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Paige Frazee Captures Bronze Medal in National Criminal Justice Skills Contest (2017-05-17)
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This story was originally printed in the Grant County Review in May, prior to the national contest.

Paige Frazee of Milbank will represent South Dakota in the Law Enforcement competition at the 53rd annual Skills USA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, KY, on June 19-23.

Frazee, a freshman, is currently enrolled in the law enforcement program at Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI). After graduating from Milbank High School, she attended the University of South Dakota (USD) for a semester before deciding to take a faster and more hands on approach to law enforcement.

“I was going for criminal justice at USD, but it pertained more to just knowing the laws and it wasn’t as hands on as I wanted,” said Frazee. “It was more geared towards being a lawyer. You could get your four-year degree with criminal justice, but you would still have to go to the law enforcement academy in Pierre. With LATI, you go for two years and you test out through the state. It’s also just more hands on and I could understand it better.”

While she dabbled in criminal justice, law enforcement is something that just makes sense with what Frazee has always wanted to do. From a young age, her parents instilled in her the morals to always do the right thing no matter what and to always stand up for people in need. Her parents’ teachings along with the positive interactions she has had with law enforcement in Grant County led Frazee to believe that she is on the right path.

“I was in a car accident in Grant County and the officers who responded to the scene were part of the reason I wanted to become a cop because of the way they handled the situation and treated me. That incident only fueled my desire to help people,” said Frazee.

Despite law enforcement being at least historically a male dominated field, Frazee didn’t let that deter her from signing up for the program at LATI.

“The male dominated thing doesn’t really bother me that much,” said Frazee. “I guess in school I get along with all of my classmates and instructors. They treat me as an equal, but I know there are people that I have to prove myself to because of my gender. I’ve met a few people who have said they don’t want to work with a female because they don’t believe they can back them up, but I think there is a skill set that each gender brings to the table that is valuable.”

Frazee’s skill set has certainly proved itself as a valuable one with her claiming top honors in the criminal justice division of the South Dakota Skills USA competition offered through the law enforcement program at LATI. During the competition, she competed against five of her classmates and tested in a variety of scenario-related practices and procedures that are commonly experienced by professionals in the field of law enforcement.

“First we had to submit a resume and do a mock interview with our instructors,” said Frazee. “There were a lot of difficult questions we had to answer like: When was a time you broke a rule or procedure, and why did you do it? Would you do it differently if you could? When was a time you had to give bad news? What was a difficult decision you had to make?”

The hardest question for Frazee to answer during her interview was: When was a time you broke a rule or procedure, and why did you do it?

“I’ve never really done anything that bad, and the rules I have broken had to have a moral behind them,” said Frazee. “It was challenging to answer because none of us have had any actual experience in the field besides ride alongs. I ended up using an example of when I stepped in to help a student from getting bullied instead of getting the teacher first.”

For her second scenario, Frazee was dispatched to the Watertown police department to help a civilian grasp a better understanding of the law.

“We were dispatched to the police department and there was a woman there asking questions about police procedures. She asked questions like: Can a cop search my car? Do I need to give them permission? Can a dog search my car? It was all over laws they had given us to study and things that we should know as law enforcement officers.”

Next Frazee was asked to respond appropriately to a 911 hang-up call.

“We were dispatched again and had to respond to a 911 call that resulted in a hang-up,” said Frazee. “We went to the location and it was a mom and her son. The mother didn’t know anything about what was happening because it was her son who had accidentally dialed. We had to go talk to them about it and make sure that everyone was all right, and that there were no other problems.”

For her final scenario, Frazee had to demonstrate her knowledge of constitutional law by finding probable cause and reasonable suspicion in order to arrest an individual who appeared to be passed out on a park bench.

“We had to go into a park where there was a guy sleeping on a bench,” said Frazee. “We then had to wake up the individual and see if there was a visible weapon or bulge. If there was either one of those, we had reasonable suspicion that they were armed and dangerous. Then we could do a pat down on the individual. During my search, I found weapons on the individual and indications that he had been drinking alcohol, so I was able to handcuff him and make an arrest. The situation changes for everyone. It is basically knowing when you can detain someone, when you can talk to them, and just knowing your constitution.”

Frazee believes that she did as well as she did because of the time she devoted to studying the law.

“I put a lot of time into this because I want to do good and be the best officer I can be,” said Frazee.

Throughout the semester, Frazee gained experience learning many different laws and skills that helped her to prepare for the Skills USA competition. From the mechanics of an arrest, which involves pressure points and handcuffing techniques, to criminal procedures like testifying in court and writing reports, LATI’s law enforcement program prepared her with the basic knowledge necessary to be successful in the law enforcement field.

“Winning the skills competition has definitely been the highlight of my semester so far,” said Frazee. There is going to be a lot more to learn for the national convention, but I also have a lot of people who can help me with that process.”

When asked what she wants to do after she completes her law enforcement training at LATI, Frazee stated, “I want to be back here in Milbank after I graduate. It’s kind of like a dream for me. I already know some of the officers in town, but I will still have to apply. I love Milbank and the people here. I would much rather work here than in a big city."

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