Back to Basics: A 17-year law enforcement veteran goes back to basic training
April 1, 2022
Last Friday we took our second LawFit assessment at the almost midpoint of the academy. I was so excited to see how everyone’s scores improved during the last several weeks. Some of my fellow recruits improved their running times by MINUTES, not just seconds! I had a goal in mind for my 1.5-mile run and improved my time by 30 seconds, which I am thrilled about. I didn’t think I still had it in me at age 46 to run a mile and a half in less than 11 minutes, 30 seconds! My goal is always to keep up with the much younger recruits and, so far, I’m succeeding. It’s no easy feat. One is a former Romanian national track runner, one recently served in the military and the other is barely 20 years old. I stay pretty close behind the third-place runner, so I’m achieving in my plan.
In our first LawFit assessment, just two of us earned a Gold score. This time, there were several more Gold and Silver finishers. Our class has been busting our butts in the physical training and runs, and it shows in our scores. Our Training staff has steadily cranked up the frequency and intensity of our workouts throughout the academy to reach these goals, and they continue to push us.
Pro tip: If you’re thinking about joining law enforcement, start working out now!
This week we started Emergency Vehicle Operations training at the Virginia Beach Police Department facility in Creeds. The Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) is precision-driving training, and it has pushed us on a whole new level. I took very similar training 23 years ago in the police academy, so several of the courses were familiar to me. I just needed to shake the dust off to get back in the groove. I had a blast on the challenging speed courses, testing my abilities, avoiding cones and coming in under the required time limit.
But I have never driven a van before, let alone a large prisoner transport van. This week I was put in the driver’s seat and – I won’t lie – it was a challenge. In the police academy, I drove police sedans and could get up out of my seat and look out the back window while driving backwards through weaving cone drills and speed drills. With the vans, there are no back windows to look out of and all our maneuvers are done using our mirrors. My backward serpentine instructor and I literally jumped for joy when I completed my last two attempts under the time limit and with 100% accuracy. It was really difficult to catch on and it took me some practice. I can only imagine how it felt for my fellow teammates who had never driven a van, let alone driven in reverse weaving in and out of cones and maneuvering very quickly. I remember back when I did it for the first time in the police academy, and it was hard to make that adjustment. I think it’s challenging for anyone who generally avoids driving their vehicle in reverse while speeding and weaving around objects. Although many of the drills are exciting and get your adrenaline pumping, it isn’t all fun and games. The real reason is to test us in high-stress situations so that we have the experience to quickly evade a threat or get to an officer who needs help. Once we’ve succeeded in a controlled environment, we have a good idea what our 80% capabilities are. Our instructors teach us to drive only at 80% of our ability so that we don’t put ourselves or anyone else at risk. Eighty percent is controlled, but efficient. If someone drives at 100% their ability, there is a greater risk of accidents and injuries.
On Thursday night we had day and night precision testing. These courses are longer and require quick reactions to obstacles and tight turns. We have trained for this all week, so even though we were a bit nervous, we had the skills we needed to succeed. The training location is pretty remote, so for our dinner break we had a potluck. In between day and night testing, we got a chance to eat, hydrate and prepare our minds for the next challenge. It rained, so it’s a good thing that we trained on the skid pad Wednesday. The skid pad is an area that is drenched with water and is a safe training area to instigate hydroplaning and practice correcting the vehicle’s steering and direction. We also trained on driving on and off the road from pavement to gravel at speeds frequently experienced on roadways in our city. It teaches us to shuffle steer and smoothly maneuver the vehicle between the different road surfaces.
It also prepares us to try out for the next installment of “The Fast and the Furious” (just kidding).
One of the primary reasons for writing this blog is to show potential recruits what it’s like to go through our training. If you’re interested in applying, we are accepting applications until April 11 for the April 23 written and physical tests. You can find the details and apply at vbso.net/sworn-positions.
Photos and videos by VBSO Public Information Officer Toni Guagenti and Deputy Recruit/Public Information Officer Margie Hobbs