Congratulations, you’ve made it through the gauntlet which is the Police application process.
Now you have the opportunity to join the best of the best, and join your brothers and sisters on the thin blue line. But first, you must graduate the academy. I could literally write a book on all the nuances and tips needed to be successful in the police academy (and I probably will). But in the end, they will all center around one key term, Preparation.
To prepare is to be ready ahead of time, to train, research and acquire knowledge that will allow you to preform when asked. As an Academy instructor I can’t tell you how many times Cadets come in, wide eyed and bushy tailed, full of dreams and aspirations of being a police officer, and then get crushed. Listen, the academy will be challenging, not impossibly so, but don’t expect to breeze through. You will be required to learn a ton of material. So if you don’t have good study habits you need to develop and work on some before you start. The academy will challenge you physically; don’t assume that the entrance physical test is the peak for the standard you will be required to meet. Nothing adds to an already stressful situation more than being out of shape. Trust me, I’ve seen cadets washout for PT alone numerous times.
Many of the skills, that will be required of you, can be acquired in some form as a civilian. A good rule of thumb is to not let the academy be the first time you are practicing a skill. For example, you will be required to work with firearms such as the, pistol, shotgun, and AR-15; go to a range and get civilian operation training / familiarity courses with those platforms. Most importantly, shoot some targets, please shoot some targets.
Another skill you will be evaluated and taught is Defensive Tactics, also known as fighting. Reality alert, people are not going to like you on the street, and not everyone respects the badge. Do yourself, your family and your future partner a favor and train in some form of martial arts.
Lastly, many Departments today have moved to a type of role play based training system, where to gain the observation and communication skills necessary to preform as an Officer on the streets, they simulate various calls for service. Out of all the previously mentioned skills, this is the hardest to practice. Most people getting into Law Enforcement have, in fact, never been in Law Enforcement. So how do you gain the knowledge necessary to preform at the required level of expectation? A really good method, and often over looked, will be to read your Departments General Orders and Policy Manual. This will often cover your Department’s specific procedures for handling high frequency and major incidents. Knowing your Department’s Policy will put you miles ahead of your peers, especially in the Academy and while on FTO as a Rookie.
That being said, Departmental Policies do not cover every call you will see out there and are really designed to cover the Department’s backside.
There is nothing worse as a Rookie Officer, than being called a Rookie Officer by a suspect on scene. Trust me it sucks, but it’s bound to happen to you at least once. One of the best resources for Cadets and Rookies on FTO to use in order to gain a rapid and expansive knowledge on a variety of calls quickly is the “Rookie Handbook: A quick reference guide to calls for service”. It was written by Cops for Cops, its quick, to the point, and has helped numerous Cadets Graduate, and many a Rookie make it off FTO.
Preparation will make you stand out as a Cadet and make you safer and more productive on the streets once you graduate.