A career in law enforcement requires a full commitment of body, mind and time. As a police officer, responsibility to your job entails a willingness to serve and protect your community. Carrying out this responsibility requires a conditioned mind and body that can withstand the day-to-day stress and possibly dangerous situations that police officers encounter. To achieve this, new police hires are required to go through police academy training.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police academy training in state or large local departments lasts about 12 to 14 weeks. However, the duration of police academy training can vary depending on state, city or departmental guidelines. The Los Angeles Police Department’s training academy is a six-month commitment. Police departments may also have multiple training schedules. The Illinois State Police (ISP), for example, have two different academy training schedules. ISP recruit basic training is a 10-week program, and cadet training is a 26-week program.
Newly hired individuals entering the police force should strive to be physically fit before academy training begins. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) puts recruits through a physical training regimen that is designed to build strength, endurance and a foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Though the specifics can differ, the goal of physical fitness is standard in police academy training. Recruits are expected to prove their fitness levels by passing fitness testing at the end of academy training. The New York State Police Academy (NYSP) requires male and female recruits to perform at the 70th percentile. Fitness performance areas include sit-ups, push-ups and a 1 1/2-mile run.
Police academy classroom instruction teaches new officers constitutional, state and municipal laws; civil rights; and protocol for investigating accidents. Additional areas of knowledge that recruits must learn include general investigation techniques; documentation and paperwork procedures; arrest and booking protocol and traffic enforcement. Police officer recruits must also show proficiency in potentially life-saving skills such as first aid, CPR, self-defense, firearms training and defensive driving techniques. Recruits must pass testing at the end of each unit or training segment.
A recruit's daily routine in the police academy is full of drills and training. The New Jersey State Police Academy, like many academies across the country, is a weekday residential training ground that requires recruits to awaken by 6 a.m. and turn lights out by 10 p.m. Recruits have weekends to themselves. The New Jersey State Police Academy dismisses recruits Fridays at 6 p.m. Commuting and off-campus arrangements must be approved by the academy.
A police academy will clearly state the requirements of its program, often found on the department’s web site, before recruits enter the academy. Carefully consider the overall strenuous nature of the police academy environment for new recruits and seasoned officers. Seasoned officers can receive additional, specialized training in the academy such as Narcotics Investigation, Standard Field Sobriety Testing Instructor or Electronic Criminal Surveillance.
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