Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Making of Olympia's Newest Police Officer: Wally Noel

Above: City of Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts, left, welcomes Wally Noel, Olympia's newest police officer, after administering Noel's oath of office.

By Janine Unsoeld

A brief, formal swearing in ceremony yesterday marked the beginning of a new chapter for Olympia's newest police officer Wally Noel and his family.
“We're seeing a whole new generation of police officers,” said Olympia city manager Steve Hall, after the ceremony.

“We have officers who have worked at Starbucks, in banks, served in the military…it’s really exciting in terms of the diversity in background….This is the future of our force.”
Noel, who will retire in a month as a Major from the Army, lives in Tumwater with his wife, Betheny, son Deven, 14, and daughter Kiran, 10. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration and a Master of Arts in Business and Organizational Security Management.

Noel spent 20 years in active service as a military police officer. He served in the Army prison system for 10 years, went through several deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, served in detention operations at Guantanamo Bay, and was assigned to Joint Base Lewis McChord two and a half years ago.
“We love the state of Washington, and Olympia. This is where I’d like to retire. My kids and wife absolutely love it here,” said Noel.

After witnessing the ceremony, Olympia police department administrative assistant Marianne Weiland noted the longevity of officer's careers and said that Olympia went through a big hiring of officers 20 to 25 years ago.
“Many of them are now’s been exciting to see the changes,” she said.

Noel’s Family
After the ceremony, Noel’s family was all smiles. I asked Deven what he likes best about the Olympia area.

After some reflective thought, and sighing, he said, “Finally, we don’t have to run around.” Deven, who wore a tie and a white, long sleeved shirt, plays trumpet for the Tacoma Youth Junior Symphony, and will go to Black Hills High School next year.
“We’re finally in one spot,” Kiran agreed. She says her favorite hobby is going out to eat. Asked what her favorite local restaurants are, mom Betheny mentioned Vic’s Pizza, any place with sushi, especially spicy tuna, and Lacey’s new Jimmy John’s. Kiran heartily agreed.

As relative newcomers, Betheny described her impressions and passion for the South Sound community.
“After 20 years of traveling, this definitely is our home. We’ve been a lot of places, but this is the only place we feel people have open arms. We’ve lived in Germany, Italy, Hawaii, the Midwest, and the South, and people here are very open, even the homeless people. I walk by and they say, 'Good morning!' I’m very impressed.”

A fulltime wife and mother, Betheny is busy with her children’s activities and parent teacher organizations, volunteers in their classrooms, and is active in Tumwater school issues. She says she has high expectations for quality education.
“We’ve lived in Dupont, Pierce County, Lacey, and Tumwater and I’m really impressed, overall, with how the community here supports the whole child, offering support to military families, taking the time to talk to students, and caring about their emotional well-being.  This is also a community where the arts are supported – that’s important to me. When you’ve been a transient family for so long, we need outlets. Not all kids like football.

“I believe all kids, whether they come from foster homes, the military, or are bouncing around due to divorce, need the schools and the community to work together to disseminate information, to have sources for opportunities….”
She says when Deven starts at Black Hills next year, he will have attended eleven schools.

“When children move around and change schools, they lose credits,” she said. She is already looking forward to Deven's attendance at New Market Skill Center’s free summer classes, which are available for students entering 9th through 12th grade, and later, the Running Start program.
Running Start is a program designed for eligible juniors and seniors to enroll in college level courses at South Puget Sound Community College to receive both high school and college credit.

The Training of a City of Olympia Police Officer
On July 1st, Noel will head to a five month training in the police academy, then begin Olympia’s three to six month training, and begin an 18 month probation process, all before he can go solo on the streets of Olympia as a patrol officer.

Amy Stull, senior program specialist for the Olympia police department's community programs, says an officer candidate has to be hired by a law enforcement agency in order to attend the training academy.
“Completing the academy gives them state certification. If they don’t pass, they don’t retain their employment.”

The academy, coordinated by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, is in Burien. All law enforcement officers attend that academy, except for the Washington State Patrol, which has their own version.
Stull wrote about the new officer training process for the Olympia Police Department newsletter in February, 2013:

In the 1990’s, standard training was done by field training officers. New officers would be assigned one field training officer after they completed the state Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA). In recent years, the Olympia Police Department has transitioned to the police training officer model.
One of the goals was to better mesh with the Academy’s movement towards integrating more adult learning concepts. New recruits now go through training after the Academy and during their 18 months of probation. 

Under this new model, teaching is based on four substantive topics: police tactics, criminal procedure, report writing and emergency response. Within these categories are fifteen core competencies – use of force, local procedures (laws and policy), leadership, problem solving, community-specific problems, cultural diversity, legal authority, individual rights, ethics, observations skills, multi-tasking, police vehicle operation, conflict resolution, officer safety, communication skills and lifestyle stressors.
The training period is divided into four phases with a mid-term and final evaluation. Each phase takes two to four weeks. Phase one is focused on non-emergency operations, the second on emergency response, the third on criminal procedure and the fourth on patrol activity, which encompasses everything learned during the training. After the first two phases, a different police training officer evaluates the recruit’s progress. Yet another officer takes the recruit through the next phases and a fourth police training officer does the final evaluation.

The goal of the program is to put recruits in learning situations that allow them to use their level of knowledge and problem solve. Training officers look for opportunities to create problem-based learning exercises that involve multiple core competencies. This makes it possible to carefully evaluate each new employee’s chance for a successful career at the Olympia Police Department.
Current Olympia Police Department Officer Statistics

When asked for specific statistics on current officer demographics regarding gender, race, and language diversity, Olympia police department spokesperson, Laura Wohl, provided the following information:

“We now have eight female officers. As for languages, we have one certified Spanish interpreter. We also have several bilingual or semi-bilingual people who are not certified. Certification requires a test and then allows one to interpret in court. Because they are not certified, we don’t have a formal record of these officers, so I’ll give you the best that I can remember: of those who speak a second language, we now have two officers who speak sign language and we have two or three who speak Spanish.”
After some research by the human resources department, she said that in the last 25 years, the department has employed 12 African American officers and corrections officers, three Hispanic/Latino officers and corrections officers, and four Asian/Pacific Islander officers and corrections officers.

“We have had African American police officers at different times in the last 25 years. We did have a period recently when we had no African American police officers on the force – between November 2012 and April 16, 2014, when Wally was sworn in,” said Wohl.
Above: Noel's police badge.
For more information on the Olympia Police Department or law enforcement issues, events and activities, and past statistics, go to Little Hollywood, and type key words into the search button.