Precision driving training prepares MPD cadets for streets

MILWAUKEE -- FOX6's exclusive ride with Milwaukee police as they rushed to save officer Frank Vrtochnick after he was hit by a car on Christmas night begged the question: what does it take to pull off that level of high-pressure driving, without a moment of hesitation?

Huddled around a fiery grill for warmth, a group of cold Milwaukee police cadets picked a bad day for their barbecue, but at the Milwaukee Mile, the recruits' unlucky lunch plans are the least of their concerns. During what's been a mostly mild Milwaukee winter, the future officers unfortunately have to slip and zip through Emergency Vehicle Operations class. "We live in Wisconsin. They're going to have to deal with these things throughout their career. You've got turning maneuvers, backing maneuvers, parking maneuvers, high-speed cornering maneuvers,"

During class, all of these maneuvers were practiced in almost blizzard-like conditions. "It's actually a good training aid. I think it benefits them because they can do things at low-speed and get the benefit of learning things that might occur at a higher speed,"

On this day, the cadets practiced all kinds of pursuits. Recruit officer Dustin McInnis got a call for an armed robbery. His trainer, Sgt. Tony Reilly rode shotgun. This was a high-priority call, and the two were chasing down a red four-door vehicle. "We try to expose them to the various techniques they'll have to use when they drive a vehicle in an emergency situation,"

The detective in the vehicle they're chasing has much more high-pressure driving experience than McInnis, or any recruit for that matter. Training class is where the basics are taught and the skills are built. "What we're trying to do is get the officers to understand the limits of their own driving ability and the limits of their own vehicle,"

After all, it is better to be grilled in class than when the recruits become officers patrolling Milwaukee's snowy streets.

Police officers do have to go back periodically for retraining, just to stay current on the latest laws and techniques, and it should be noted it takes a very strong person from a mental perspective to do what those officers did the night they raced to get officer Vrtochnick to Froedtert Hospital, and then set aside emotion, go back onto the streets and look for the driver who hit Vrtochnick.

A few days later, 19-year-old Juan Alvarado was caught and charged in the hit-and-run that critically injured officer Vrtochnick. His next court date is in mid-March.