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Future enforcers

Aaron Castoreno stood by while his wife, Taylor, practiced takedowns with a sparring partner. Shoving her knee in her partner's back, she held him down on a blue mat.

Police academy
Cadets of the Grand Forks Police Academy participate in defensive tactics during a session last week. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

Aaron Castoreno stood by while his wife, Taylor, practiced takedowns with a sparring partner. Shoving her knee in her partner's back, she held him down on a blue mat.

"I'm really proud of her," Castoreno said. "It's impressing to watch how people learn all this stuff then use it."

The couple from Grand Forks and others were learning "pressure-point and control tactics" -- aka how to bring the pain -- as part of the first officer academy ever held at the city's Public Safety Center.

"Law enforcement has always been my goal, but as soon as I heard it was in Grand Forks, I jumped all over it, and then we decided to tackle it together," Castoreno said.

The 14-week program began at the end of May, and graduation is set for Aug. 18. Every weekday, the academy's 26 students exercise for an hour starting at 6:30 a.m., take a break, and then attend seven hours of classes on topics ranging from traffic law to high-speed driving to crime-scene photography.


"There's no such thing as a D in this academy. You have to have at least a 70 percent, or a C," said Rick Senger, a professional martial artist and retired Ramsey County, N.D., deputy, who leads the academy's class in defensive tactics.

Senger said students are taught "techniques that have been proven to get the job done without a lot of injury -- maybe pain, but not injury."

But sometimes injuries are tough to avoid -- student JoAnna Cunningham hurt her wrist while practicing with another student. "But it's better today, thank God, because it bummed me out that I was missing out," the 22-year-old said.

Cunningham, who's just shy of 5-foot-2, said the tactics she's learned will allow her to confront anyone. "It works the same on anybody: You hit a pressure point, they're going down no matter how big or petite they are," she said.

"There are a lot of people who tell me I can't do stuff because of my size," she said. "But just because I'm small don't mean I'm breakable."

Along with "hands-on, in-close stuff," students learn "verbal judo," Senger said. "It's about talking to people and getting them to comply that way more so than really going hands-on when you don't have to."

Students spend time getting comfortable with the tools of the job. They wear utility belts that hold a fake blue gun, handcuffs, handcuff keys and a mild version of pepper spray. "It has some pepper, but not much," Andrew Langowski said.

Langowski, 21, said he's wanted to be in law enforcement since he was 11. What attracted him to the field was the prospect of doing "something different every day, and the excitement and helping other people."


Throughout the academy, Langowski and others receive training from officers who've gone through Lake Region State College's program and spent lots of time on the street.

"We do a lot of scenarios of things that actually happened," Senger said. "People have made mistakes and hopefully we can learn from those mistakes and not duplicate them."

Reach Ingersoll at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to aingersoll@gfherald.com .

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