The Academy Revisited
A few weeks ago I returned to the academy to help facilitate the Field Problems segment. As a training officer, one of my new duties is to help out the staff at the police academy. Specifically, they needed actors to conduct a variety of scenarios handled by the recruits to gauge their progress. I can distinctly remember the stress of going through these Field Problems when I was a recruit. They are done near the end of the academy and everyone knows a few failures means termination from the class.
This was my first time as an actor so I was given the easy assignment of posing as a stop-sign runner. The recruits took turns driving a patrol car and conducting a 'simple' traffic stop on me for my violation. The entire scenario was graded by another officer riding alongside the recruit.
Being on the flip side of these scenarios gave me a real taste of what I must have been like a few years back. I was nervous back then but I can't imagine I showed it as obviously as the new recruits did. Many of them seemed terrified to approach my driver's window and begin the traffic stop. One guy's hands were shaking so much as he asked me for my license and insurance I thought he was going to faint.
Others approached me like I was wanted for homicide. I female recruit commanded me to hold my arms out the driver's window. She unsnapped her holster and gripped her plastic handgun as she asked for my license. "DON'T MOVE!!" she shouted as she returned to her patrol car to write me a ticket. I know she was trying maintain her own safety but I told her I felt like I was about to be shot for running a stop sign.
I finished my traffic scenarios and moved to a different one involving a shoplifter. The recruit failed this one miserably. While talking to the store owner (me), the recruit had his back turned to the shoplifter sitting unrestrained in a chair. The recruit conducted an interrogation of the suspect (without reading Miranda rights) and then issued him a citation without bothering to handcuff and search the suspect. He missed the handgun concealed on the shoplifter (and the opportunity to add a misconduct involving weapons charge). I felt bad for the recruit as we provided feedback on his failure but reminded him how fortunate he was to make this kind of mistake in a safe training environment instead of out on the street.
I just got back from week long vacation and will return to my squad tomorrow with a brand new Officer in Training. I don't know anything about him/her yet but am anxious to get started.