Back to Basics: A 17-year law enforcement veteran goes back to basic training
Feb. 11, 2022
The Basic Academy is not for the faint of heart.
Even as an experienced law enforcement officer, this first week of training was a challenge.
We started with 22 recruits on Monday, and by day two we were down to 18 (two resigned and two are being deferred to the next academy due to medical issues). The academy is difficult for a reason: to make sure we’re ready for the physical and mental rigors of the job. It also helps us determine whether this career is really for us.
For those who have never been through a law enforcement academy or served in the military, the military-style training can be quite a shock. You will be yelled at and you will face consequences if you fall short of the physical or academic standards. We’re a team, so when one person falls short, everyone suffers. This is called corrective PT, and it usually means lots of push-ups, planks or wall squats. Those who consider themselves overachievers may not be used to getting yelled at in a group or having to “pay for” other people’s mistakes. But the goal is team success, not just individual success.
It's a lesson we’ve had to learn the hard way this week.
We had our first LawFit assessment on Monday and got our results yesterday. LawFit involves a bench press, sit-and-reach, lateral pulls or pull-ups, sit-ups, a 1.5-mile run and an obstacle course. Anyone who did not achieve the gold level, or top condition, was placed on remedial PT, where they have to complete even more physical fitness training on top of the group workouts. The next LawFit assessment will be midway through the academy, toward the end of March. At that point, the entire academy is expected to achieve a gold score, and the training we receive in the meantime is designed to help us be successful. We are expected to make measurable progress in our physical abilities, and at the end of the academy will have our final LawFit assessment. The academy gives out a Top Physical Fitness award at graduation to the recruit whose three assessment scores are the highest. I am very happy that I was able to perform at a high level with my teammates and achieve a gold score, but I have still set even higher goals for myself for the next assessment.
Every day we have to do 100 push-ups on top of the physical training (PT) for that day. We knock out 20 during every break so that at the end of the day we aren't stuck with too many before we can go home. I playfully mentioned in my first post that I was accepting donations of ibuprofen and ice packs, but after Monday's physical training, we were all very sore. We did over 100 push-ups, ran, lifted weights, held planks and did calisthenics, just to name a few of the exercises that comprised our PT. When we do planks, push-ups, wall squats, etc., we have to continue until the instructor tells us to stop. No matter what fitness level a recruit has, you get to the point where your body feels like it has hit its limit. For those runners out there, we call that hitting “the wall.” At that point, you have to use your warrior mentality to push through the pain. That mentality and determination is what a recruit needs to succeed in the academy and in law enforcement. That is why the academy staff push us so hard.
The weather wasn’t on our side this week, either. Monday was in the 30s and very rainy. We were outside doing our PT and LawFit assessment and we were soaked to the bone. When I got home that evening, I took a shower to wash off all the mud and warm up. One word of advice: Biofreeze is great for muscle soreness but it is a bad idea after a day of being cold ... it felt like I had just done the Polar Plunge (again)! I sat there with my academy Chromebook, doing my homework, wrapped in a blanket with my teeth chattering. I will NOT repeat THAT mistake.
On the topic of the academy requirements, our day isn’t over when we leave the building. We are expected to study and write journal entries in the evening. Our journals are not touchy-feely reflections on life, but a record of what we ate that day, what we learned and our experiences so far. Our journals are evaluated by the academy instructors each evening and they provide feedback. For example, if someone put in their journal that they had a burger and fries with a milkshake for dinner, they will receive guidance on nutrition … and an extra serving of PT the next day for the entire team. We also have to wash our uniforms and our PT gear and prepare them for the next day, which means ironing our uniform, shining our boots and preparing our duty gear, including charging our radio batteries and flashlight.
One major difference between this academy and the one I attended 23 years ago is the number of responsibilities I have now. In the evening, as a police recruit, it was just me and my dog. I could relax, prepare my uniforms, sit down for dinner and type my handwritten notes (we didn't have personal computers in most of our homes back then and smart phones didn't exist, so many of us had to go to a friend's house that had a computer each night). I could meal prep for the next day, take a long shower and get a good night's rest.
Not this time around.
Now I am in the academy and I’m a Public Information Officer. I have duties for that job to balance with my academy work, including putting together the weekly blog that you’re reading now. But I am very fortunate to have two fellow PIOs who are handling the lions' share of the duties of the office so that I can make the academy my priority. I have two children who I pick up from school, help with homework, feed dinner, prepare for the next school day and put to bed before I can even begin my academy work for the night, which has to get completed before I can go to bed. My bedtime is much later this time around, as you can imagine! My Netflix account is also being sorely neglected, but I can live with that.
However, as someone who served in law enforcement for 17 years, I think the balancing of work and personal responsibilities required during the academy prepares deputies for the lifestyle they will experience working in public safety. The teamwork and camaraderie start here – in the rain, in the muddy low crawls, during the push-ups and runs. Your fellow academy recruits become your family – we look out for each other and pick each other up when we struggle. We succeed as a team now so that we can succeed as a team later when the citizens are counting on us to keep them safe.
Ice and ibuprofen (and coffee, lots of coffee) are ALWAYS welcomed. I look forward to sharing next week's experience with you!
P.S. To my academy coordinator, I do balance my coffee consumption with a TON of water. I know we must stay hydrated! Please don’t make me do any additional push-ups.
Photos by VBSO Public Information Officer Toni Guagenti