Friday, October 28, 2005

A Bittersweet Week

Week six has come and gone which means only 10 more weeks to go.

Our class was commended for a great job we did on this morning's long run. We started off running single file through the dry sandy washes at the foot of the mountain. It was mostly level but quite strenous since the sand was deep and soft (If you've ever tried running through the sandy part of a beach you'll know what I'm talking about). Then we lined up in four columns and ascended a steep paved road up the mountain. I guess the total distance was about 5 or 6 miles but the steep incline made it especially difficult. Although there were a few recruits that lagged behind the main group, our class as a whole did very well. We finished with some more trail running and a battery of pushups, leg lifts, and situps. Our sergeant complimented us on the effort and excused us from morning inspection for the third time this week.

On a sad note, we lost another recruit today for an academy rule violation. I don't know what the details are but rumor has it that it involved an accusation of inappropriate behavior or harassment with another recruit. The guy was dismissed in the middle of class and most of us were upset to see him go. He was known as the class joker but was truly a good guy and was among the top performers academically and physically. He had received his share of discipline but was making good progress on becoming more mature and serious about the academy. He was well liked by our instructors and by the class. I don't know exactly what the situation was and am not in a position to second-guess the sergeant's decison but I'll miss him and hope he'll be able to get back on his feet.

That brings our class total to 42. According to the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams, the number 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of the meaning of life (the difficulty in understanding this answer is that nobody knows what the actual question is). I'm hoping this number will be the final number of recruits in our class to graduate since it's becoming more difficult to cope the loss of each classmate.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Up in Smoke

Does anyone remember the Cheech & Chong movie 'Up in Smoke?'

Today was one of the more interesting days as we spent the entire day learning about drugs. A team of undercover narcotic officers from Chandler brought in all kinds of pipes, bongs, and other drug paraphernelia seized during raids. They also brought in some actual marijuana for everyone to examine. The marijuana was then lit and the room was filled with smoke so that we could all become familiar with the smell (which will serve as a basis for making arrests in the future). The table containing all of the dirty bongs and pipes was directly behind me so I had the pleasure of smelling the pungent odor all day. I got to see and handle crack cocaine, black tar heroin, and LSD for the first time. We also saw a picture of the effects of taking PCP (Angel Dust). A man high on PCP spent a night slicing all of the flesh from his face with a piece of broken glass and feeding the scraps to his dog. By the time police arrived, his nose, eyes, ears, and all of the skin and flesh were gone. The only recognizable feature was his perfectly white teeth set in a bloody red mess of muscle.

For the past two days, our class was dismissed from morning inspection. Instead of the usual dress inspection, our sergeant sent us to class. This was a sigh of relief from all of us since every failure is met with a punishment of trail runs or essays. We were even given permission to conduct our morning warm-up on the rubberized running track instead of the cold, wet, muddy grass.

I'm starting to get used to waking up at 0415 (that's 4:15 a.m. to you civilians) and have even had a chance to witness some of the nocturnal wildlife in the city. On different mornings, I've seen a racoon and a skunk wandering a mall parking lot. I have no idea where they came from and had no idea those kinds of critters would be running around in the middle of the city.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Another Test, Another Casualty

We lost one of our favorite classmates today as a result of her failing her third test. This was especially upsetting since she asked me to help her study for this week's criminal law exam. I met with her and some others at the library over the weekend in an attempt to clarify the differences between burglary, robbery, theft, fraud, extortion, bribery and other offenses. I could tell she was struggling to take it all in but I had hoped she would pull through. Unfortunately, she missed one question too many so today was her last day. It was a tearful goodbye in the parking lot after class as we all wished her luck.

We had a morning of easy running through the cotton fields followed by some sprints on the canal bank. This was a welcomed reprieve from the normal mountain trails since so many of us are nursing sore ankles, knees, and hips. I'm sure we'll be back on the mountain tomorrow for the usual battery of joints and ligaments.

The rest of the day was dedicated to learning about death investigations. We were shown some graphic photos of stabbings, shootings, and hangings and learned about other causes and manners of death. The rest of the week will be spent learning about traffic law (which, you might guess, could turn out to be quite low on the excitement scale.)

I'm happy to report that my finger has almost returned to its normal color. I still can't bend it all the way down and it's a bit swollen but it should be fine in a few days. For those of you that would like a visual, see the picture below; can you tell which one I'm talking about? (for an even better look, click on the picture to enlarge).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Feeling 'Disjointed'

Things were going pretty well this week until today.

First, I forgot to bring my lunch and water so I spent the day running to the drinking fountain at each break and had to buy lunch from the vending machine. Poptarts and TGI Friday's potato skins chips are tasty but not exactly filling.

The real trouble occurred during the morning mountain run. I was almost to the bottom of a steep decline when my foot landed funny on a rock causing my ankle to roll and sending me face first into the rocky trail. I broke the fall with my hands but then felt a sharp pain in my right ring finger. I held up my hand to inspect the injury and saw what used to be a straight finger distorted into a crooked shape like a small zig zag. Judging from the unnatural kink at the middle joint of the finger, I was sure it was broken. I quickly yanked my finger outward and felt the bone 'pop' back into place. It turns out I had only dislocated the joint instead of breaking any bones. It's been sore all day (along with my ankle) but it is already feeling better. Luckily, we don't have any scheduled exercise until Monday so hopefully three days of rest will be enough to recover.

The guy behind me also hurt his ankle on the way down. I heard a sickening pop followed by scream of pain. Based on how loud the popping noise was, I was sure he had broken it. Luckily, he was able to limp down the mountain and was able to walk on his own the rest of the day. It's probably just a bad sprain so we're all hoping he'll be ready to run on Monday. We are allowed to miss only 5 exercise sessions before being dismissed from the academy.

We almost lost another recruit today due to test failures. He failed one of the tests on Monday and had to retake it on Wednesday (if you fail the same test twice, you are dismissed). He failed the re-take but there were some questions on the test that were never covered by the instructor of our class. After some deliberation, one of the questions on the test was overturned which allowed him to pass. He is the youngest person in the class (20 years old) and was really going to be missed.

Thanks again for all of your comments. I like knowing that others are following my progress.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Status Quo

Things are going well so far this week. Our class seems to be emerging from the punishment phase into one of positive reinforcement. Our sergeant praised us a few times and things seem to have lightened up (knock on wood). After our morning runs, we even got permission to cool-down on the soft, dry track instead of in the wet, muddy grass.

Monday was our 3rd block of tests. Nobody failed this time around but several recruits passed by only one question. I scored a 94 out of 95 and am still ranked at the top of the class academically. Some of my other classmates are beginning to pass me up, however, on the physical fitness. I started the academy in pretty good shape and have improved slightly while many of the younger members were not quite as fit but have made much bigger improvements. We now spend four days a week running for an hour up and down hiking trails (with short breaks to do pushups, situps and jumping jacks). Luckily, the overall fitness ranking takes age into consideration so that will benefit the older recruits like me.

During this morning's dress inspection, while standing motionless at attention, the sergeant and I had the following exchange:
sgt: "Good morning"
me: "SIR, good morning, SIR"
sgt: "Recruit; I've heard about you."
me: "Sir???"
sgt: "I've heard about you. I have an inside source."
(At this point I became nervous since I had no idea what he was talking about. I kept silent for a few moments since I didn't want to ask what he meant.)
sgt: "Don't worry, Recruit, it's not bad. You're doing great. Keep up the good work."

I'm still not sure what he was referring to and the rest of the class was puzzled since nobody has received any kind of individual praise yet. I keep thinking this must be some kind of test since we've been instructed to perform as a team (and not as individuals).

The rest of the week will be spendt learing: how to write reports, communication systems, narcotics, and more criminal law.

Friday, October 14, 2005

1/4 of the Way There

Today was the end of my fourth week which leaves only twelve more to go.

At Thursday's morning's inspection, a cloud of small gnat-like flies descended on our formation. As I was trying to stay perfectly still, I could feel dozens of tiny bugs crawling all over the left side of my face. Then, they started biting. What started as an annoyance quickly became an internal battle not to scream or run away. I was able to quickly brush my face with my hand without the sergeant seeing but a few minutes later there were twice as many bugs on me. I could also see the row of recruits in front of me struggling to handle their own bug invasions. Several of my peers were repeatedly blowing air out of their noses to stop the swarm from crawling up their nostrils. They were making so much noise doing this that it attracted the attention of the sergeant from a different class. He came over yelling 'What the hell is wrong with you people!?!?" Everyone was smart enough to not answer (making excuses for anything is unacceptable and only earns you more discipline). Finally, the guy next to me couldn't take it anymore and used both hands to wipe the bugs off his face. Our sergeant saw this and promptly ordered him into the pushup position on the ground with the comment, "Maybe the bugs won't bother you down there." It was absolute torture trying to stand there at attention while the tiny bugs crawled all over my neck, face, and even inside my ear.

Our class logged about 15 miles of trail running through the mountains this week and the ankles, knees, and hamstrings are looking forward to a nice weekend of rest and recovery. I thought I was in pretty good shape before starting the academy but have definitely felt challenged on some of the steep trails and sprints.

On Friday, we finally got out of the classroom to practice domestic violence scenarios. Me and another recruit were told to respond to a domestic disturbance in progress. We then had to force entry into a room and confront a few actors staging a family fight. We had to quickly scan the area for weapons, establish the relationship between the parties, separate them to get their stories, and then figure out if there was probable cause to make an arrest. We made the right arrest decisions but incurred several tactical errors (like turning a back to a hostile subject and forgetting to ask if anyone else was in the house). It was fun to finally practice being an officer but made me realize how much we still have to learn.

Thanks again for your comments, and especially to Howie for the offer to help. I'm managing to study and still get things done but appreciate the offer. I may take you up if things get any busier. Luckily, my wife Vicki has been able to pick up most of the slack although she, too is feeling the strain of the demanding workload.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Running is Fun

I have a rare night of no homework and have finished ironing my clothes, polishing my boots, and packing my gear for tommorow.

This morning I volunteered to run with a fellow cadet in the 'Acadamy Trail' - a 1.5 mile desert trail up and down South Mountain. This trail run was assigned as punishment to the other recruit but has to be witnessed by someone else to ensure it was completed without walking and within 15 minutes. It was 5:30 and almost totally dark when we started which caused quite a bit of anxiety as we tried not to turn an ankle or step on whatever desert creature might be lurking on the path. After sufficiently burning out our legs on the steep and rocky terrain, we finished just in time to join the rest of our class for morning exercise. This was the morning our sergeant decided to take us on a long trail run. We spent the next hour running all around the base of South Mountain (probably about 6 miles or so) with an all-out sprint for the last quarter mile. As I began to lose all sensation below the waist, we were finally able to limp back to the locker room with 15 minutes to shower, dress, and line up for dress inspection and flag raising.

The rest of the day was spent in class learning about mentall illness and domestic violence. We watched a video of several recorded 911 domestic violence calls that were downright terrifying. The video showed numerous photos of the women with terrible injuries caused by their spouses or boyfriends. One of the most disturbing calls was from the spouse of a police officer as he ignored an order of protection and entered her house. As she pleaded into the phone for help, gunshots could be heard followed by silence. We then saw the terrible pictures of the crime scene in which she was killed. It's hard to imagine the things that humans do to one another and I'm sure I'll be seeing this first hand in the future. It sure made me feel thankful for the family and life I have.

New vocabulary word for the week:

CHUD (Citizen Having Unusual Difficulties): This is the generic term that police officers use to describe the common bonehead criminal or lowlife.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Criminal Law Part 1

Today was the hardest block of tests yet and covered criminal law (Arizona Revised Statute title 13) and the rules of evidence.

We lost two more recruits today due to test failures so now our class is down to 44. I am happy to report that I missed only one question out of 75 and am currently on top of the academic ranking. I don't mean to brag but 15 hours of studying over one weekend should be worth some kind of boasting.

Our class was disciplined again today for failing to warm up for morning exercises in the designated grassy area. Since the grass was soaking wet and muddy, we decided to warmup on the dry running track. Our sergeant guessed that we didn't want to get wet and dirty so he made sure we spent the rest of the morning doing pushups, situps, leg lifts and squats in the muddiest part of the nearby park. We then ran a few cycles through the industrial sprinklers with sergeant leading the charge through the streams of water. Later in the afternoon, one of the recruits brought a Mountain Dew into the class. Since we are only allowed to have water or sports drinks, this violation earned everyone a 400 word essay on classroom conduct.

A brand new class or recruits started today so we are no longer the 'baby class.' It's nice to have a little seniority but the stress to perform perfectly in front of the new class is building. We have not regained the right to wear our gun belts yet but hopefully our class will stop making the simple protocol mistakes that are bringing us down.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Smoke Session

Two posts in one day -what a bargain. I know my wife already wrote a post but I have to put today's events in writing while it's still fresh in my mind, quadriceps, and triceps.

The term 'smoke session' means the deliberate act of physically and mentally torturing a group of academy recruits in order to get everyone into line. After yesterday's regiment of sprinting ( 2 sets of the following with squats in between: 400 meters, 300 meters, 200 meters, 100 meters, 80 meters, and 50 meters) we were met with upper body treatment today. We all held aerobic weight bars (mine was 15 pounds) and did numerous squats, pushups, military presses, and various other exercises using the bar. At the point of complete exhaustion, we were given 10 minutes to run to the lockers to change into our dress uniforms. Most recruits didn't even have time to shower so we were standing at attention on during the flag raising with sweat pouring down our faces. We were soaked with sweat and must have looked like some kind of wet t-shirt contest gone bad.

Our sergeant addressed the class by screaming about all of the dress violations, innapropriate classroom behavior, and other protocol mistakes. We spent several minutes in various pushup postions while he expressed his disappointment. He then revoked our gun-belt privileges and gave us one minute to run back to our lockers to store the gun belts and return to formation.

We then spent several more minutes on our faces (pushup position) until the next order was given: "You have four minutes to change back into your excerise gear and assemble in the grass. " We met in the grass and proceeded to do countless sets of pushups and leg lifts while being drenched in the sprinklers. After suffering extensive tissue damage, dehydration and allergic reactions to wet bermuda grass, we were then ordered to change back into the dress clothes for final inspection.

Half way through dressing, the staff members came into the locker room screaming that time was up and to get outside for inspection. As we exited, we were screamed at for not being fully dressed and ordered back into the locker room. We were then ordered back outside since time was up. Try to picture the chaos of 35 men in various stages of dress running into and out of the building trying to finish dressing while being screamed at from both directions. We finally made it to the inspection line and subsequently all failed for having wrinkled shirts, crooked ties, and no belts (since we were not allowed to wear our gun belts). The failed inspection means writing a memo to the sergeant noting our deficiency which will result in a disciplinary essay of between 350 - 650 words (which must be hand written in perfect alignment using all capitals with no mistakes).

The rest of the day was spent fighting to stay awake through six hours of lecture on the laws of arrest.

I'm glad it's all behind me now but will forever remember the day my class got 'smoked.'

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Yesterday, Gary came home and announced that it was the most difficult physical workout day that they've had yet. He didn't go into a lot of detail, but mentioned drills involving lots of sprinting and squatting. He came in the front door hobbling like a 90-year-old and was literally too exhuasted to even talk about it. That was "leg day" and today is "arm day." The sergeant told the class that someone WOULD cry on arm day. Apparently, it's going to be that tough! Gary can write with details later in the week, when he regains use of his limbs.

Ironic that this week Gary's class is learning about law and the consitutution, because he got a dose of "cruel and unsual punishment" delivered to him by his sergeant. On Monday (before leg exhaustion day), the sergeant advised everyone to go home and feast on a large pasta dinner. This is a typical routine for runners before a big race, so Gary did not think to question the advice. When they arrived on Tuesday, he asked, by show of hands, how many had followed his advice and eaten a pasta dinner. A handful of dutiful do-gooders raised their hands (Gary included). The sergeant then advised that eating pasta is the worst thing you can do before a day of sprinting (opposite of distance running). Some chemical reaction occurs and goes straight to your joints and causes a lot of undue pain. So much for following instructions!

Gary is now known as the class bookworm. After a few hours of lecture in criminal law, a young guy was getting stuff out of his locker when he non-chalantly mumbled, "geez, is anyone understanding this stuff?" When he looked up to see it was Gary who was standing next to him, he said, "Oh, well I KNOW you understand it" and went to find someone else to comiserate with.

In another instance, a few people were discussing some topic for which they didn't have the answer and one girl said, "Why don't you ask Gary. Apparently, he knows everything." It was said in good fun, (he hopes).

The last, and my favorite instance, happened yesterday. The class was broken into small groups. They then watched a video of an arrest that involved an illegal search (going into someone's trunk without a search warrant). Their assignment was to play the part of the prosecutor and come up with a rationale for why the search was legal. A woman in the group kept insisting that various things in the video were done incorrectly (e.g. "he parked his car sideways; you're not supposed to do that"). Gary was delicately trying to tell her that was irrelevant, but she couldn't resist the urge to point out discrepancies in the video. Finally, one guy couldn't take it anymore and menacingly yelled, "LISTEN TO GARY!" It's nice to know that Gary has that "EF Hutton" esque reputation!

Look for more on "leg and arm day" later in the week...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Oh Lord, It's Hard To Be Humble

Gary is a humble guy and would probably vote against my publishing this particular post, but I just have to brag on his behalf about how well he's doing. Yes, I know this is annoying to have to hear someone rant about how great her husband is, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do...

Gary, who was in a 3-way tie for best score on his last (first) round of exams, came home yesterday advising of a 100% score on his second round! He missed NONE out of 70 questions. In addition, they had a radio codes and spelling test and he got 100% scores on both. Even his self-appointed "competitor" (the English major) missed a spelling word! He doesn't know exactly where this places him academically, but one of the guys in the 3-way tie from last week missed 4 questions. So, Gary is either first, or in a two-way tie for first (out of 46 people). He's so smart!!!

Next week is supposedly the toughest round of exams of all -- the criminal law segment. I just hope he doesn't lose his spot at the top!!!