By Team iCEV on March 21, 2017 at 2:06 PM
"I walked into the classroom and began teaching about 15 students. They didn't know law enforcement, and I didn’t know how to be a school teacher."
iCEV Collaborator, Captain Gary P. Cochran, reflects on his life in law enforcement and his transition into the classroom.
Hurricane Alicia, August 18, 1983. Then Sergeant Gary Cochran and four other officers head out into the night to rescue any individuals left behind in the middle of the devastating tropical storm. Wading through streets flooded beyond visibility, the team uses flashlights to estimate the center of the road through the inky darkness as the electricity goes out and transformers explode around them. As Cochran carries an elderly man to safety through chest high water and hurricane force winds, he can see snakes crawling into tree branches trying desperately to escape the floods. After returning back to the station soaked to the bone, Cochran and his team learn they had rescued 54 people from the hurricane wreckage that night.
A Life of Service
Cochran first demonstrated his love for service as he braved the swamps of Vietnam in the U.S. Navy. When he returned home to Texas, he joined the Baytown Police Department where he continued to serve his community through law enforcement.
"I started on patrol and transferred to undercover; long hair, beard and all," Cochran said. "I worked on narcotics, outlaw motorcycle gangs and criminal intelligence. After one year, I took and passed the sergeant's exam, so I cut my hair and beard and traded in a nasty undercover vehicle for a shiny new police car."
Cochran worked as a desk sergeant, with direct responsibility over the police station, dispatch and jail for about a year. He then transferred to patrol where he worked the night shift and supervised a group of police officers.
"After several years, I took the lieutenant's exam and again, much to my surprise, passed it," Cochran said. "I was promoted to shift commander over patrol and later the detective division, where the investigations ranged from misdemeanors to capital felonies." In 1987, Cochran was accepted into the 149th session of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
Cochran's career took on a more community-centered focus when he became police captain. This move ultimately led to his transition into education.
Industry to Education
After spending 31 years in law enforcement, Cochran made the switch from field work to education when he was asked to teach a law enforcement class as part of an internship with Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District.
"I walked into the classroom and began teaching about 15 students," Cochran said. "They didn't know law enforcement, and I didn't know how to be a school teacher."
Despite the learning curve, Cochran managed to increase classroom enrollment every year until he retired in 2002. Today, Cochran believes strongly in the need for law enforcement education and still plays a role in educating others using his knowledge and network.
The Need for Law Enforcement Education
"Law enforcement education is crucial in today’s society," said Cochran. "There are so many opposing forces pulling our society from the rule of law. Who doesn't want a peaceful life? It doesn't happen without law enforcement."
Across the nation, students are also realizing the importance of law enforcement for our society. Districts are seeing enrollment numbers for law enforcement courses such as Forensic Science explode overnight. Many schools are finding that these courses can provide students with a better idea of what to expect from a career in law enforcement and is sparking further interest in the field.
Advice for Law Enforcement Educators
When asked what advice he has for law enforcement educators, Cochran says, "You're a teacher...Teach. Use your knowledge and background for the benefit of your students."
"Treat them like adults, not kids. They're smarter than you think. Tell them the truth, be honest and sincere and watch them fill your classroom."
Cochran also says to focus on your students. "It's not about you, it’s about that student in your class. Have fun, the students will love coming to class, I know mine did."
Captain Gary P. Cochran as a CEV Collaborator
Cochran is continuing his life of service by mentoring students and teachers as well as collaborating on iCEV's Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security curriculum. He lent his expertise to iCEV in order to create a comprehensive curriculum that will engage students and provide the foundation they need to pursue a career in law enforcement.