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Do you have what it takes? ... Confessions of a female academy recruit

Parts I and II

The job of a law enforcement officer is not an easy one. Only one out of every 75 candidates ever gets beyond the competitive seven-step, testing process.

To be successful you need to:

  • Prepare
  • Dedicate Yourself
  • Test Effectively
  • Prioritize
  • Make Informed Decisions
  • Perform Well Under Pressure
  • Be in Excellent Physical Condition
  • Communicate Effectively
  • Understand the Selection Process.

This is the first of four installments, which I call, "Confessions of a Female Sheriff's Academy Recruit." Each installment will chronicle the real-life academy experience of a 46-year-old female sheriff's deputy with a very large, Southern California department.

Kathleen R. graduated from the Sheriff's Academy in early March of 2005. She and I worked together over the past seven months, preparing her physically and mentally for the rigors of a high-stress academy. Our training began in August 2004, about three months before she began her academy training. Her initial concerns were upper body strength and what she needed to do to get over the solid six-foot wall. We also mapped out a progressive calisthenics routine, which included martial arts training, and a strategy for handgun skill practice (She had never shot before). Ironically, shooting qualifications proved to be the most problematic thing for her in the end. More on that later.

Kathleen chose the Sheriff's Department much the same way most people fall in to a law enforcement career: Two neighbors, both Sheriff deputies, recommended it to her. In reality, Kathleen was hoping to enter detective work, and thought that this might be the fastest way to get there, working her way up. She now realizes that this was not the best approach toward her goal, because she now faces at least 18 months in custody duty, i.e., working the county jail.

Kathleen spent over three years in pursuit of her law enforcement career. Between a hiring freeze and a slow recruitment process, it took her this much time to begin a first class, which she wasn't able to complete. Her inability to get over the six-foot solid wall kept her from her goal.

In many ways, Kathleen was well prepared for the rigors of academy training. She had been a long-distance runner for many years. One of her greatest accomplishments was competing in an L.A. Marathon. As an adolescent, and into her early twenties, Kathleen was a professional ice skater. Years later as a mother with young children, she still managed to complete her college education in legal studies, part-time, in the evenings.

What she couldn't have prepared for was the paramilitary nature of the high stress academy in which she was about to enter. It was my job to ease her transition into the paradoxes of police culture, and the punitive nature of academy training.

The excitement of finally getting in, lasted long enough for Kathleen to see that this experience was not to be like anything she had ever had. Except for the rigidity of the military-like structures, participation did not become too trying until well into the third week of the academy. And then it all began to change.

In part two, we will follow Kathleen through her ordeals, how prepared she was for what she was undertaking, and her surprise and initial shock, which would ultimately lead to frustration, and resignation. By the end, she couldn't wait to finished. And yet this was only really the beginning. Upon graduation, she was to be back in again, for another two weeks of custody duty and officer safety, and that is when the reality really began to set in.

Do You Have What It Takes? ... Confessions of a Female Academy Recruit Part II

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