Clenched fist knuckle pushups into the hot asphalt was just one of the challenges Heather Lundbom faced in the California Highway Patrol Academy that graduated only six women recently out of the 68 who were actually sworn-in as traffic officers.
Lundbom, a Manteca High School grad and the mother of six children, had just graduated from the Delta College Academy and received her POST certificate – Police Officers Standards in Training – when she received a letter at her home from the CHP. It was an invitation to attend their prestigious academy in Sacramento.
Out of the original class of nearly 250, only the best made it to graduation. Lundbom was one of those to finish and to wear the star of a traffic officer with the CHP family.
She said that it was no harder on her than it was on the men in her class. But obviously there is a definite difference in surmounting the challenges of the academy for a woman cadet from pulling dead weight to scaling a wall and taking a suspect to the ground.
I have to admit that I know of smaller women officers in Manteca who have taken large men to the ground in a matter of seconds. It’s all in knowing how it is done and the ability to do it well. The problem oftentimes is that a suspect will take on a woman officer over a man not knowing what he is about to face in return.
The Highway Patrol has now included classes in domestic violence – something that was left to city cops in past years. But since the department has taken on the duties of the state police in government offices they face more domestic calls than they did in past years.
For a young mother of six and a wife to have completed two police academies in succession, it says a lot about her passion to become a law enforcement officer in today’s world. Needless to say I have a lot of respect for women who make it through the academies and go to work in what once was a man’s world facing the unknown every day.
Lundbom grew up in Indiana and moved to Manteca. She started Manteca High School in her sophomore year where she played first base and right field in softball in her junior year.
She and her husband live in Manteca with their four boys and two girls aged three to 15 years old. Her husband is self-employed with his Lundbom Propainting and Construction business.
The rookie traffic officer is now riding with one of three field training officers who will work with her during her shifts in a patrol car over the next six weeks in San Jose. There are three phases to the final on-the-job training of 10 to 15 days each and then she will be on her own.
Speaking for her drive and apparent passion to become a highway patrolman was not only supported by the fact she attended two academies, but she had gotten married just 15 days before the start of the first academy class. The Delta academy amounted to 866 hours of course time and the CHP academy was for a total of 27 weeks (1,100 training hours) living on campus.
The CHP Academy is lauded as one of the most modern and complete in the United States with dormitories that house nearly 300 students. A quarter mile running track and a 400-foot obstacle course along with jogging trails and a baseball field are included in the facility.
During their training, CHP cadets also take a 48-hour course being certified as emergency medical responders – recognized as a model program.
Just looking over the POST physical fitness requirements brings back memories of my passing the LAPD physical agility test when I was in my early 20s in Los Angeles. It took a month of getting in shape so that I wouldn’t embarrass myself at the academy – running the local high school track and jumping hurdles at night.
Running a maze, jumping low horizontal poles and then running 25 yards was the most difficult, and the memory is still with me today. I passed the rigors of the test but it was those two low bars after the maze that I wasn’t ready for – didn’t know what to expect when I straightened up and began to run. The muscles in the top of my thighs tightened up like so much steel and I could hardly move – but there’s something about determination as I managed to run and finish in the allotted time.
The current requirements include a 99-yard obstacle course with several sharp turns, a number of curb height obstacles and a nearly three-foot obstacle that must be vaulted. Cadets must also lift and drag a 65-pound dummy for more than 30 feet.
Cadets must also run five yards and climb over a six-foot chain link fence and continue running another 25 yards followed by climbing a six-foot solid fence and running another 25 yards – followed by a 500-yard run.
In my case, I got hung up in the face-to-face oral interview with two LAPD captains and a sergeant. That was in the late ‘50s when the draft was still ongoing. They suggested that I get my military out of the way and come back and see them again. After volunteering for the draft at the urging of my mother-in-law-to-be and two years in an Army helicopter unit, the opportunity didn’t present itself again.