This is the 14th installment in my Bad Luck Cadet Series.
Monday morning brought our midterms. It would take half the day. We all attended the previous evening’s study session and I had a review at my breakfast table that morning. For the first time two other tables were pushed closer and about half our class participated.
It was long and grueling test, but everyone passed. Cadet Rodriguez actually did very well and was twenty-second in the class. I was ninth and not very happy. Our academic rankings were posted on the wall and I wanted more than anything to be in the top five. I guess I should have been satisfied that at least academically I wasn’t in last place, but I wasn’t.
Tuesday was POPAT (Police Officers Physical Agility Test) and our schedules showed no morning inspection. We were to be at the training field at 0800. We double timed it over to the field.
The Police Officers Physical Agility Test starts with running a ninety-nine yard obstacle course. You next scale a six-foot chain link fence and then run twenty-five feet, then move over and scale a six-foot solid wall running another twenty-five feet, followed by dragging a 165 pound “body” thirty-two feet and then finally when you’re good and tired you get to run five-hundred yards. Our POPAT testing lasted until lunch. I didn’t know if I’d made it or not. The results would be available that evening.
The rest of the day was spent on defensive tactics to help prepare us for the practical tests beginning the next day.
Twenty-two feet is considered the safety zone for a suspect with a knife. Even when you know he’s going to be coming at you it’s almost impossible to pull your gun and fire at the twenty foot range. We were made to stand with our arms at our sides, with an attacker twenty feet away holding a large rubber knife. As soon as the attacker starts running towards us, we were to draw our guns and fire (this is done by making the bang bang sound). We were all stabbed. Twenty-two feet is not easy either but at that distance we all managed to shoot. There is no room for error.
I said “stabbed” not “killed” for a reason. For the past eight weeks it was drilled into our psyche we would never die. No matter what happened we were to continue fighting. This mind set is what will save your life. People have died from non-life threatening gun shot wounds simply because they knew they’d been shot. The only exception to this rule had been our fight for our guns and the “I died today” letters that were written to family.
That evening we gathered in front of our dorms when we heard the results for POPAT were in. Cadet Clark made the announcement that all but one of us had passed. My heart sank.
“Cadet Chavez, can I speak with you in my room? All the rest of you did a good job, and scores will be posted tomorrow in our classroom.”
I’d passed. I couldn’t believe it. This was the one thing I’d been most worried about. If I was injured and could not complete the final POPAT this score would stand and I would graduate. I passed on my first try.
I waited for Rocco. We cried together. He missed the magic score by twenty-four points. He told me he needed to lose more weight and he was determined to pass. He wouldn’t be given the chance until a week before graduation. If he didn’t pass in week seventeen he would go home. It was heartbreaking. I told him we would work at POPAT every night and I was not graduating without him. We’d made that deal the first week at the academy.
Non-academy personnel began arriving that evening for the Practical tests beginning the following morning. Some would be staying in empty dorm rooms. They were all police officers volunteering their time to help us train. I hoped if I made it through the academy, I would be given the opportunity to come back and help other cadets.
The officers were nice and relaxed. It was strange after weeks of being treated like cadets. One officer told me I didn’t need to call him sir. That was impossible. I now even said, “Thank you sir,” to Starbuck employees during my weekend splurge.
Wednesday morning it began. We were divided into different groups and placed in separate “station” waiting areas. For my first test, I was given a police radio and dispatched to an unidentified man standing on our parade deck. I was told a neighbor called him in because she could see him out her front window and he was making her nervous.
I approached. The man had a large boom box in his hand. I identified myself and asked what he was doing in the area. The man simply stared at me. I asked him for some identification. He lay the boom box down and placed his hand in his pocket. I could see a bulge in the pocket and I asked him to keep his hands where I could see them.
He finally spoke, “Then how you spect me to give you identification?” (He even had the lingo)
I asked if I could pat him down for my safety and explained I just needed to feel the outside of his pockets for a weapon. He complied and I asked him to turn around, keeping his hands where I could see them and spread his legs apart. I stepped forward and performed the pat down. My hands were shaking.
He had a large wallet in his front pocket and I asked if his identification was inside. He told me it was. I stepped back and asked him to retrieve his wallet. He gave me his identification and I told him a neighbor called because he was making her nervous.
He then told me he lived down the block and a friend was picking him up here, on the street corner. The scenario was ended. The two judges came forward and told me I did a good job. I was told I should have noticed the bulge in the pocket earlier but I passed and they liked the way I spoke to my suspect.
This scenario was meant as a non-violent confrontation, but it would have turned aggressive if my demeanor warranted it.
In between scenarios we were sent to our station waiting area. Our dorm meeting room was one of the waiting areas. There was a television, couches and small kitchenette with a microwave and toaster oven. We cadets didn’t normally use this area because the college kids used it as a hang out. We were not allowed to talk about any scenarios we’d finished. So we watched a movie we were too nervous to pay attention to while we waited for our names to be called.
There were two scenarios taking place at this station. I was only able to complete the first before lunch. It was a man with a baseball bat threatening to kill his ex-wife, while he was pounding on her apartment door (an empty dorm room).
I drew my gun upon seeing the bat, and had to talk my suspect down from there. I made an arrest and placed him in handcuffs.
After the completion of the scenario I was asked why I drew my weapon. I explained my suspect had a bat and it was a deadly instrument. I was asked if I would have fired if he came towards me with the bat. I said yes and was given a pass on my second scenario.
It was time for lunch. I was excited but several cadets were upset and said they failed their morning practical tests. I couldn’t ask which ones they’d taken, but it made me more nervous about what might be ahead for me. I thought both my scenarios had been rather easy.
After lunch, there was another domestic violence scenario at the dorm rooms. I passed it with flying colors. I’d finished the day and did not need to perform any remedial training. It had been a good day for me but too many cadets had failed scenarios.
I knew I probably would not be as lucky on the second day.
If you want to follow my adventures at the police academy from the beginning, start with Bad Luck Cadet #1 – Accidents Happen. It’s all about fun, laughter and pain. To be honest, at the time, it was more about pain, pain and pain! — Suzie
My adventure continues with: Bad Luck Cadet #15 – You’re Not Dead Until I Say You’re Dead!