Ready to Lay Down the Law

El Vaquero Staff Writer

In the seventh grade, Neil Carthew knew he wanted to be a police officer.?

“When you’re young, who doesn’t want to be a cop or a fireman?” said Carthew, 27, who graduated at the top of his class last month from the Rio Hando Police Academy in Whittier and is now the newest officer on campus.

“It hasn’t sunken in yet,” said Carthew. “I’m still in the ‘it’s exciting, it’s new’ phase.”

Nidal Kobaissi, police specialist with the GCC Police Department said: “he’s a quick learner, very enthusiastic and has a great attitude towards everything. The guy turns everything into a positive; we’re excited to have him.”

The 5-foot-11 rookie recalls his days as a student at GCC. “I just started taking a lot of basic electives and tried to become well-versed in the administration of justice field,” said Carthew. “When I found out you could take classes at Glendale College about law enforcement, my goal was to take them.” Then, one day in class, he heard a voice that changed his life forever.

“In a speech class, one of my classmates gave a speech on [being a cadet],” said Carthew. “He approached me [trying to recruit potential cadets] and told me about the program.”

He was told that the college police department was offering students, like him, the chance to become officers of the law. Student officers, or cadets, would get to train with law enforcement professionals on the GCC campus who would prep them for academy instruction. In addition to the training, the cadets would also get paid for it. Carthew immediately jumped at the opportunity.

“[The cadet program] was amazing. It gives you a lot of confidence … it provided me with a lot of knowledge about law enforcement … [and] was convenient with school,” Carthew said. “The best part was responding to medical emergencies and actually initiating the steps to [helping injured people on campus] … briefing the fire department … performing basic first aid steps. I think it made a difference.”

Spirited, yet humble, the young officer admits to watching the television show “Cops” every now and then. “They tell you to watch ‘Cops’ in the academy to find out what not to do tactical wise,” Carthew says jokingly.

But he said that the police academy training is no laughing matter. It is hard, demanding work. The curriculum, he says, focuses on academics, weapons training and physical preparation. The emphasis is on the physical preparation, which consists of running, push-ups and control holds. On top of that, there are 20 or 30 drill instructors in every class just waiting for the chance to yell their lungs out.

Carthew, who was born and raised in Eagle Rock, saw himself as a typical kid growing up. He said: “I was a skater for a while, hanging out with friends and stuff; we lived in the hills so we messed around in wooded areas and skated. I wasn’t into athletics [in high school], the only thing I did … was stage crew for a year.

“I remember a really good friend of mine from high school started running with the wrong crowd and got into drugs. Basically, it was a downward spiral for him and it didn’t help that the environment he was in had people who made him sell them. He had been taken advantage of and unfortunately he ended killing himself due to drug use. It makes you feel, of course, upset and it’s unfortunate that some people take advantage of others who might not be able to defend themselves or who are not aware they are being taken advantage of. There are people who prey on the innocent and that’s unfortunate. There is a lot of that out there.”

While other kids were getting into trouble, Carthew was training as an explorer for the Los Angeles Police Department, which is a volunteer program like the cadets. It teaches about laws and the physical aspect of police work.

Also, his upbringing more than made for a good police officer. “My dad was in the military, so there’s that parallel,” said Carthew. “I’d never do something stupid or he’d find out; I learned discipline from him.” In fact, it helped sow the seeds for his admiration of law enforcement.

“My perception of the law is that I’ve always had great respect for it, which comes from my upbringing, as I was raised to respect law and authority,” he said. “Now I can get a taste of what cops go through. I have as much respect now as ever [for the law].”

After high school, he started working for a drug rehabilitation center where he got the opportunity to the see a side of the law he had not seen before. Carthew said: “I would actually have interviews with people. They’d tell me about their lives, how they got addicted to drugs and how they’re coping. I learned a lot. I was able to see the other side of the law. You hear stories from people who’ve been arrested or going through the court system their perception of law enforcement and how they view the law in general. It’s interesting to hear their side of the story. There’s good and bad to everything after all.”‘

As for the road ahead, Carthew’s plan, for now, is to complete field training and excel at knowing and enforcing the law.

“Right now I’m going though a training program where I ride with somebody and learn about the job. We spend half the day on foot patrol and the other patrolling in a vehicle. Once that ends, I plan to take classes that deal with different fields of law enforcement that you can become specialized in,” Carthew said.

“My idea of success is that it takes just constant preparation and working hard. Basically, it’s having a goal and doing everything you can to work toward that goal.”