Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Packin' Heat

After a nice four day Thanksgiving weekend it was back to the Academy for week #11.

On Monday, we learned about street gangs in the area. I had no idea how many gangs operate in in the cities surrounding mine. Our instructor was an undercover agent and showed us several surveillance videos of himself buying drugs and stolen property from different gang members.

Today (Tuesday) we were issued our firearms. I am now the proud owner of a Glock .40 caliber handgun equipped with a tactical M3 light (purchased separately). We learned how to disassemble and reassamble our firearms and will spend one more day in the classroom before actually firing our guns on the range. I haven't shot a gun since I was a kid but am hoping it will all come back to me since our shooting proficiency makes up 20% of my overall grade.

We learned about the Police officer that was involved in a single car accident on Monday morning. He was responding to a call and lost control of his car (I heard he may have had a brain aneurism while driving). He was only 22 years old and was going to be married in the next week or so. He graduated in class #400 (I'm in #407) so the staff members remember him well and have been affected by the accident. The last I heard, he was on life support at the hospital.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Back in Blue

I'm happy to report that my class is back in agency uniforms. After spending Monday in our black and whites, the sergeant reinstated our privilege to wear our actual uniforms. My punishment for forgetting to bring my uniform on Friday was a trail run (1.5 miles through the mountains), 50 pushups, and 50 situps. I think I may have gotten off easy but I guess going 9 weeks without any uniform violations worked in my favor.

I forgot to mention the terrible video we watched last week. It was shown as part of the lesson we had on crimes against children. The video was from a hidden nanny-cam set up in the house of a woman who provided childcare in her home. One particular toddler (about 10 months old) had some mysterious bruises appear on his abdomen and the woman thought maybe he was hurting himself somehow during naptime. On this particular day, the woman ran an errand and left the children with her boyfriend. The video showed the boy in a playpen waking up from a nap when the door barges open and a twenty-something man enters and brutally punches the poor kid repeatedly in the stomach. He then leaves the room and the baby calms down but keeps looking at the closed door anticipating the return of the monster. The guy returns and proceeds to beat the little boy again. As I watched the horrible video, I felt my stomach turn and my blood pressure rise off the charts. I was sickened to think of the kind of brutal and savage things people do to each other (especially kids). I'm sure I'll be seeing this kind of behavior first hand in a few months and will have to learn to handle it.

On a brighter note, we had a great day of tactical fighting today. We learned various control holds, takedowns, and submissions (painful joint manipulations). We then had to fight two attackers at once for a full three minutes. Just when I think I've never been more exhausted, a new drill comes along to take the top spot. It's hard enough to fight one opponent but two at once drained every ounce of energy I had from my body.

The end of the day was supposed to be spend running but our sergeant decided we'd benefit from a grueling session of speed workouts with the resident physical fitness demon. This guy looks like the Incredible Hulk, used to play professional football, trains Olympic atheletes, and loves to physically torture people. The last hour of the day was spent doing a variety of pushups, jumping squats, v-ups (laying on your back and lifting your legs and arms into the shape of a 'v' with only your butt on the floor), jumprope, punching bag, grappling, and footwork drills. Again, "exhausting" is a word I am becoming quite familiar with. The hard work is paying off as I'm in the best shape I've ever been in with several more weeks of physical conditioning left.

Next week we start firearms training. This will be the first time I've handled a gun since I was a kid and may pose the biggest challenge for me. I'm currently ranked #1 academically and #3 physically in my class but proficiency in firearms accounts for 20% of the overall grade and I don't even know how to load a gun let alone shoot one.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Fallen Star

Well, it finally happened. After 9 weeks of perfect dress inspection, I pulled the biggest blunder of all. I arrived at the Academy at 0630 on Friday with my carpool partners and as we were unloading our gear from the car, I realized I left my uniform at home. I turned to instant panic at the thought of being the only one in class without a uniform. I decided to race home, get my uniform and return to the academy late. I then realized this might be a bad idea so I raced up to the sergeant's office and contacted my recruit training officer (RTO). The RTO's are staff members that assist the sergeant and are our first contact in the chain of command -we never address the sergeant directly. I told the RTO I had forgotten my uniform and asked if I should return home to get it or just show up at inspection in my black and whites (dress shirt, slacks, and tie). He rolled his eyes in disgust and told me to dress in the black and whites. I then ran to the locker room and apologized in advance to the rest of my class for the punishment that would surely ensue.

The rest of the class was upset about the impending punishment but I think many were happy to see "the guy who never makes a mistake" be the one to make the biggest mistake of all. I got dressed, went to class and felt the anxiety build as dress inspection loomed. After an hour of class, we lined up and marched to the parade deck for flag raising and dress inspection. It was humiliating to be the only one in my class dressed in black and white. I could feel the recruits from the other classes staring, whispering and making faces about me as we passed by.

After the flags were raised, my class prepared for the inspection. The tension and anticipation of what was to come was killing me as I could see my sergeant in my peripheral vision approaching the class. I was soon in the pushup position as the rest of the class was checked for proper appearance. The sergeant then squatted down beside me and berated me for making such a stupid mistake. I did some pushups, accepted his criticism, and vowed to never make this mistake again. Luckily, the rest of the class was spared from punishment (for the time being).

I was embarassed for the rest of the day and became concerned when the staff announced a surprise exercise session right before lunch. We expected some kind of torture but it turned out to be a normal session moved up from the end of the day to lunch time to accommodate a late instructor. After the noontime run and workout, we were told to dress in our tactical uniforms (pants, t-shirt, and hat). One female recruit did not have her pants so our sergeant became very frustrated. Because of me and this other recruit, we had our uniform privilege taken away and were ordered to return to black and white dress on Monday.

I couldn't imagine that I'd be the one to make such a stupid mistake. My class was very supportive but I was still disappointed. We are only two weeks away from being the senior class at the academy and we're still making rookie mistakes.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Battered Bruised and Beaten

Wednesday was a fun but painful day of fighting tactics. We learned kicks, elbow strikes, knee strikes, and punching. We all enjoyed the opportunity to beat up on one another and I have the bloody knuckles, raw elbows, and bruised ribs to proove it. We took turns holding a punching pad across our chest while hunched over as other classmates delivered knee strikes to the chest. Some of the blows were strong enough to lift me off the ground but some of the women were sent back into the padded walls or onto their backs. After a tiring four hours of fighting, we got to try out our issued riot gear and practice crowd control.
Half of our class acted as rioters while the other half wore riot helmets and carried plexiglass shields. I started out on the riot squad and marched onto the field, set up a skirmish line with 20 others, and slowly advanced on the rowdy crowd while commanding them to disperse. The crowd showered us with a barrage of tennis balls, plastic watter bottles, and frisbees as we got closer. Our job was to divide the crowd, identify and arrest the ringleaders and disperse the crowd. We then traded places and acted as the rioters.
Next, we got to practice some officer rescue scenarios by driving patrol cars and pulling the fallen officer from his car near a rioting crowd. The exercise was complete with smoke grenades and plastic handguns. Our holsters had been empty up until Wednesday when we were all issued a plastice handgun.
This was a long and tiring day but we still had an afternoon exercise session to complete. We were pretty sure the sergeant would take it easy on us since we were all battered and sore from the morning fighting. Well, we should have known better; our sergeant is determined to make us the most physically fit group to ever attend the academy so he planned a six mile run halfway up South Mountain. It was pretty warm outside and many people really struggled to make it up the mountain. Just when I think I've had the most exhausting day at the academy, another one like Wednesday is there to take its place.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Half Way There

Eight weeks down, eight more to go. I can't believe that I'm half way to graduation.

Wednesday was our first 'Defensive Tactics' class. We were taught the proper fighting stance and technique for blocking punches. We then had to use our shielding techniques to absorb a barrage of punches from our instructors. These guys are big and strong and began punching us in the head and face to test our reflexes. I blocked all of the punches but was still smacked hard enough to see stars on a right hook from the coach. The class then got to box one another; alternating between attacking and defending. It felt good to start fighting and I look forward to next week's ground fighting (wrestling) classes.

Today was our first day wearing our respective agency uniforms. We had morning dress inspection and received praise from our sergeant. Recruits from various cities and towns across the state were represented. Every one looked great and all felt a great deal of pride in being able to finally wear our uniforms.

We spent the rest of the day practicing traffic stops at the city's driving grounds west of town. This is where all of the garbage truck drivers and other city vehicle drivers practice driving. The grounds are set up as a sprawling series of roads, dead ends, traffic lights, etc. We got to pair up with a classmate and ride with an actual officer. We then took turns acting as traffic violators in our own cars while other recruits pulled us over from a real police car. We practiced for hours using the radio, approaching the stopped vehicle, dealing with angry drivers, and issuing tickets, or making arrests. The officers then gave us a critique of each of our traffic stops. This was our first time driving police cars and was the best training we've had so far. I knew it was a good day when I noticed our sergeant driving around in a golf cart and having a great time watching all of his recruits in action.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Back to Square One

Monday was supposed to be our first day wearing our agency uniforms.

For eight weeks we've been looking forward to shedding the standard penguin suits (black slacks, white dress shirt, black tie) for the actual police uniforms. I spent the entire weekend preening my uniforms to ensure they were in perfect condition. I was sitting on my couch for hours with my camping headlamp on looking for loose threads in the seams, on the collar, and even inside the pockets. I had my military creases neatly pressed, the brass nametags properly positioned and a keen shine polished into my boots.

After our morning run of about 5 miles, we ran to the locker rooms and prepared to don our new uniforms. Then, we found out one of the female recruits brought the short sleeve uniform shirt (we've been told for months to wear long sleeves). Since our class does everything in unison (or not at all), we were quickly told to forget about uniforms and return to the penguins. Unfortunately, one of the guys in my class didn't think we'd need the black and whites anymore and didn't bother to bring his in. Again, since we all have the be in the same dress, we were given three minutes to change out of the black & whites and into our tactical gear (cargo pants, tee-shirt, and baseball cap). This time, several classmates were missing hats and our sergeant was furious. The next order was given to change back into the morning,s exercise gear within two minutes. I had a clean excercise shirt in my locker but most of the others did not. After a sweaty morning of running and doing situps on the canal bank, most of the shirts were disgustingly dirty. The sergeant could not believe that some people didn't have extra exercise shirts and became even more angry with us. This was supposed to be the morning that his class showed off its new uniforms and he was embarassed in front of the academy commander. We've got to be careful not to develop a reputation for being a class of screw-ups.

His frustration gave rise to a fun-filled morning of pushups, situps, leglifts, and other drills in the wet bermuda grass. We then spent the rest of the day in class wearing our dirty, smelly, sweaty exercise gear.

Needless to say, Monday was a bad day for class #407 but hopefully we'll straighten up soon and get to someday wear our uniforms.