Friday, September 30, 2005

2 Down, 14 To Go

Today was the end of week #2. Just a short 14 more weeks until graduation.

Yesterday was our first neighborhood road run. We ran in two columns like the soldiers. After about a mile of flat streets, we made a sharp turn up South Mountain. The incline was pretty steep and was about a half mile up. The 'bonus' for us faster runners is that we got to remain still in the pushup position for as long as it took for the slower runners to catch up. This took about two minutes which seemed like an eternity as my arms and chest were trembling with exhaustion. Once we were all at the top, our Sergeant asked who could identify the address of the house at the bottom of the hill. Nobody knew the answer so we all had to run back down to look at it. We then ran all the way back up to the top of the hill. With the house address fresh in our minds, there were still some people that got it wrong. Guess what this meant? You got it; another trip back down the mountain to the house to look at it a second time. The third time back up the mountain was topped off with several rounds of abdominal, leg, chest, and arm torture. Our Sergeant was disappointed at some of the out-of-shape recruits and was going to give us more exercise but we were late for the morning flag raising.

Our class of 50 is now down to 46 members. One guy left for medical reasons and the other three voluntarily dropped. The rest of us have come together as a team and are just now starting to enjoy the experience. There is still a lot of anxiety and stress but some of the pressure is starting to let up. We have been rewarded with an early allowance to start wearing our duty belts on Monday (10/03). We'll start getting used to wearing these gun belts even though all of the holsters and pouches will be empty. Monday will also be the second block of tests so I'll be spending the entire weekend studying. I can't wait to sleep in to about 6:30 or 7:00 am on Saturday and Sunday. I haven't missed too much sleep but waking up at 3:30 or 4:00 every morning begins to take its toll.

Thanks again for all of the comments. If you leave an 'anonymous' comment, please type your initials or name in the comments so that I know who is writing.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Who Woulda Thought

Who woulda thought that, given the prevalence of pot-bellied police officers around town, the Academy would be so physically demanding. Gary is exhausted from the physical torture sessions, err...workouts. Some of the comments he's made recently: "I left my hamstrings on the parade deck," "They're trying to kill us," and last night's comment of "I can't wait until I get my leg replacement."

Here are a few highlights of the torture:

Monday, he stubbed his toe scaling a 6-foot wall. Stubbed is actually an understatement. When he got home, he removed his socks and shoes to reveal the most hideous spectrum of colors ranging from black to purple to cranberry and everything in between. Literally, his entire big toe and half of the top of his foot was black and blue. I was convinced it was broken (still have my doubts), but he claims he'd be "in much more pain." Let's just say that with a toe that looked like that, I'd be applying for a handicapped parking space. Gary, on the other hand, had to stuff it into his shoe the next day and endure a grueling mountain run. Whatta guy!

Tuesday, they did a grueling round of squats-leaps. In this exercise, which was most likely invented by the Nazis, the goal is to sit in a squat position for a period of time, then to leap high into the sky, then fall back into the squat position. Okay, so it doesn't sound that bad if you think in small increments. However, they worked them to the point of exhaustion. People's jelly legs began giving out and they would drop to the ground. Mercy? No! Each time someone collapsed, the sergeant would announce that they would have to start over!

Wednesday, they had to do a trail run to the top of a mountain, and then at the top, they had to do their calesthenics. This includes multiple sets of pushups, sit-ups, squats, etc. Imagine doing 100 situps on top of the mountain. What's that you say? The rocks piercing your back? Exactly my point.

Of course, this is all taking place in the 100+ degree sun.

Fortunately, Gary is taking it all in stride. Four people have quit so far, including two who were wisked off in ambulances on "Fight Day." It's tough, but Gary has no desire to give up. He's a real trooper. Continue sending him your words of encouragement -- it really motivates him to know he has a support system.

By the way, he had his first "test block" on Monday and did quite well. He missed 3 of 79 questions!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fight for your life

Friday will be a day to remember;

After watching a video of a female trooper being beat nearly to death, we were instructed to fight one another. In full headgear, boxing gloves, and body pads, we had to sprint 100 yards, race up and down a flight of stairs, drop to the ground for 50 pushups and then immediately box from our knees. I was matched up with a slightly more muscular version of myself (about 10 years younger). I landed a few good blows but received a few back that rattled my skull. We fought for a minute straight which felt more like an hour since we had to fight will all of our energy. I had trouble breathing through my mouthpiece and thought I would suffocate in my claustrophobic headgear. I have never been more exhausted in my life; it made my last marathon feel like a easy jog around the block.

We were not being tested on skill or technique, but rather, the ability to not give up under extreme exhaustion. Some recruits covered up or tried to avoid their opponent (which was met with great displeasure from our sergeant). I expect that some of the class members will think twice about returning after realizing the potential for having to actually fight a resistant subject.

Monday will be the first block of exams so I've been studying all weekend. Scoring below 70% on any (3) tests during the entire 16-week schedule will result in dismissal from the academy so the stress levels are really starting to rev up.

Well, it's back to studying for me (I've already polished my boots, ironed my uniform, and packed my gear for tomorrow). My wife, Vicki has been extremely busy handling the kids, house, and helping me with my chores. I don't know how any of the single recruits in my class are able to manage it alone.

Thanks for all of your comments; it adds extra motivation knowing that so many of you are following my progress. If you're unsure how to do this: just click the 'comments' link at the bottom of the most recent post (you don't need to register for anything to leave a comment.)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I remember sleep

Sleep: I remember that thing.

I've never done so much physical and mental work on so little sleep in my life. Oh sure, there were a few all-nighters in college but I could usually sleep for days after those exams. In the academy, there is no let-up. It's up for work at 0300 (that's 3:00 a.m. for you civilians) for a day of running (300 meter sprint followed by the 1.5 mile, pushups, situps, vertical jumps, short obstacle course. I did pretty well on the physical tests (not the best but I'm up against 20 year olds). Next, a parade march to flag raising followed by 45 minutes of dress inspection. 45 minutes of standing completely still as the sun cooks my black boots and sizzles my scalp. I am proud to admit that I'm the only recruit with two perfect inspections (any violations are met with essays, memos, or physical punishment.) The next 5 hours was spent in the classroom learning constitutional law. We are lucky to get 15 minutes for lunch each day and are now required to keep our 'gun hand' free at all times. This means carrying a backpack, garment bag, and large duffel without using my right hand. All this while running (we're not allowed to walk at all while on academy grounds). There are so many rules and regulations that it makes the head spin: no walking on gravel, access to only certain sidewalks, properly addressing other as 'staff', 'sir', 'class', etc.
The pressure to be perfect is intense and the stress levels are running high. Our class is determined to succeed no matter how hard it gets. The first few weeks are the hardest so I'm almost half way through the most difficult part.
Tomorrow is 'fight for your life' exercise (boxing classmates for a full minute while on our knees after sprinting up stairs and doing pushups to exhaustion).
We saw a video of a rookie officer getting killed during a routine traffic stop. The officer had plenty of time to shoot while he watched the suspect load his rifle but did not have the nerve to fire first. This cost him his life and caused some concern in our classroom.
Well, it's off to bed now as sleep is now a cherished luxury.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Fear and Loathing in The City

Already, Gary is far too busy to uphold his committment to this blog, so I have graciously accepted the responsibility...for the time being. I'm Vicki, the wife. I will be the one seen dropping and picking the kids up from school, doing all household chores, cooking all dinners and feeding all pets for the next 16 weeks. But enough about me...

So, today was Gary's first day in the actual Police Academy. He really got a taste for what's in store as the entire day was devoted to humiliation, unreasonable expectations and some (in my opinion) comical stunts aimed to frustrate these anxious recruits. Luckily, Gary is smart enough to recognize the rationale behind this -- to weed out the weak -- but he still found it quite jarring to be cast into this somewhat hostile environment. He was able to escape any yelling directed at him, but he knows his time will come.

The comical event I referred to above is that each recruit was assigned to write a 250-word essay. The content itself is the least of anyone's worries, for it is the idiosyncrasies of the formatting that will undoubtedly stump the majority of the recruits. The way Gary described it, the Sergeant announced that he would go through the formatting instructions. Everyone casually took pen in hand; however, what ensued was the Sergeant whipping through a powerpoint presentation like a rapid-fire drill. Example (to be read fast, like an auctioneer): On page one of your essay, indent three spaces and start on the second line down, and place your name in the right column if your last name starts with A-T or left if it starts with T-Z (new slide) Between the first and second paragraph, put one space, but between the third and fourth put two spaces unless it's the last page in which case put one space (new slide) Sign your name in all caps on page one, but upper lower on page 3 unless page 2 has three spaces in which case use all caps, etc, etc. Those, by the way, are not the real requirements, but let's just say they may as well be. Gary said everyone was going crazy trying to get it all captured. You know these Sergeants go home and have a good laugh when all is said and done.

Gary is stressing out on the time committment already. Here's what's in store for tonight:
-- Read two chapters from his police manual, which will undoubtedly mean a test tomorrow.
-- Write his essay, in the proper format :)
-- Stencil his name with black markers onto the back of 3 white t-shirts (they provided each recruit with an envelope of stencils, but lo and behold, Gary's packet was missing its uppercase stencils. And what are the instructions? That's right -- all uppercase. Hmmm....honest envelope packing mistake or a test of Gary's resourcefullness??? You be the judge. By the way, he had purchased stencils at the police uniform store in advance. Phew...)
-- Shine his boots (for those who know nothing about boot shining, this task actually takes forever. The goal, we've finally learned, is to see your reflection in the boot's toe. You'd be amazed at how difficult that really is! Hats off to shoe shiners everywhere.)
-- Iron his uniform (the least of his worries thanks to the many years at Vanguard -- by the way, when are you guys gonna get with the times and adopt business casual???)

This may not sound like a lot, but it's 7:30 and he's done only the essay and one t-shirt. Actually, I tried to do the first t-shirt but my stenciling skills proved lackluster as I made a lot of 'bleeding' mistakes. Gary is now correcting my mistakes with a clorox bleach pen. By 8:30, he'll have one shirt down, two to go...and then the reading...and the ironing. And they were told to be at the Academy at 5 a.m. tomorrow, with the caveat that they needed to meet as a group at 4:15 a.m. to sort their papers in alphabetical order, with the caveat that they needed to meet their carpool partner at 3:45 a.m. to ensure they can meet the group on time. So, Gary will be getting up well before the break of dawn -- 3:15 a.m. And no, that's not a typo.

Wish him luck. More to come...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Almost Famous

Friday (09/16) was my last day in the "pre-academy" and Monday (09/19) is the start of the real academy.

There was a news crew from channel 3's 'Good Morning Arizona' filming my class as we finished our morning exercise. Since most of the guys in my class have shaved heads, I'm not sure if anyone would be able to distinguish me from the others. I was asked to do a short interview but the crew ran out of time.

We had a radio-code test, spelling test, and a marching competition. Later, the families of all the new recruits were invited to attend a question and answer session. My wife was there to hear about how grueling the real academy will be. She was told to expect every minute of my time at home to be studying, writing memos and essays, and preparing uniforms and gear for the next morning. Luckily, my wife just got laid off (she was hoping to be). She'll have a nice bit of severance to live off of while I attend the academy. It will be a lot of work for both of us since she'll be taking care of the kids and the house.

I may ask her to takeover the writing of these posts, too. Since I won't have any free time, I plan on telling her about my days and then let her summarize it on this website.

I've been issued a gun belt, holster, pepper spray w/holder, handcuffs w/case and keys, a riot helmet, puncture-resistant gloves, and a bible-sized book on Arizona criminal codes.

I am anxious to begin on Monday but am nervous about the amount of work and lack of sleep that awaits me. I know it will all be worth it, though, when I graduate from the academy and am able to hit the streets.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A taste of things to come

Although the 'official' academy starts on Monday, my class started three days of preparations called 'pre-academy' today. The morning workout was stepped up to include 3 miles of running, 40 normal pushups, 2 minutes of holding still in the pushup position, 5 cycles of running up and down the staircase to the skybridge at BOB, 25 abdominal crunches, and my favorite -wall squats (back against a wall with knees bent at 90 degrees -like sitting in an invisible chair). We stayed against the wall while the slower runners caught up (about 2 -3 minutes). If this doesn't sound like a long time, please try it some time.

We practiced dress inspection today which will be a daily routine at the academy. A loose thread is all it takes fail. We stood still (in the 'parade -rest' stance for all of you military alumni) for over 45 minutes while each recruit was inspected for proper dress. I was docked for:

>wrinkled sleeve (100% cotton is a bad idea for dress shirts)
>boots not shiny enough
>back of shirt collar not straight

I got to write my first disciplinary memo for the infractions above. These memos have to be written in pen in all upper case letters with no mistakes. One error on the page means starting over with a new page. It took me two tries to get it right but others were re-writing memos 5 or 6 times.

We started learning marching formations and parade commands. Think: "atten-SHUN" or "about FACE." It took awhile for me to learn how to pivot on heels/toes to turn to the left, right, or backwards. The whole class got to do pushups in our dress clothes because somebody decided it would be a good idea to start talking in the middle of 'attention' formation. We're not allowed to move our eyeballs let alone talk while at attention.

My excitement is building for Monday but others are already stressing out. The academy is severly more stringent than this three day practice and you wouldn't believe all the mistakes being made. Hint: don't address a female sergeant as 'sir.'

Well, I have an essay to write and a few dozen radio codes to memorize for a Friday test. More to come soon.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Day 1 Luggin' Boxes

Today was my first day as a City employee. After a few hours of filling out new hire paperwork, I was assigned to the property division (where all of the seized property like guns, drugs, vehicles, and cash is stored). It's an enormous warehouse in the south part of the city filled with evidence (physical and biological). It also houses all of the city's business supplies. It was like working in the supply room near the elevator except the room was bigger than the entire third floor of Wellesley and contained discharged tasers, handguns, and dozens of damaged motorcycle helmets. I got assigned to rearranging cases of video tapes, sorting miscellaneous police supplies, and coallating pages of training manuals; All this while wearing slacks and a dress shirt. Tomorrow I start my group physical conditioning (running and weight training at 06:00). Then it's off to the property yard for another day of grunt work. Next Monday (9/19) is the official start of the academy.
P.S. I now have an employee number, serial number, department number, job code, benefit code, and job title step number to remember.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Welcome to my weblog

I've decided to keep a journal of my progress through the Police Academy. I'll start updating this weblog once I officially begin my training on Monday, September 19th. Please keep in touch by leaving comments.