In keeping with the laws of journalism, I will begin with the “what the hell are you talking about” aspect of our program. The city of VA Beach allows anyone to attend their Citizens Police Academy free of charge. Yep, they let ME in.
As a former SEC examiner and Compliance Director, I’m hard wired to “find and nail” the bad guys. (I still see potential “money laundering” everywhere.) When I heard about this program, I thought it would be interesting to see how the locals handle crime and possibly learn some ways to protect my own family.
We are the 29th class to attend this 15 week training course which goes into great detail on MANY crime related topics. Classes about what you ask? Forensics, Gangs, officers in local schools, red light cameras, Animal Control, Narcotics, & Vice to name a few. The Academy also includes a tour of the jail and a trip down to Blackwater to see the gun range although we don’t get to shoot anything. It runs every Tuesday evening through May with the objective being to educate citizens about REAL police work from the perspective of our city’s finest. David Caruso does not work here.
After finally finding the place last night, I introduced myself to our class Coordinator Jeff Eaton. Very nice guy. As I shook his hand I told him I was a “parolee” so he would immediately understand what a smart ass I am and prepare accordingly. It was only fair.
When I entered class I was surprised at the variety of individuals that showed up. I guess I thought that bored soccer moms like myself would be there but I was happy to see all age groups represented and about 50/50 male to female ratios. You guys know how I love variety!
We were formally greeted by Chief Jake Jacocks, a soft spoken, yet somewhat burly man that you knew right away meant business. He mentioned that the class was actually developed so the department could “show off” and hey it worked! I was duly impressed by his stats! Did you know that our little town has only 1.9 officers per 1,000 residents when fully staffed (which is practically never), yet has less overall crime than Norfolk whose ratio is over 3 per 1,000? I think I’ll stay here.
I’ve always known that police officers went through rigorous training, but was unaware that the VA Beach police department requires DOUBLE the state training requirements for it’s officers. Could that be why violent crime in VA Beach was down last year and had the lowest in the nation vs. other cities similar in size? Our department’s clearance rate for violent and property crime is also above the national average. I call that tax dollars working pretty effectively! (Sorry Vicky, I know you would not agree after getting that speeding ticket by the Courthouse in my red truck a couple of weeks ago but we’ll get through this.)
Anyway, our primary topic last night was Recruitment, Selection and Training delivered by Sgt. Jarvis Lynch. Sgt. Lynch was an entertaining, not unattractive man in his mid 40′s who I believe is married. (Sorry ladies, I’ll double check next time) After blowing out his ACL training a couple of rowdy rookies a while back, his primary role these days is screening potential candidates.
What is scary is that he was wearing a VEST. Last night. Just training us. Sure, there were scary looking guys in orange jumpsuits walking up and down the hall outside of our little classroom but nobody frisked me walking in so I’m not sure what that was about.
So, are you interested in being a VA Beach cop? They seem to really like folks who speak a foreign language and/or have some military training, but even so, if you are at least 21 yrs of age and interested, go online to www.VBgov.com/policejobs, and fill out an application. How hard is that?
If you actually COMPLETE the form, you get called in for a written test which includes basic math and reading comprehension. Once you “succeed” you move onto the physical agility test which is no longer the obstacle course. This was news to me!
You are required to do as many “boy” push ups as you can, perform a sit and reach test, a “trunk pull” (upright row) and a 300 meter run. Requirements are the SAME for males and females. If you are unsuccessful, someone like Sgt. Lynch will coach you about how to improve if you’d like to return in 3 months for another go at it.
Now is when the fun REALLY begins. In my opinion at least.
Candidates go through a process known as B-PAD. The goal of this test is to review your communication skills by showing you different scenarios and watching how you might react if you were an officer. For instance, in your video, you might have a perp that flips you off as you approach his car. Do you pull him out by his hair and throw him to the ground to give him a learn on? Apparently not. I don’t see me moving past this section.
If you do not come across as a hard ass and have some tact and ability to talk to people, a background check is performed, then a polygraph (just to confirm the background test results), a pre-screening board reviews your file and then an oral exam. Yep, you get to sit in front of a group of people who will ask you direct questions that you must answer like a civilized person and actually look the board members in the eye, be polite, etc.
If you make it this far you get a conditional offer of employment – dependent upon the pysch exam. YIKES! After a series of the same questions put in different formats, when you succeed you have a medical exam and finally a hire letter.
The actual “Academy” is 26 to 28 weeks long and if you aren’t physically fit – go back to your lazy-boy and return to your Law & Order reruns.
Our class ended promptly at 9:00pm and I look forward to the next one and the opportunity to meet my classmates AND take photos of the speakers next time. Jeff is going to check on that for me. For now, I will sign off with one more photo of some very nice officers from a few months ago when the barge was stuck at the beach.
Oh, and please feel free to leave questions here that you’d like me to bring up over the course of my training! You know I’ll ask just about anything! :-)