the graduation. He related how he had the students examine their reasons for being there to prepare to enter a profession for which there has been so much public scrutiny in recent years.

“These people sitting before you today have dedication, desire and heart,” he said. “These are people who want to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.”