A glimpse through the eyes of an American Police officer
In this series of articles I am going to take you through a twenty-year career of law enforcement and let you see, through my eyes, what it was like. I will show you the good, the bad and the rewarding.
A career in law enforcement begins far before the career actually starts. Becoming a police officer isn’t a simple application and interview, it is a battery of tests. These tests consist of written, oral, physical and psychological test, as well as background checks. Each phase of testing must be passed or you will be removed from the testing process. After these tests are successfully completed you are still not a police officer; you are now a recruit on your way to the academy, through which you must pass successfully in order to advance to field training and finally be a confirmed a police officer.
The first week in the academy is beyond stressful, both physically and mentally. During the first week, in fact, on day one, you get to experience an inspection. Prior military and prior police officers are ready for this. The non-military, non-police-background persons are in for a real eye opener. The first inspection is a two-hour-plus ordeal where you have training officers- in full dress uniform- in your face, screaming questions at you, and inspecting your uniform for creases, strings, proper gig line, as well as shined shoes and a immaculate weapon. During first inspection you can expect to be stressed both mentally and physically. This first week will weed out the weak. Those who are weak will fold, and those who are strong or those who THINK they are strong will remain. As the academy progresses the stress level of the training staff subsides but the academic and hands-on performance increases. You will spend countless hours studying for written tests and practical examinations, as well as preparing for the weekly inspections. Most academies run 16 weeks or longer. During these 16 weeks you are transformed from civilian to police officer trainee both mentally and physically. You are taught to shoot, defend yourself physically, drive in adverse conditions, how to deal with difficult people and prepare to safely encounter the many different types of encounters you will face throughout your career. It is through the rigors of training under this non-negotiable training staff, and the intended muscle memory training that you gain- on stance, positioning, and movement- that you will become a safe officer who takes orders without question. This is not brain-washing as many might think; it is preparing for the safety of you, your fellow officers, and the community which you serve.
Finally, at the end of the academy training, after written exams, practical exams, and countless hours of street preparation have been successfully maneuvered, the successful recruits, meaning those who have passed all phases of the academy, will graduate. The graduation speech will sound something like this: “Some of you will leave here and not make it through field training. Some of you might be involved in a shooting before you are out of training, and someone might even be killed.” But as you sit there, you think, Not me!
Following graduation, you are given your assignment to report for duty. Some might start as soon as the next day.
In the next article I will take you through the field training experience.