A Jacksonville Police Department corporal has just become the third woman in all of North Carolina to be certified as an instructor on radar equipment – and it was not an easy task.
That’s according to Cpl. Vanessa Fulmer Smith who, among other requirements, had to know the ins and outs and what every button does on 34 different types of speed-measuring instruments.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Smith said.
Smith started studying for the N.C. Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission Speed-Measuring Instrument Instructor Certification pre-exam — which has to be taken and passed as the first step of the certification process — about two months ahead of time, she said.
She had to become an expert in every type radar, she said, because she needs to be able to teach others all across North Carolina how to use them, and officers from departments outside of Jacksonville may use different radars than they do.
It was the hardest thing Smith said she’s ever done.
“I can’t be stagnant,” she said. “(I) pushed myself to do something different.”
On top of that, JPD Lt. Sean Magill, who has been certified since 2000, said the North Carolina test is the most stringent program in the United States. Departments in other states call N.C. officers to hear more about their training requirements.
“It’s a very good program that’s very well-maintained,” Magill said.
The officers are in class for 30 hours, take a state exam with 100 questions, test with another officer to go through each radar and explain what each piece is and how to use it — even naming one button wrong will fail the officer — and then spend 16 hours in the field, Magill said.
The field testing includes 12 speed estimates, Magill continued, where the officer has to correctly guess the speed of a passing vehicle and has to be correct within 3.5 mph or they fail.
Some officers have to take the basic test three times before passing, Magill said, and it’s not unusual to lose a third of the students before the final test. There were 16 in Smith’s instructor class to begin with and only 10 of them graduated with her.
“She’s an excellent member of the traffic team,” Magill said of Smith.
Smith earned her certification on Feb. 16 and to keep it up, she’ll need to re-do the exam every three years. She’s now certified to teach the course and will be teaching all over the state, but primarily here at Coastal Carolina Community College.