Although police officers are often portrayed gorging on donuts, academy physical training is no cakewalk. To be hired by police departments, candidates must pass physical fitness exams. But that's the easy part. Once they enter police academies, the uphill fitness challenge begins.
California, for instance, recommends a regimen of 80 push-ups and 250 crunches a day to get up to snuff. The New York Police Department Police Academy estimates that two-thirds of its recruits cannot pass the final physical fitness test when they first enter the academy [source: New York Police Department Police Academy]. For that reason, recruits take a fitness assessment at the beginning of the training and condition accordingly with regular running, weight training and other exercises. In Vermont, law enforcement hopefuls between the ages of 20 and 29 must meet these criteria:
- Bench press: 99 percent of body weight
- Sit-ups: 38 per minute
- Push-ups: 29 per minute
- Bench press: 59 percent of body weight
- Sit-ups: 32 per minute
- Push-ups: 15 per minute
As recruits build their strength, they must also learn how to properly use it. Restraining and handcuffing people involves muscle, as well as specific movements, to disable people without hurting them. To prepare them for taming criminals, recruits learn and practice self-defense tactics, along with ways to use other non-lethal tools, such as batons and pepper spray.
Sometimes, brute force isn't enough to catch a criminal, and officers have to use their guns. When that happens, they can't just start shooting willy-nilly. Police officers must understand precisely when, how and where to shoot to prevent unnecessary death or injury. Likewise, firearms training is a major component of most police academy physical training programs. Recruits must pass marksmanship tests with up to 90 percent accuracy with a variety of guns, including pistols, handguns and shotguns. The New York State Police Academy recruits, for example, must have 84 percent pistol accuracy on three back-to-back target tests [source: New York State Police Academy]
Have you ever seen a high-action police chase in a movie or on television? The police car zips around curves at dangerous speed, sometimes even flying in the air. While police don't encounter intense chases every day, they must be prepared for them. This is called Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) and is standard among police academies.
It's basically an extreme version of the civilians' driver's license test, except recruits have to practice controlled skidding, car chasing while using a two-way radio and avoiding crashes. Next time you see a squad car whizzing through traffic, you'll know that officer is putting EVOC training into practice.
Now that the recruits are physically prepped to join the force, let's find out how they train their brains.