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New deputy getting used to training regimen

By Rusty Marks, Staff writer
Recently hired Kanawha sheriff’s deputy John Kiser measures his dorm room at the State Police Academy during a crime scene investigation class taught by Trooper First Class Josh Eldridge (reflected in the door mirror).

After more than six weeks at the West Virginia State Police Academy, John Kiser is settling into the routine of training and classwork.

“This is what I want to do,” said Kiser, 24. “I felt called to a life of service.”

Kiser, of Charleston, was hired in March as a Kanawha County sheriff’s deputy. Kiser began training at the State Police Academy at the end of April. The Gazette plans to follow the new deputy through his training at the academy and during his first year on the job.

Kiser was home-schooled and went to West Virginia State University before joining the U.S. Army. He said the State Police Academy hasn’t been that different from Army boot camp.

But, in a way, it’s been harder, he said. The police academy has all the physical demands of military training, he said, “But it’s a lot more classroom work.”

Recently, Kiser and the other cadets at the police academy spent several days studying crime scene reconstruction techniques. As homework, Kiser and one of his roommates took precise measurements of their dorm room and drew up drawings of where everything in the room was located.

“We’re just measuring everything in the room,” Kiser said. Kiser and his roommate, Lavohn Anthony of Lester, took a tape measure and recorded the distances from the door and windows to the work desks, bunk beds and other objects in the sparsely furnished room.

Each measurement is taken from two different points to be able to accurately triangulate objects in the room and recreate the scene later. In all, Kiser and Anthony took 28 separate measurements of 14 different objects, then transferred them to drawings.

Right now, they’re drawing the locations of windows, beds and desks. But once on the job, they might be required to use the skills to draw the precise location of a bullet hole in a wall or a body on the floor.

The cadets are careful to take the measurements from stationary objects like a widow or a door frame, and not something that can be moved. “If you measure from a chair, and someone moves it, you’ll never be able to find it again,” Kiser said.

While at the academy, cadets live under strict discipline. They are told precisely how to make their beds, precisely how to fold and store their clothes, and precisely where to put their shoes. If someone makes a mistake, everyone pays the price.

The training regimen is not for everyone.

When he started the academy, Kiser was one of three new deputies hired by the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department. Two dropped out the first day.

Of 63 cadets who began training in April, 49 are left. Instructors say that if new cadets can make it through the first two weeks at the academy, they’ll probably make it until the end.

Sgt. Joe Portaro, deputy training director at the academy, said cadets with a military background like Kiser tend to adjust better to the rigors of police training. He said Kiser has already started to take on a leadership role among the other cadets.

In the coming weeks, Kiser will take classes in self-defense, driving techniques and marksmanship.

Portaro said the State Police Academy is tough on cadets. But for those who make it through, “You’ll make some of the best friends you’ll ever have,” he said.

Reach Rusty Marks at or 304-348-1215.


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