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Becoming the Badge: Rules of the Road

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The El Paso Police recruits are getting a crash course in all things traffic plus taking their physical training up a notch.

No one likes getting a speeding ticket, but this week recruits are learning the rules of the road include much more than ticket writing.

Now 15 weeks into the academy, the recruits are adding something else to their daily uniform, their garrison belts.

For three weeks, recruits are tackling traffic laws.

“I didn't realize there were that many traffic violations,” said recruit Anthony Greer.

The traffic section is taught by two veteran officers from the motorcycle division.

Instructor Officer Frank Torres has 14 years on the department, a majority spent in different traffic divisions.

The transportation code is a thick section of their law books.

“It applies to everybody, every day. It's laws we're going to be enforcing,” said recruit Damian George.

Recruit Sergio Soto has been looking forward to this part of the academy.

“Traffic is one of the things that I want to go into,” said Soto.

When Soto was a child, someone ran a red light and hit the car he was in with his mom.

“All I heard was the screeching and I felt my mom's arm on my chest. I remember smelling the airbags and feeling intense heat on my face,” he said.

It left a lasting impression on how he views driving.

“Its not a right, having your license is a privilege,” said Soto.

For a majority of the public getting a ticket or being in an accident is the only interaction they have with police.

“I'd rather give them that citation. They learn from it and that never happens again then they don't receive that citation and they end up getting in an accident and they end up possibly hurting somebody else or dying,” said Torres.

Their goal is to keep the roadways safe for everyone because officers see firsthand, the devastation that can happen.

“There's a lot (of accidents) that actually do stick with you and make you think about your family when you go home,” said Torres. “It could happen to anyone that's driving.”

Last year, El Paso Police responded to more than 20,000 car accidents and investigated 64 traffic deaths.

“You can be a victim to it at any time without any warning,” said Torres.

Torres spent four years in the special traffic investigation division which is responsible for investigating major accidents and deadly ones.

On this Friday morning, recruits are learning the basics of diagramming the scene of an accident.

“Even though you weren't there for it you can go back and determine what happened. All of this comes through evidence on the roadway,” explained Torres.

As patrol officers, traffic will be a major part of what they do every day and that includes directing traffic.

Recruits spent the afternoon at a busy intersection in central El Paso. The traffic lights, turned off, they became the traffic signal. Telling cars when to stop, when to go and when to turn.

“As soon as it was my turn my heart was just racing,” said recruit Vanessa Bermudez. “Once you get the hang of where your hand is supposed to be, waving people over and taking control and being clear, it's not too bad.”

Being exposed on the roads, is one of the most frequently dangerous positions officers can be in.

“You have to be aware of your surroundings. It can be dangerous,” said instructor, Officer Ersi Madrid. “I was almost hit by a drunk driver, I have road rash from diving out of the way.”

Standing in the middle of the street, recruits are getting to see a glimpse at where their road at the academy will eventually lead

Next week, recruits take protecting the roads a step further when they learn how to identify drunk drivers and when to make an arrest.

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