This is the ongoing story of my misadventures at the police academy. It’s best to start with the first post.
After receiving our academy training binders, Sgt. Dickens reviewed the class rules. We would be spending eight hours a day in the classroom. Everything we learned throughout the week would be covered in a test on Monday mornings. We were expected to get a seventy percent or higher. If not, we would be given one retake. If we did not pass the retake with a seventy percent we would be sent home immediately.
We were also expected to pass the POPAT (Police Officers Physical Aptitude Test):
A 99 yard obstacle course
Body Drag – Lift and drag a 165 lb. lifelike dummy 32 feet
500 Yard Run
Chain Link Fence – Run 5 yards, go over fence and run an additional 25 yards
Solid Fence Climb – Run 5 yards, go over solid fence and run an additional 25 yards
The nightmare six-foot fence that Roger taunted me with was now on the table.
Each event was timed and scored with higher points given for shorter times. The minimum passing score was 384. Men and women were scored equally. Age did not matter. If we scored a 383 we were going home. I think I liked the Cooper Test better.
Oh, and yeah, we had to pass the Cooper Test as well.
More rules. There would be no fraternizing with the college men or women on campus or among the cadets. If caught we would be sent home. We would tell the truth at all times, if we were caught in any lie we would be sent home. We would attend every class. If we missed more than three class days, we would be sent home. There were so many “you will be sent home rules” it’s hard to remember them all.
We would keep our dorm rooms spotless and have a dorm inspection weekly. All home work would be turned in on time. Our notebooks would be inspected weekly. We would be given daily uniform inspections. We were to be outside on the classroom deck at 0745 each morning and inspection ready.
Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays we would meet in the gym at 0530 hours for Physical Training (PT). On Tuesday and Thursdays we would meet at the same time for Defensive Tactics (DT). These classes would last an hour and a half, giving us 45-minutes to eat breakfast, change into our uniform of the day and arrive for inspection on the deck. Infractions would be severally punished.
Punishment hill runs (whatever that was) would take place after class at 1700 hours daily. We were not to leave campus unless we had permission. There was an absolute ban on cell phones during the day.
After this set of rules and instructions were yelled out, we were marched to the gym. It was time to learn a few military formations and some of the terminology. Sgt. Dickens continued to yell and we eventually got it. It was hot in the gym. One hundred and fifty degrees was what it felt like. I’m pretty sure we were dying.
Eventually the first cadet dropped. He passed out in a dead faint. I could see the look of satisfaction on Sgt. Dickens’ face. An ambulance was called and we got a break. There were two water fountains and we took turns getting water and wetting our heads and necks. No one spoke; we were all being watched closely. The “lucky” cadet was taken to the hospital about 15-minutes later.
We were told it was time for our first inspection. We lined up by squad. This would be our formation throughout the academy. The orders were being yelled out; about face, parade rest, attention, forward march, etc. The Sergeant and his helpers yelled at once. My head was spinning. We were told not to lock our knees or we would be visiting the emergency room. I tried locking my knees but it didn’t work, I just couldn’t pass out.
The two Sergeants and their helpers (a.k.a. our squad advisers) began going person to person and finding something wrong. My hair was barely staying up and I could feel it touching the back of my neck.
I could sense someone close behind me and then the back of my hair was tugged, hard.
A female voice, “Sgt. Dickens, it appears we have a bird’s nest in squad five.” It was yelled into my ear.
I couldn’t help it, I giggled. A woman pulled my hair and compared it to a bird’s nest. What could possibly be funnier?
Sgt. Dickens was in my face before I could choke back my laughter.
“Cadet, are you laughing? Do you find this funny? Give me twenty push-ups now. As a matter of fact, I want the entire class to give me twenty pushups. Quarter right turn, assume pushup position. Begin.”
What the hell was a quarter right turn? Thankfully, I was getting good at mimicking the cadets around me. I can’t believe the police ad at the drugstore had not stated, “Military training a must.”
We were so tired. Someone stopped doing push-ups at the count of fourteen and we had to start again. The inspection continued and so did the punishments. When finished we had done a total of 94 pushups. I couldn’t feel my arms and they wouldn’t stop quivering.
After inspection, we were shown the location of our dorms at the eastern end of the campus. We didn’t get a change to stop and admire our dingy living quarters; we were immediately marched to the cafeteria. Not a word was spoken. We huddled together miserably at whatever empty seat we came to. The Sergeants and advisors sat at their own table. It was 1800 hours. We had only been at it for five hours. This sucked.
I tried to eat. I could barely lift my fork to my mouth. I ate very little. After about twenty-minutes we resumed our formation outside. We ran like hell — I mean double timed it, back to the dorms. I was thankful I hadn’t eaten much. We were finally released for the day, and told to be at the gym at 0530 hours.
Getting our room assignments, unpacking, and arranging the shower schedules were done next. There were only four women cadets. Our dorm was tiny with two sets of bunk beds. We decided to rotate every two weeks so we would each have a turn on the top bunk. There was only one small bathroom for the four of us.
After getting situated, Stacy left the room with her cell phone in hand. She came back an hour later and said she was going back to Montana. She wasn’t crying or acting anything but determined. She left. I never heard from her again.
Have I mentioned how much this sucks?
Over the next three weeks, Stacy and I felt like we were getting our first experience at what being a police officer would be like. We were issued wallet police badges, by a secretary, to take to the academy and we were also issued our batons, handcuffs and firearms.
Guns, this was one thing I hadn’t thought about. I had never shot a gun before. It looked huge. It was a .40 caliber Glock 35. I was told it had an extra long barrel and was great for target shooting.
Problem! It barely fit my hand.
Sgt. Spears took us to the range for shooting instruction. I screamed on my first shot, when the gun practically jump out of my hands. Sgt. Spears looked like he wanted to scream also. He was patient but I pushed him to his limit. He told me if I made it far enough, the academy would straighten out my problems. Of course, Stacy did an excellent job.
The night before I left for the academy, Norman gave me a party. He invited Veronica and a few of my close friends. They made me a cake and wished me well. My daughters were both in attendance but Roger made his excuses and stayed away. I didn’t let him ruin my great evening. Everyone wanted to know if I was nervous. By then I was past nervous and had gone straight to petrified.
Stacy and I left Small Town first thing in the morning. We stayed in a hotel in Phoenix that night and were expected to be at the academy at 1300 hours the following morning. Our hair had to be up and off our collar; we wore white dress shirts with black ties, black pants and black shoes. We had to carry our duty belts minus the guns and gear. We left our suitcases in our police issued unmarked vehicle and went inside. There were about thirty people standing around dressed like us. I only saw two other women.
Everything was going well until a military drill sergeant arrived. He was short, squat and had a loud voice.
“What are you doing?” He bellowed, “Get in formation NOW, NOW, NOW!”
He had several “helpers” with him. They were yelling as well. We began lining up and were told to count off. The first five people got it right but number six missed his turn.
“What the hell is your problem? Did you learn to count in kindergarten? Start over and this time, get it right.”
We made it to twenty-two.
Stacy blew it. Her eyes were huge and I thought she would cry. After more yelling we started over. This time we made it. There were thirty-five of us. Next, we were marched outside. The weather was expected to be 115 degrees that day. It felt like 120. Our stiff white shirts and ties were drenched with sweat within five minutes. About half of the cadets didn’t bring their duty belts with them, and the rest of us were made to stand at attention, in the hot sun, while they were given five minutes to run out to their cars.
We were placed in two lines by numbers. We were marched around the campus. PAFRA was located on a college campus. Students would not be arriving for another week. We would have the place to ourselves for now. We ran “double time” in the heat while the library, gym and cafeteria were pointed out. We ended about ten minutes later at the far west end of campus. Our classroom was stadium style. There were six rows and I was the third person in the fifth row. Stacy was next to me and a male cadet was first in our row. We would become squad five. There were seven total in our squad.
We were told we had one minute to get a drink of water and were sent to the fountain by squads. No one did more than wet their lips.
I was just getting my heart rate under control when the back door at the top corner of the room flew open. A metal garbage can was kicked down the classroom stairs and our class Sergeant stormed in. I thought the other guy was the sergeant but soon discovered my error. The new sergeant made the other look like a pansy.
“On your feet, I’m Sergeant Dickens and you will stand when I enter a room. You will address me as sir.” He had our attention. “Don’t eyeball me; you will look through me and not at me. Do you understand?”
“Yes Sir,” It came out weak. I wondered what the hell he meant. Through me, not at me? I guess I would be learning.
“What did you say? Is everybody here capable of saying yes sir? Or maybe you don’t understand. Do you understand?”
“YES SIR,” We were louder this time.
“If you have military experience I want you front and center immediately.” About ten guys started for the front of the room. “I didn’t tell you to walk. For the love of God, get down here now.” Their pace picked up.
Squad leaders were appointed and all sent back to their seats. Some seat shuffling went on as the squad leaders took the far right seats in each row. We were in luck; our guy already had the correct seat. Next, we were told to come forward when our names were called and we were given a name plate on yellow cardstock paper along with two large white paper filled binders.
Before my name was called, a young man dresses like us, looked into the room. One of the Sergeant’s helpers noticed him. “Who are you?” She asked.
“Mike Todd.” He answered.
“And what are you doing here Mike Todd?”
“I’m supposed to be in this class.”
“What time were you to be here?” She asked.
“What time is it?”
Mike looked at his watch and said, “1342 hours.”
“And you think you can come in late? Does this look like kindergarten? Sergeant Dickens, this fine young man is late.”
Sergeant Dickens walked over to Mike and got in his face. “Are you eyeballing me Mr. Todd?”
“You were eyeballing me and now you’re a liar as well as late. You have no business being here, get out. Go back and tell your department you were late. See how they like it. Now get the hell out of my room.”
Mike left. We never saw him again.
I learned two very important rules; don’t be late and double time means run like hell.
I also realized I had been thrown into the Hollywood set for the remake of Full Metal Jacket. I just wondered who would end up being our Pvt. Pyle and hoped it wasn’t me.
We all have bad days on the job.
My most recent bad day started with a fender bender on a muddy road. Well, actually, it started when I said I would work patrol for another officer so he could take his wife to a medical appointment. It got worse when a passing car declined to slow down while passing my accident scene, and proceeded to decorate my clean uniform with mud.
As this type of day tends to go, mine went downhill from there. I never got a chance to change my uniform, so I did the best I could throughout the day to flake the mud off as it dried.
My last call of the day had me back standing along the side of the road interviewing a victim of alleged criminal damage. The damage appeared to have been the result of a rock flying up from a passing car and placing a nice hole in his windshield. The “victim,” though, didn’t seem to appreciate me using my detective skills to his disadvantage and I quickly realized his day was going about as well as mine.
While I was writing down the required information for my report, several birds swept down and flew very close to where we were standing. One small young bird landed on the toe of my muddy boot and stayed.
I looked down. The man looked down. The bird looked up. After the bird was satisfied that it had a safe perch, it continued to look around at the scenery and enjoy a short rest. As quiet and steadily as I could, I reached for my cell phone and snapped a picture.
The bird looked up one more time and then flew away.
After the bird left, the man decided he didn’t want to file a report after all. He agreed with my interpretation of events. He asked me if I would forward the picture of the bird to his cell phone.
As I walked away, I decided some days are just special. And this was one of those days!
This is the 4th installment in the Bad Luck Cadet series. It’s best to start with Accidents Happen to enjoy my adventures at the police academy after turning 40. It’s all about the fun, laughter and pain. Well maybe pain, pain and pain!
It happened on Tuesday morning. The call came in and essentially I was IN. I would begin the police academy on August 13. I was told there was a lot to do and they wanted to see me later that same afternoon.
I arrived at the police department and sat down next to Miss Ponytail. I found out her name was Stacy and she was from Montana. She told me she had always wanted to be a police officer and had seen the ad online. Mo was nowhere in sight and I was pretty sure it was not good news for him.
Sgt. Spears asked us both to step into his office. We were given an academy letter telling us what to expect and what would be needed. We were told we would be issued a check for our uniform allowance and from that we would be expected to purchase what we needed. He told us to get our identification cards as soon as we left his office, a secretary would issue them. Sgt. Spears also said we would begin being paid on the following Monday and would be expected to be at the police department at 0800 Monday through Friday until we left for PAFRA.
Sgt. Spears explained Small Town Police Department (STPD) was in need of female officers and we would be the first if we succeeded at the academy. I had lived here for over ten years and never realized there were no female officers. I believe Sgt. Spears was setting his star on Stacy and did not think I would make it. He seemed to be speaking to her and I was only a side bar.
Stacy and I made plans to head to Phoenix for a uniform store the following morning. We needed to do a turn around trip so it would make for a long day. Stacy seemed more likeable as I got to know her. She was 26-years-old and had a 7-year-old daughter. Her daughter was living with her ex-husband while Stacy attended the academy. She told me she was very nervous and heard the academy was difficult.
I had put a lot of pressure on myself about getting to the academy but thought very little about actually being there. I would probably begin getting nervous a few days before we left but for now I was just relieved. Stacy said she had always dreamed of being a police officer and this was the beginning of her dream.
That evening I had to break the news to my husband. I made his favorite dinner. Cassie my youngest daughter and my son Roger were home for dinner as well.
“I have news.” This was said in a determined voice lacking any excitement.
Everyone looked my way and dinner came to a standstill.
“I’m leaving for the police academy on August 12th. It begins on August 13th. I’ll be gone for 18 weeks and you will all be fending for yourselves.”
Cassie jumped up and gave me a hug.
“I knew you could do it mom.”
Roger just stared. He then got up from the table and left the room.
My husband asked, “Is this what you really want?”
I looked at him and said, “Yes.”
“Well congratulations I’m sure you will do great. What’s this about 18 weeks?”
I explained I would be living in a dorm and weekends off were up to the academy staff. I told him I would come home anytime I could.
Norman and I met my freshman year in college. He was in his third year studying to be an engineer. We fell in love, one thing led to another and then we had one of those talked about moments when the condom actually broke. Nine months later Letty was born. Norman married me as soon as we discovered there were consequences to our actions and went with me to tell my family. I dropped out of college and discovered I loved being a mom. Norman finished college and began his career. Those first years were lean but Norman felt if I wanted to stay home and raise Letty, he would do everything he could to make it work.
I loved being a mom up until Cassie started high school. These past four years were difficult. I knew I either needed to finish college or decide what I wanted to do now that I was all grown up. The midlife crisis did not really set in until this past year. Turning 40 and Cassie’s final year of high school seemed to do the trick.
Roger came back out and said he had been reading online about what was expected at the police academy. He said I would need to jump a six foot wall. I could tell he was feeling rather smug about it.
“So I’ll jump a six foot wall.” I replied. “Is there anything else you’re worried about?”
“Mom, you’re being ridiculous. You can’t possible think you’ll make it through the police academy?”
“That’s enough,”interjected Norman. “What your mother does or doesn’t do will be up to her. She’s worked hard and she deserves a chance. I will not hear one more negative word out of your mouth.”
Roger left the room again.
Have I mentioned how much I love my husband? He’s just a great guy. I would miss him and realized we had never been apart for more than a week during our marriage.
I asked him if he wanted to go to bed early. We cleaned up the dinner table together, left dishes in the sink and went to bed. Hours later, I was trying to fall asleep but all I could think about was a six foot wall.
Was Roger lying?