Whether you’re a young student fresh from college or a more mature recruit looking for a change of career, the first day of police academy is going to be a shock to the system. Passing the police officer exam was tough. But things are about to get much tougher.
We’ve put together a brief guide on what to expect when you arrive at the academy, and some valuable tips for making your first day a little more bearable!
Although no two police academies are the same, you can expect a similar experience when you arrive on campus for the first time.
After filling out forms and being issued with a uniform, you and your fellow cadets will be ushered into your first meeting with the Chief of Police and their team of instructors.
For many new recruits, the most intimidating part of police academy is their first encounter with the instructors.
Once recruits have been introduced to their instructors, they will be quickly whisked away to take part in the process of “Reflection”:
“They will bring them out into the hallway, they’ll have them do push ups, sit ups, wall sits. Various other forms of exercise to intentionally break them down, so they can build them back up in the form of a police officer.” – Sergeant Paul Davis (Toledo Police)
If the process of “reflection” seems a lot like day-one in the military, that’s entirely by design. The instructors may seem harsh, unpleasant and generally intimidating to be around, but it’s vital for new recruits to get used to having superior officers and a rigid chain of command.
Many trainees have limited career experience, especially in such a physically and mentally demanding job as the police force. Learning to handle pressure from the outset could save the lives of fellow officers in the future.
Ultimately, day one of police academy is going to be extremely demanding both mentally and physically. You’ll do yourself a massive favor if you prepare well ahead of time and address your physical fitness at least four to six months in advance.
Every police force has similar minimal fitness requirements. However, don’t think for one moment that the minimum represents any kind of benchmark.
Instructors will absolutely expect recruits to have surpassed those minimum requirements by the time they graduate, so you’d be well advised to get fit and healthy long before your first day at the academy.
For obvious reasons, the police (just like the military) love cardio drills.
Minimum requirements for running will be somewhere in the region of 1.5 miles in 11 to 14 minutes, depending upon the age and sex of the candidate.
For extra peace of mind, you’re definitely going to want to make sure you’re easily able to achieve those times, and it should also be noted that many police academies will have recruits running up to six miles by the end of their basic training.
Police academy recruits will be doing a lot of push-ups on their first day at the police academy. This theme will continue through basic training, so it’s absolutely vital that you prepare long in advance so that you’re not physically exhausted during more academic classes.
Just like like the cardio requirements, the amount of press-ups and sit-ups required as an absolute minimum varies by age and sex, but is usually within the range of 25-40 press-ups per minute and 30-45 sit ups per minute.
You won’t usually be required to perform other exercises during the entry test, but the ability to perform pull-ups, wall-sits and squats would make the first weeks of police academy much, much easier.
Top Tip: Unless you’re already very fit and active, try to avoid weights and bodybuilding style workouts. Every police drill will be endurance and speed-focused. It’s best to be lightweight and athletic, not bulky.
In order to prepare for life at the police academy, it’s vital to introduce strict routine into your life: Make sure you become an early riser, get your fitness training finished up in the early morning, and plan healthy meals at regular intervals.
Adopting a disciplined and spartan lifestyle will make the early days and weeks of police academy much more tolerable, and a clean diet and regular sleep patterns will keep your mind sharp for the task ahead.
Modern police work involves a lot of form filling and the ability to retain and quickly recall vast amounts information.
Once recruits have been inspected and tested physically, they will be expected (even on day one of police academy) to be attentive and ready to begin academic classes.
Police academy training involves lots of deadlines, high amounts of information retention and a requirement to be extremely punctual.
In the months and weeks before your academy training begins, try to form good habits that will become second nature as a new recruit:
Smartphones have largely replaced these pen-and-ink tasks, but research clearly shows that old fashioned physical planners and diaries can be powerful tools when you’re trying to form new habits.
The first day of police academy is going to be a shock to the senses.
In situations like this, the bonds you form with fellow recruits will help to get you through the difficult times. Try your best not to be a wallflower, and make a point of introducing yourself to as many people as possible.
If there’s a free space at a lunch table, never sit alone. If you have the chance to do a good deed for a fellow cadet, always jump right in.
Police work is teamwork. Successful law enforcement requires a great deal of trust and dependability. You can kickstart good habits by forming study groups or offering to help with difficult training out of hours. Besides, you might just meet a new lifelong friend!
Police academy is all about learning. You’re not expected to understand the finer points of police procedure on your first day. You will fail, and you will fail often. Keep a positive frame of mind, ask the instructors for help when you need it and most of all, try to enjoy the experience!
Here’s to your future success!
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