Police Academy

Apr 20th, 2020
police academy

Joining the Police Academy

The police academy is the training school for police officers in the United States.

After you have taken the police officer exam, you will be invited to join the academy for an intense period of theory and training. Each state has its own requirements for joining the police academy, whilst the training periods vary too. Many police academies have training programs that are 18-25 weeks long.

If you have spoken with any recently qualified police officer, they will attest to how challenging the course can be – not just physically, but mentally. It can be a draining experience, but also a very rewarding one too. This is the last phase before you swear an oath of fealty as a law enforcement officer in the United States.

If you are not yet sure what subjects are covered in a standard police basic training program at an academy, let’s take a few moments to find out.

What to Expect

Courses at the police academy typically last 8am – 5pm, Monday to Friday – though this depends on which academy you are enlisted with.

Courses include the following 14 modules:

  • Procedures, techniques, and principles of law enforcement
  • Firearm use
  • Incident report writing
  • Defensive measures and techniques
  • Race relations and cultural diversity
  • Community policing
  • Criminal law
  • Investigative procedures and operations
  • Morality and ethics
  • Police vehicle operations
  • Traffic enforcement
  • Accident handling and investigative methods
  • Behavioral studies and psychology
  • Medical techniques – including CPR and First Aid

As you can see, this is quite a varied and diverse set of subjects – ranging from the physical to the legal, and from the ethical to the psychological. The police officer is expected to be very well-rounded – and this prospective education explains how that is achieved.

Let’s review some of these subjects in more detail and what you – as a prospective police officer in the United States – can expect to encounter.

Progressing through the Police Academy

Administration – candidates will be registered to the course and provided with learning materials and techniques on how best to approach the course and take the maximum advantage away from it into your future professional career.

Legal studies – candidates are expected to have a comprehensive knowledge of both federal, state, and local legislation. Police officers can only enforce the law if they understand those laws. Legal studies remain an important bedrock of theory at the police academy.

Specifically, candidates are taught:

  • Analysis and interpretation of the US constitution
  • Discretionary powers in law enforcement
  • Justified application of the use of lethal force within the continuum
  • Procedural law – for example: in relation to court proceedings
  • Criminal law as applied to juveniles and delinquents
  • Balancing the risk between actions and outcomes
  • Law as it relates to transport, traffic, and civil liability

Of course, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of subjects. Subjects vary on a state-by-state basis.

Enforcement of Traffic Provisions – traffic enforcement is a daily duty for most police officers. This module examines topics such as DUIs, traffic and vehicular legislation, testing methods for sobriety, and procedural methods when handling accident and emergency situations.

Investigative Methods – in this module, candidates will be reviewing how to efficiently and properly conduct a thorough investigation based on the evidence – and how to find that evidence. Students will learn about interviewing techniques – for both witnesses and victims, as well as establishing the burden of proof and how to handle sensitive sexual offences. Students will learn investigative techniques in relation to drugs and narcotics, theft, organized crime, and arson – among many more.

Physical Conditioning – for police officers to successfully carry out their duties, they must reach a defined physical standard. During the police academy, candidates will undertake physical conditioning to ensure they reach the required standard.

Community Relations – police officers form the connect between the law and the community; enforcing the law and protecting the community. Here, candidates will learn about cultural diversity and race relations; handling local and national media; community resources; ethical challenges; discrimination and violence against members of minority communities – including sexual minorities;  as well as any contemporary law enforcement topic that needs to be discussed and analyzed.

Defensive Operations – as well as knowing the offensive techniques, police academy officers will also be taught and extensive range of defensive measures to protect both themselves and members of the community. These include how to subdue and arrest suspects; how to manage delicate situations involving hazardous or explosive substances; and how to deal with emergency vehicle operations.

Procedural Functions – candidates will be taught extensive techniques in incident report writing, note taking, and how to communicate effectively with the community as well as professionally to other officers and members of your department and other departments throughout the United States.

Further Study – as well as the above subjects, you will be taught a wide range of ancillary and connected topics including Miranda rights, parole, the environment and its protection from damage, and how to handle situations involving suicide and how to communicate these outcomes to the families of those affected. Physical measures such as how to handle riots and civil disobedience will also be analysed, as well as domestic cases – such as domestic violence, sexual abuse against children, mental illness, disability, and how to handle intoxicated persons.

How to Prepare for the Police Academy

The course syllabus is extensive. To get through it successfully, candidates must be prepared. Here are some ways you can navigate through the course with success.

First – keep fit. Yes, you may have succeeded in the police officer exam, but your physical strength and endurance are now going to be tested much further. Go to the gym, build strength and cardiovascular capacity to maximize your endurance on the field. You should do strength-based exercises at least three-times weekly, and cardiovascular exercises daily. However, you may tweak this recommendation based on your own activity / inactivity levels.

Second, build teamwork skills. No police officer goes it alone. To succeed at both the police academy and in your future career as a police officer, you must be able to build and maintain personal relationships – and this includes working effectively within teams. Sometimes this can be difficult, particularly if it’s not something you like or are used to. But it is something that you need to work on – and it’s better to start now rather than trying to resolve it when things are too late.

Third, learn to plan. Planning is an essential skill for everyone – not just police officers and students. Planning is about maximizing efficiency. The more efficient you are, the more productive and effective you become. Ultimately, these results are what matters. To plan, you must have something to “plan into”; such as a notebook, either in physical or digital form. You need to keep on top of things, and this means planning head of time. Use your time wisely and things will become much, much easier.

Fourth, practice shooting. Evidence continues to pour in at just how essential it is that you know how to handle a firearm. More candidates are failing than ever before as the standards continue to rise. Don’t let yourself fall into this category. Instead, visit your local shooting range and train with a Remington 870 (12 gauge) shotgun and a Glock 17 (9mm). Alternatively, you can train with a Glock 22 (.40) handgun. Candidates should practice with both handguns and shotguns and become as sharp as they can. Whilst you are not expected to become a professional sniper overnight, you are expected to reach a minimum desired standard.

Fifth, keep cool. Success at the police academy depends on your ability to navigate through the syllabus with a clear head. You cannot let doubt and stress consume and collapse your efforts. You have come this far and are just one step away from joining your local police department. Keep cool and always appreciate the value of what you are learning. It is not there to stress you, but to instruct you – and to train you to become the best possible police officer in the United States. Take that to fuel your motivation, build on your success, and dominate the police academy in the way you know you can.

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