COOLIDGE — After 30 years of law enforcement and then 30 years of teaching, Shane Blakeman is finally ready to retire permanently.

“We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to Mr. Blakeman for spending the last eight years of his career as a CAVIT law enforcement instructor,” said Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology Superintendent Mike Glover. “He played an essential role in acquiring equipment and improving facilities for the law enforcement program. We wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Blakeman began his career in the Coolidge Police Department as a reserve police officer while he attended the police academy. He subsequently spent 27 years at the Eloy Police Department. He also served for 20 years on the regional SWAT team, including in the role of captain.

After retiring from law enforcement, Blakeman taught for 22 years at the police academy of Central Arizona College. Blakeman is certified as a firearms instructor, a felony stop instructor and a driving instructor.

“I’ve done a lot of teaching,” Blakeman said. “It’s kind of my passion. I love to teach. I love to help people get to where they want to be and help save their life, hopefully.”

CAVIT’s law enforcement program boasts of a VirTra room (virtual reality simulation training), complete with whiteboard walls where instructors can stage crime scenes and set up real-life response situations, a jail cell for corrections training, five patrol cars, a RedMan suit for defensive training and medical equipment for trauma training including manikins, tourniquets and Israeli bandages.

Students also learn the discipline of real police officers. Every student has a locker, a gun belt and equipment. Class leaders in the first year and ranked students, such as the sergeant and lieutenant in the second year, are in charge of inspecting the students every morning just as they would do at the police academy.

Students also learn negotiation, DUI training, accident scene training, breaching doors with a ram, conducting traffic and felony stops, the basics of police driving and, of course, weapons training, where students train with the program’s airsoft guns.

“We have them do the same qualifications that the police officers do,” Blakeman said. “Me and Sonny [Hudson] and the other instructors that have been here, we’re all law enforcement firearms instructors, and we teach the munitions in law enforcement, so we know how to keep it safe and no one gets hurt.”

It’s clear that Blakeman is very proud of his students. There are several state and national championship awards that grace the classroom walls as well as photos of students in training exercises. CAVIT’s law enforcement students participate in regional, state and national competitions. According to Blakeman, students have qualified for nationals every year.

“Every student we have is good,” Blakeman said. “They want to be here. The kids are amazing. Every single one of them is just awesome. We’ve had a whole bunch of students that have gone on and done good things. That’s what makes me feel good.”

Blakeman also noted that his classes often have over 50% female students, where the national average is closer to 8-12% women in law enforcement.

“To me, that’s pretty amazing because we need them in law enforcement and there’s not enough of them,” Blakeman said. “It’s awesome to me to see that kind of interest.”

Though law enforcement doesn’t accept applicants under the age of 21, CAVIT students graduate with their Arizona state security license so they can go out and get a job as a security guard. Students can also work at the correctional facilities or as dispatchers.

“We use radios here all the time. It sounds easy, but it’s really not,” Blakeman said. “We teach them to be really comfortable with them by the time they go and test. I’ve had a couple of different chiefs call me and say, ‘the reason we hired [that student] was because they already knew how to be a dispatcher.’”

May 25 was Blakeman’s last day. In retirement he looks forward to hunting, fishing and relaxing at his house in the mountains.

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Michael Glover is superintendent at Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology.

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Aaron Dorman is a reporter covering Coolidge and the surrounding area. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.