How to Prepare for the Police Academy
As a recent graduate of a certified police academy, I often get asked by people interested in attending the academy what it is like and how best to prepare. Well, going through the police academy is an intense, stressful, eye opening, and rewarding experience. Trust me, by the time you are done you will be a different person. I mean this in the best possible way of course.
Since the academy I have noticed that I am more driven, dedicated, and able to accomplish difficult tasks in my life. Making sure you are prepared for this experience will not only ensure success with your time at the academy but it will greatly reduce the level of stress you experience. If you follow the tips in this article I can just about guarantee you will sail through the academy.
Be proud that you have decided to take this route in life; the career of a police officer is a very rewarding one and the first step to those rewards is successful completion of the police academy.
Tip 1: Become Addicted to Working Out
Now I know “addicted” is a strong word to use here, but I mean just that. Get used to working out often. The academy has a physically intense workout program and being used to working out before showing up the first day will make a world of difference.
I suggest starting a few months before the academy begins (if not earlier) and get used to working out five days a week. Concentrate on cardio as this seems to be what the academy concentrated on the most. Start waking up an hour earlier each day and going on a run, then come home and eat breakfast afterwards. Power through the first two weeks of this schedule and it will become your morning routine.
It honestly becomes like a cup of coffee in the morning, it’s what gets your day started. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing improvements in your time, speed, and effort you need to put forth to finish your run. Start with a one mile run, then add a half mile or so every 3 running days. Consistency here is key, no excuses on why you can’t run today. That will not fly at the academy, so don’t train the way prior to the academy.
At the academy we got up to about a six mile run near the end. This is very doable; don’t underestimate how your body can adapt. The human body is amazingly flexible and adaptable to whatever demands are put on it. It’s just up to you to consistently put the demands on it and you will see improvements. Your body is a tool, use it and make your time in the academy physical training program a breeze.
Tip 2: Teamwork
Teamwork is what will get you through when all else fails. Most academy classes will have an orientation day or something similar where you go and learn about what to expect. Make as many friends as you can and swap phone numbers even before the first day of the academy. Trust me, you will be calling each other to figure out how to get through various difficult tasks at the academy during the whole course of your time there.
Often times, the items you need to gather prior to the first day can be a little complicated so having a friend to call and remind you is invaluable. Once the academy begins, make sure your class develops a sense of teamwork right away. If you do, far fewer people will drop out before the end.
Tip 3: Shoot a Gun
I say this because the academy I attended trained us for about one day on the shotgun and then we had two days of testing. Tests at police academies are typically the single biggest reason why people leave the program. This is because if you don’t pass the first time you have one chance to try again (at most academies) and if you fail a second time you are removed from the academy.
This testing has a lot of weight in your overall success, and the small amount of training you receive for the weapons doesn’t cover the amount of testing you will be put through. Our class lost two very good recruits just because of the shooting tests.
You don’t have to shoot so much that you are an expert shot, just enough to where you are comfortable with the general operation of the firearm. Practice both the shotgun and handgun. Most academies train with the Remington 870 (12 gauge) shotgun and the Glock 17 (9mm) or Glock 22 (.40 cal) handgun.
Tip 4: Get a Daily Planner
Throughout the police academy, and especially the first few weeks, you are given a lot of paperwork to have done and a lot of different due dates for this paperwork. If you forget about one of these required items it can result in removal from the academy.
I strongly suggest you show up to orientation with a daily planner and pencil always close by. Use it daily, always check the planner when you get home each day and see what needs to be done before the following day. This has saved me on many occasions.
Tip 5: Network with Online Resources/People
Find some news groups and interest groups of people who also have experience with the police academy. My academy was a California P.O.S.T. basic police academy and so I was a part of a yahoo group dedicated to this topic: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CABasicPolice/.
It was great to be able to ask questions and receive help from people who had far more experience than I did. Also, if you are attending a California police academy I strongly suggest you take a look at that group’s file archive. They have a ton of resources that will help you on just about every step throughout the academy including study guides, check lists, cheat sheets, and more.
Tip 6: Reduce or Eliminate All Outside Stress Factors
This is probably the most important tip I can give you. Get your personal life in order before you attend the academy. Any police academy will take a lot out of you mentally and you really shouldn’t have anything else in your life to worry about.
Take care of any family issues, wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend issues, and financial issues before attending at police academy. Make sure everything in your life is as predicable and stable as possible.
This sounds like a small thing but trust me, it will make the biggest difference in your success at the academy. You will need to absorb yourself in penal codes, case law, defensive tactics, firearms, policies and procedures. There just won’t be any time for distractions.
Finally, just remember to apply yourself. From what I have seen, the recruits who really applied themselves and became absorbed in the police academy did fantastic. The recruits who went out partying at night after class struggled the whole way through, if not dropped out completely.
Oh, and expect some hazing when you first start. Just think of it as a game. They try to stress you out as much as possible by doing anything possible including hazing in the beginning. There is a method to this madness though, they want to make sure that even in the most stressful of situations, you will continue working through the problem at hand and that you wont give up.
Just remember to play their game the way they want you to. You’ll be done and out of the academy with a great career in your hands before you know it, and they’ll still be there. You’ll win. Good luck.
Don't forget! To make your training officers happy, you better learn to polish your boots!