Monday, August 18, 2014

Stop Yelling At Me!

Recruits enter the academy with a wide variety of life experience. Some have never held a real job in their life. Some have worked at a fro-yo shop or a movie theater. Some have worked in a jail. Some have extensive military combat experience while others have been law enforcement officers at other agencies and didn't maintain their certification. 

It might not seem like a big deal that people have different life experience prior to the academy. After all, you all still have to learn the same material, you receive the same instruction, and have to pass the same tests right? True...but can the academy staff just present all the material in the same manner and expect that everyone in the class will understand it enough to pass the tests? 

Let me illustrate my point. If you were to take on the task of teaching algebra to a group of people with all different backgrounds, you can expect that everyone has different skill levels in mathematics. Some probably grew up hating math, did poorly in every math class they had, and were glad when school was over because they knew they would never spend another second of their life on it again. Others didn't like math, but they could do it and put just enough effort into it to pass. Most did well but just didn't care enough to push themselves to excellence. A few (very few) loved math and aced everything related to math. Stick with me on this.

Regardless of their experience, you have this group in your classroom and you are supposed to teach them algebra. Your goal at the end of the block of instruction is for the entire group to pass an algebra test that demonstrates their competency on the subject matter. So there's a decision you have to make at the beginning of the class. You're an expert in algebra so you're capable of teaching at any level. You have four different groups of students if you break them down by skill level. Which level do you present the material at to achieve the greatest success? 

If you present it to the lowest skill level, they will take a long time to grasp the material. The rest of the class will be ready to move much quicker and the class won't progress fast enough to cover all the material by the end. If you teach towards the experts and move at their pace, you will lose the lowest skill level quickly, and the mediocre students will have trouble keeping up. Some may pass the test but you'll lose a lot. Remember your goal...you want everyone to pass the test.

Generally the answer is that you teach toward the lower end of the "in between" groups. You teach low enough so there's a chance for success for the lower skill level students, but high enough for the class to cover all the material by the end and keep the interest of the more skilled students. Will you reach your goal? Probably not, but it should get you the highest success rate possible without making the class longer, getting tutors for students, or cheating. But the failures won't be the result of you not doing your job. The failures will be from those not prepared enough, not motivated enough, or just not smart enough in math. 

So you can see the challenges faced by the academy staff. It's a factor in everything they teach. One of the things they have to prepare you for is how to face the adversity that will surely come in this career. Adversity comes in many forms, but right now let's discuss the suspects who are professionals at getting under the skin of law enforcement officers. 

I'm sure everyone reading this has no problem telling themselves that they would never let a suspect get under their skin. Everyone thinks they know how they will react in a given situation. If that's the case, why do we see videos of so many officers losing their cool? Have you seen the video of the officer on the cell phone and a kid comes up to him with a baggie of marijuana and asks the officer if he wants to buy some weed? The officer gets off the phone and goes right toward the kid with every intent of arresting him. What he doesn't know is the kid is a magician and makes the marijuana disappear before the officer could seize it. The officer flips out and pushes the kid against the wall to search him. He can't find the weed, gets incredibly frustrated, and starts yelling at the kid. He finally sends the kid away, but follows him briefly so he can continue barking at him. At one point he tells the kid to "quit talking!" at a moment when the suspect wasn't saying anything. The magician approached the officer with every intent to get under his skin and the officer basically lifts his skin up and lets the magician jump right in with both feet!

It's easy to watch the videos with hindsight and the time to think about them long enough to point out where you think you would've done things different. The truth is, you have no idea until you have experienced it first hand.

The academy needs to do what they can to make sure the recruits are prepared as much as possible to endure those types of suspects. The ramifications of sending law enforcement officers out unprepared are too risky. What happens when an officer loses their cool when a suspect is trying to get under their skin? An unprofessional verbal exchange? Unlawful arrest resulting from "contempt of cop?" Excessive force? Any or all of the above on a YouTube video? It's not an area we can afford to ignore in our training.

So how do we prepare recruits for these situations? Tell them they will happen and to be prepared? That's part of it. Show them videos? Sure. How about try to get under their skin? Yep!

Do you think military vets are going to get a whole lot out of being yelled at and told to go run some hills or do some push-ups when they screw up? They won't flinch or even blink! "Thank you sir! May I have another?!" But how will the 21-year-old recruit who still lives at home, mom makes him dinner every night, and has never had a real job react? I can tell you from experience with many of these recruits that some will react well, some will get angry, some won't have any idea what to do, and some will cry. Does crying mean they aren't cut out for this? Not necessarily. Crying means we have training to do! At this point, crying was their reaction to an overwhelming situation they have never experienced before. They've never had someone in their face yelling at them and telling them their performance was completely unacceptable and explaining how unworthy they are of breathing the same air as the RTO's. 

RTO's face the same challenge in this area as you did in your algebra class. How much stress do we put on them to make sure they are inoculated enough to survive that idiot suspect? If we spend all of our time yelling to make sure those with zero experience with adversity get it, we will neglect other important areas of this career. If we don't do any because we know the military guys don't need it, we underprepare those who do need it. 

"But haven't you read about how to get the most out of the Millennial generation? They don't respond well to negative criticism and yelling." Yeah, I've read all about it. If you want to be in a job where you get a pat on the back when you do well and sugar coated gum drops to chew on while someone is tiptoeing around explaining where you could "perhaps improve a little more," then go purchase your makeup starter kit and hold cosmetics parties at your house. Invite all your friends. I hear they're decent money and a lot of fun! This is not that kind of job. Criminals do not give a rat's ass what generation you are a part of or how you best respond to criticism, and it's because of that fact that your academy staff shouldn't give a rat's ass when it comes to this type of training either. 

So will the RTO's yell and scream and call you nasty things? If they're doing their best to prepare you, they will. How will you respond? If you've never experienced it, the correct answer is, "I'm not sure." Admit that, and you're on your way to preparing yourself. Don't admit it and you'll just continue to be scared or angry at your RTO's through the whole academy and you won't learn a thing.

So then what? They yell at me and I love it, or I get pissed, or I freeze up, or I cry. However you react, take the experience and move on. The next time it happens, take the experience and move on. Each time it happens, you will realize it doesn't have the same shock effect to your system. Pretty soon you're actually listening to the words coming out of the RTO's mouth and responding correctly and not really noticing the yelling or the invasion of personal space because they do it often enough that you're used to it. Then you'll start noticing that the RTO's don't yell as much anymore. We watch for those moments when recruits change and are able to operate efficiently under that type of stress. They stop clenching their jaw and turning red-faced when you give them an order that is completely unfair and they just deal with it. It's actually refreshing to speak to recruits in a normal tone again. 

It's not because we're trying to turn recruits into a bunch of robots who follow orders no matter what and don't think on their own. There's plenty of training to make sure recruits can think critically on their own. We want recruits to keep a cool head, have their wits about them, and be able to think critically and rationally when a suspect is making comments about your haircut, your ugly face, your wife and kids, your small breasts, your sexual orientation, the color of your skin, your height, that mole on your face that you're self conscious about, or when they are screaming at the top of their lungs and challenging you to a fight. Your first time experiencing that kind of stress simply cannot be on the streets. We owe it to you to give it to you in the academy.

For you military guys and girls who are thinking about your drill sergeants and drill instructors, the academy will not approach that level. You will be introduced to a much different type of stress, don't get me wrong. I have yet to have a military vet tell me that they didn't experience intense stress at the academy in a different way. But unless you get an RTO who was a DS or a DI, the yelling and screaming will just be a milder version of what you've grown accustomed to. It will be your job to help your fellow recruits learn how to deal with it. You're a team. The recruit you help deal with the stress of the RTO's might be the recruit who helps you pass the scenario you are struggling in. 

So stop screaming at you? I can't do that. I care too much about your safety, my safety, and the safety of all of my partners who are counting on me to prepare you to be their beat partners someday. Thank me for it later.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Train with a Purpose

Remember the scene in the Karate Kid (the original one, not the new one with the little kid), where Daniel-San gets all fired up at Mr. Miyagi because he wanted to learn karate, but Mr. Miyagi kept having him do chores around the house instead? Daniel-San would eventually learn that the chores had been teaching him all the techniques he needed to have a good foundation of karate. Imagine how much better he could've been if he trusted Mr. Miyagi instead of complaining like a little baby the whole time. If he had given 100% of his effort to doing the fence painting and car waxing techniques perfect the entire time, because he trusted Mr. Miyagi, imagine how much more disciplined and expert he could've been with his techniques. Maybe he would have won the last fight without breaking his stupid leg!

In the police academy, you will find yourself in Daniel-San's shoes often. Your RTO's have an incredible amount of knowledge and experience to pass on to you. The amount of training that they pass down to you really depends on how quickly you grasp what you've already been taught. Your attitude toward your training is huge in determining how quickly you progress in your training.

I gave every academy class I had the assignment to learn their department policies for use of force and firearms. It was required of them to have a good working knowledge of the policies and memorize some of the most important parts. One of the classes really seemed to be putting up a fight with this assignment and failed the written test on the subject multiple times. I was going blue in the face expressing the importance of learning these policies, but wasn't getting a change in performance from the recruits. One day, a former recruit who was on training stopped by and we allowed the class some face time with him to ask academy related questions. After they talked for a while, that former recruit came back to talk to me and says, "One of the recruits asked me if they really needed to memorize their use of force policy." The former recruit told the new group of recruits how often his training officers had been quizzing him on his policies and the tests he had to take where he had to handwrite the policies. He expressed to them how glad he was that he had been made to know those policies so well in the academy. The scores on the next policy test were much higher and the entire class had passed within the next week.

What was the difference? Attitude toward the training. A lot of past officers and deputies do a great disservice to recruits entering the academy today. They give advice like, "Just fly under the radar," or "It's just a game you need to get through." The problem with this advice is that the academy is a different animal than when they went through, and the more veteran the officer, the farther they are from the realities of today's academy. In many cases, it WAS a game for those old timers and the measure of success was how well you were able to get through an academy without drawing attention to yourself. The RTO's don't give assignments "just to screw with" the recruits anymore. They take pride in producing quality recruits and it makes it that much more difficult when the recruits do the minimum or don't buy into the training program. In the case of the recruits and the policies, the recruits didn't place purpose or importance on learning their policies. They didn't understand the importance of learning them even with their RTO's telling them over and over again. Once they saw exactly how it would benefit them after hearing a recent recruit tell them, all of the sudden they could learn it with ease.

Successful recruits don't resist and push back when they are given assignments by their RTO's, and the most successful recruits go beyond that and are able to see the purposes behind the training assignments. The difference is attitude. You don't have control over what assignments you are given. You don't have control over the consequences as a result of your performance in the academy. You do have control over your attitude toward the training.

The citizens of the jurisdiction where you might someday work are counting on you becoming the best peace officer you can be. Your partners are counting on you being the best partner you can become to protect their lives and share in the work load. Your family and loved ones are counting on you training hard so you can increase the chances of you coming home to them after every shift. Your family is also counting on you doing your best so you can keep your job and support them. People wash out of FTO all the time, and none of them thought it would happen to them.

On the other hand, the burglar is counting on you slacking off during your crimes in progress class. The suspect who wants to kill you is counting on you not working on your defensive tactics outside of your academy class. The drug dealer is counting on you not paying attention in search and seizure so you can't get into his pockets.

Know that there is a purpose to everything you are being assigned in the academy. I'm not saying there might not be an RTO out there who is abusing his or her position and is having their class do things with no training value, but that is a rare situation and they probably won't be in that position very long. The RTO's don't always have time to stop and explain the purpose behind every single thing they have you do. And if a recruit has to be compelled in everything they do or they require everything be explained to them before doing it, they do not belong in this profession.

At our academy, the recruits are required to carry around a water bottle in their support hand everywhere they go. They are required to keep it filled with water and to drink that water. If they are seen holding it in their strong hand, there are consequences. They know they aren't supposed to carry stuff in their strong hand, but the water bottle exercise seems like a nuisance to many of them. They don't realize that as they avoid discipline every day by keeping their strong hand free, they are building muscle memory and becoming disciplined. Eventually they feel uncomfortable with anything in their strong hand without giving it a conscious thought. So while law enforcement officers know that it isn't the end of the world to hold something in your strong hand, it is important that we be conscious of the fact that our strong (gun) hand is occupied so we can unoccupy it or have a plan in case we need to use it quickly. Later in the academy, the recruits are keeping their strong hands free without giving it a thought. They practiced it until they forgot about it.

Train with a purpose! Trust your academy staff and have a good attitude toward the training. Remember who is depending on you to do well and who is depending on you to just get by. Decide now which group you are loyal to and work accordingly.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

This isn't college...

For those who have college courses under their belts, and really the same philosophy applies in high school, we all know you can study and cram for a test and forget all the information the next day. The beauty of it is you can pass the class with an A! I lived on my ability to do that in college and it never steered me wrong. So when I started the academy, it was a rude awakening to learn that technique would either fail me out or leave me toward the bottom of my class ranking at best. I needed to change my study habits quickly.

The academy curriculum is specifically designed to give you knowledge in order. Every class builds upon past blocks of instruction. For example, Laws of Arrest and Search and Seizure are taught early on in the academy. If you don't understand what you can and cannot do to effect an arrest, how will you be able to do well in scenario testing and every other block where you learn about specified crimes where you need to make a decision to arrest or not? You can't learn about search and seizure, pass the test and forget about it. If you do not grasp the concepts from one of these classes, the academy becomes increasingly more confusing and it's hard to play catch up.

Especially beyond the academy, you cannot expect to perform well on field training when you do not grasp the material presented in the academy. What you learn in the academy is the foundation for a great career in law enforcement. So how do you learn the material instead of just retaining the information long enough to pass a test? I'm not going to touch on specific study techniques so to speak. People learn differently and I'm not going to try to proclaim to know the best technique that works for everyone. What I do know is a study pattern that works for the academy and that's what I'm going to cover.

We have been following a pattern for learning our whole lives that we need to break. What's the purpose for taking any class? To learn the subject right? Why waste my time learning the subject beforehand if I just paid good money to have this expert instructor teach me? Even instructors don't expect their students to have a solid foundation of the subject matter before the class starts unless there are prerequisites to the class. This pattern usually works alright since the teacher is there to answer any and all questions along the way and is even there to proctor the test at the end.

The problem in the academy is, the instructor teaches the block of instruction, the recruits go home and study, but the block is done and the instructor in most cases, is not coming back to field questions and have a follow up discussion. When it comes time for the test, the instructor is nowhere to be seen and the academy staff is most likely proctoring the test. While it is true the recruits can ask for clarification from the academy staff, it is always easier for the instructor who was in the class and knows what scenarios and concerns were brought up during instruction.

The quickest change you can make to studying for an LD test to achieve greater success is to change when you study. First of all, do not study exclusively by yourself. If you get confused, you have only yourself to try and clarify the confusion. if you study with only one other person, naturally one person will understand the material better than the other and it just becomes a study session where whatever the one "expert recruit" says is the right answer. Well what if that person doesn't have as much of a clue as they think? Study groups of 3-6 seem to work well. Groups much larger than that will turn into social gatherings rather than a good study session.

So back to the when of studying... Get your study group together and study that LD before the block of instruction! Don't just "glance over the material" or "read over the LD." study that LD as if the LD test was going to be given at the beginning of the block of instruction before the instructor even says a word. This is key to getting the most out of the classes!

Don't rush through your study sessions! Do not move on in an LD until everyone in the group has a solid understanding of the material. This will ensure no recruit is left behind, but by other recruits taking the opportunity to teach that recruit, he/she is solidifying their knowledge of the subject even more.

During your study session(s), write down any questions or areas that need clarification for the group. Take them with you to the class so the instructor can spend more time on it and clear things up for you guys. Also, complete the Workbook Learning Activities at the end of the chapters and discuss your answers with your group. By the time the instructor steps in front of the class, you will all have an excellent foundation to now have an intelligent discussion about the topic instead of sitting there like a bunch of mouth breathers, and then complaining later that the instructor didn't do a good enough job covering the material.

I can promise you this: If you take the time to really study the material before the block of instruction, you will post high test scores every time. It's a habit you need to get into right at the beginning of the academy. The material is going to help you be a great cop! Sometimes it's hard to see the forest through the trees, but keep a wide perspective on it. You're not being taught the material so you can pass the academy. You're being taught the material to train you in your career so you make good decisions and don't end up being sued or in jail yourself!

If the rare situation comes up where you get an instructor who does a subpar job teaching (and studying beforehand will help you see the subpar instructors more easily), make sure to be completely honest in the instructor evaluation. It's hard for an academy to replace or "fix" an instructor when all the recruit's evaluations say, "The instructor did a great job and is really enthusiastic about the subject!" Stop giving cookie cutter evaluations and start being honest and making your academy be even better.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Accountability

"There wasn't enough time."

"Nobody reminded me."

"My homework got left at home."

"My alarm clock didn't go off."

Each of these excuses has something in common. None of them insinuate that the person who is giving the excuse is actually at fault. The blame all rests on someone or something else. In Spanish, when someone forgets their keys at home, the literal translation would have the person say, "My keys forgot me." As ridiculous as that sounds, people use phrases that give the same message using different words all the time. Most people don't even realize they are doing it, but it makes mistakes easier for people to swallow. The problem is, it feeds attitudes in people that they can do no wrong.

If there is one common issue I see with the majority of recruits entering the academy, it is that they have not been taught to take responsibility for their mistakes. Because of the economy, a lot of young people are living with their parents for much longer. It's not uncommon anymore for someone to live with their parents into their mid to late twenties. The problem is, these young adults don't get out of the mode of being a son or daughter and their parents treat them just like they did when they were 17. The younger generation doesn't spend a lot of time working through hardship and challenges because their parents bail them out.

Does it sound like I'm making unfair generalizations? I am. I realize this isn't the case with everyone and there are plenty of young people who have fought through challenges and experienced plenty of hardship in their lives without the support of parents at all. So where am I coming from? Well...my personal experiences with academy classes. In my classes, those recruits who haven't learned personal accountability far outnumber those who have. It's frustrating for both recruit and RTO. The recruit fights it intensely because they don't see what the big deal is and don't think they are in the wrong (go figure). When the recruit finally starts growing up and realizing it's ok to be wrong and they don't die when they can openly admit it, real learning can start taking place.

So my advice? As you expect, I advise you to start owning up to your mistakes. Stop blaming other people. Stop trying to dilute your responsibility by dragging other people into it. Own it! People will start respecting you more and be more willing to help and train you when they know you aren't arrogant and unteachable.

Start leaving behind the phrases I included at the beginning of this post and start changing them to:

"I didn't manage my time well."

"I forgot."

"I am disorganized and left my homework at home when I left the house."

"I didn't pay close enough attention and didn't set my alarm clock correctly."

Notice they all start with "I" and they all own the mistake!

Monday, June 25, 2012

How to spit shine boots!

Spit shining boots seems to be one of the biggest points of frustration for a new recruit. There's not too many things more frustrating than spending hours into the night applying coats of polish, only to show up the next morning to have your R.T.O. tell you how it looks like you polished your boots with a Hershey bar. First, your R.T.O. needs to come up with an original line. Second, there is hope, and once you put in some time to properly put a good base coat on your boots, your shine time will be cut down tremendously for all future maintenance polishings.

I will update this post with pictures in a few days, but wanted to get it out there since I've gotten quite a few emails asking about it.

There are a lot of online instructions for spit shining, but I've found that even though the instructions are correct, it leaves out important details that will be helpful to the inexperienced shiner. I'm going to include a lot of detail in this post. It's all the things I wish I had known when I started polishing boots.

Selection of the boots is the start point. Some boots are a lot easier than others to shine and some just look better when you finish. I've seen recruits go with the boots that look good polished but aren't very comfortable. I've also seen recruits go with boots that are very comfortable, but are a bear to polish to the standards of a police academy. Most recruits at our academy wear Rocky brand boots with a nice big toe cap. When selecting a good boot to shine, try to get one with a solid and smooth toe on it. I say solid because if you get a boot where the toe is soft and flexes easy, the polish will crack or have creases in it all the time. Smoothness is important because you are going to polish it with the goal of having it as smooth as glass. If you start with a rough and pitted surface, it will be a lot more challenging and take more time to get it how you want it. It's not an absolute necessity to have the toe solid and smooth to start with, but it will sure make your life easier. Some boots have been treated with a silicone coating or other oils or chemicals. Shoe polish will not work on top of these surfaces. If you can't remove whatever chemical is on there, don't get that boot.

Now that you have your boot, let's talk supplies.

1. Polish!

Some say regular black Kiwi. Some say Lincoln. Some say Kiwi Parade Gloss. Some have some off brands that they swear by. I've tried about 5 different brands and types and the differences have been negligible for me. I use Kiwi Parade Gloss because it feels smoother to me and I feel like it's easier to work with.

2. Water.

I've found that room temperature water works best (unless the temperature of your room is freezing). Cold water hardens the polish quicker when you are polishing and you end up with a haze that takes some work to get rid of. So fill up a small bowl or cup with some room temp or slightly warm water and that will work great. This is your "spit." What can be done with spit is accomplished with water all the same. It's just a lubricant while polishing.

3. Polishing cloth.

This is probably the most important part to make sure you don't take short cuts on. If you pick the wrong polishing cloth, you can end up fighting swirls and little scratches the whole time. You will want a soft cotton cloth. Other fabrics just don't get the job done. The cloth must be clean! It seems logical to use some old rag since you're going to just stain the crap out of it, but you cannot use a dirty cloth. A dirty cloth is counterproductive to the shine you're going for. The best cloth I have found is a thick sock. I used tshirts for a couple of years before I used a sock one day because I didn't have a tshirt. It worked great! The thickness helped lighten up the pressure during the polish and it looked great. Some swear by cotton balls. I've tried them and again, it's not that it didn't work, but I prefer working with a soft cloth.

4. Heat source (optional)

Lighter, hair dryer, heat gun... Opinions differ on the use of a heat source. Some feel it compromises the integrity of the leather. I have had excellent results with both a lighter and a hair dryer. I haven't tried a heat gun, but from what I've read online, it's a great option. The process I'm describing here is going to include heating.

5. Edge Dressing

After spending so much time on polishing the tips, a lot of recruits neglect the rest of the boot and still get hammered during inspection despite the great shine. With all the running around you're going to do in these boots, edge dressing is an easy way to keep the edges of the sole looking good. Some edge dressings come in a bottle with an applicator. Some come with a foam applicator tip. Both will get the job done.

6. Brush

Many boots have nooks and crannies where dust gets into and you can't reach it with a tag. A soft nylon brush works great for this.

Alright, now that you have your supplies, clean your boots. Make sure there is no dust or dirt anywhere on the boot. Use that brush to get the hard to reach places. Always do this step first. Cleaning after the polish will mess up your polish job. Leave the edge dressing for the end. If the area to be polished has small particles of dust on it, those particles will be rubbed into the surface and cause scratches. Make sure the boot upper is clean and free of blemishes. Applying some polish to scratches and dull spots will make it look even. If it's more than just a few scuffs, you might have to go with a leather dye to freshen it up. If there are metal eyelets or rivets with black paint chipping off, glossy black nail polish works well to fix that.

Now that your boot is clean, let's get to the polishing. Think of polishing like painting a real grainy piece of wood. If you want it smooth, you have to sand the surface smooth and apply plenty of coats of paint. Most of the coats you will apply will be the "sanding" of your boots so to speak. Once the surface is smooth, then the real spit shining can take place. Don't expect to have good results after three, four, or five coats. This initial polishing takes time.

Step 1.
Take your rag and smear it around the surface of your polish to get a good amount on the rag. Apply a coat onto the surface of the toe of your boot. Don't apply a bunch of pressure. A light touch is key. You want the polish on your boot. This is an area I had questions about when I learned. How thick is too thick if a coat? Well, after applying this coat, you want to set the boot aside and let the coat dry a little so the polish hardens up some. If it's taking longer than just a few minutes to dry, the coat is too thick. The purpose of applying the coat is to start filling in and building up polish in the pits and grooves in the leather.

Step 2.
After the coat has hardened up some, take a clean portion of your cloth and dip it in the water. Get it really wet. Don't wring it out before applying it to your boot either. You want it dripping wet. With very light pressure, rub the wet cloth over the polished surface in small, one inch circles. This is where the "sanding" takes place. As you rub the wet cloth over the surface, you are working on rubbing out the peaks of the polish to try and even it out with the pits and grooves of the leather you are trying to fill in with the polish. With the early coats, don't try to rub it until it's perfectly smooth. Don't expect that until later on.

Step 3.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have at least 5 or 6 coats on. You want a good thick base of polish before applying heat. If you apply heat too early, the coat will be too thin and it will just melt it down to the leather.

Step 4.
Apply another medium coat of polish like you have been doing in step one. Now apply your heat source to the polished area. Depending on what you are using, it might be a quick heat application and it might be a little longer. With a lighter, it shouldn't take any longer than a few seconds to melt the entire polished surface. With a hair dryer, it takes a little longer depending on how hot your hair dryer is. Whatever your heat source, apply the heat until the polished surface shows a high gloss shine. That shine means the polish has melted. When it melts, it smooths the surface out. If you're using a lighter, hold your boot upside down so the flame can reach it evenly.

Once it is nice and shiny, remove the source of heat. If you leave it on too long, it will just melt it down closer and closer to the leather surface, which is not what you want. When you remove the heat, the surface will quickly go from shiny to dull and will have several splotchy shades of black and gray. Don't be alarmed. It's supposed to look like that. Set the boot aside and let it cool off for a few minutes before going on to the next step. Never apply heat with any amount of moisture on the polished surface! The heat will cook the water and cause bubbling in your polish.

Step 5.
Repeat Step 2, but apply extremely light pressure and make your circular motions really fast. You will start to see that smooth surface forming and for the first time, your efforts will start to seem worth it. Now check the surface for smoothness. If it still has that orange peel texture on the surface, go back and add a couple more coats (Step 1 and 2), and then complete Step 4 again. Keep repeating these steps until the surface has a glassy smooth surface. This does not mean it should reflect and shine like a mirror! The final polishing step is still to come. You are just trying to get all of the texture out of it so you have as smooth a surface to polish as possible.

Step 6.
Once the surface is nice and smooth, get a clean spot on your cloth, apply a SMALL amount of polish on the cloth at your fingertip, and dip that portion of the cloth in the water so it's soaking wet. The amount of polish you want on the cloth is so slight you might wonder if it's going to make any difference at all. Remember, you already smoothed the surface out. This goal here is to apply an very thin coat to make the surface glassy and deep black in color. Rub the polish onto the surface with very light pressure. Water should be running all over the toe because your cloth is that wet. You should barely be able to feel the surface of the boot because you are rubbing that light. When you look at your cloth, you shouldn't see any black on it because the polish was all left on the boot surface. If it's black, you applied too much pressure and the boot pushed the polish back into the cloth instead of staying on the surface. Do small sections at a time. You will have to get more polish and dip your cloth in water multiple times before you have covered the entire toe area.

If it's not even, repeat this step. If you apply 2 or 3 finishing coats and it still looks rough, you might need to repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 a couple more times. You will know when you are done when you can see yourself in your boots and the surface is as smooth as glass.

Depending on your academy staff, you might need to also polish the heel of your boot. It's better to show up on the first day with a high polish on the heel and not need it, than showing up with a dull heel and get yelled at about it.

Now apply the edge dressing. Make sure it gets applied evenly around the entire sole edge around the boot.

You're boots are now good to go!

If your laces start looking like crap...get new laces.

If your boots start looking like crap even with a good polish and clean...go get some new boots. I have had the same boots for three years and they look great, but the day they look less than professional I'm buying some new ones. Don't try to polish a turd.

From this point on, you should only need to clean the toe with water and repeat steps 5 and 6 to keep the surface shiny. This usually works 4 or 5 times for me before I put a medium coat on and melt it to get the surface nice and smooth again. The initial shine will take hours, but each maintenance shine afterwards should take only 5-15 minutes depending on if you need to melt a coat on.

Occasionally you will get a deep gash on the polished surface. This sucks and will require you to work a long time to fill it in with polish. You might even need to strip polish off to get down to the depth of the gash and start with an even surface, but you can get it back to looking good with some work.

Don't be a slacker when it comes to your boots. Who do you shine your boots for? Not the public. Not your R.T.O.'s. Not the suspects. You shine your boots for yourself. If you take pride in how you look, it will show in how you carry yourself. Command presence is very important in this job. Looking good and exuding confidence is a huge part of this.













Sunday, June 24, 2012

Luck Favors the Prepared

Like I discussed in my last post in regards to PT, you do not want to wait until you start the first day of the academy to start studying and learning. There are areas you can study and become as much as an expert at as possible while you're preparing.

I don't mean you should get a hold of all of the Learning Domain workbooks and start cramming. You're not going to be able to become an expert on subjects covered in over 40 books in the amount of time you have. These are best studied with your classmates and the instructors teaching them. But what about radio codes? Get a hold of the list of radio codes from your sponsoring agency and start memorizing! If you are a non-affiliate, you should be able to obtain a list of radio codes from the academy you will be attending. If not, be resourceful. Talk to past recruits who attended that academy and see if they can help you get the material. Academies administer radio code quizzes toward the beginning of the academy. If you know them word for word before day one, you will have more time to dedicate to studying other material because you have the radio codes nailed.

What else can you do? Go get your boots and learn how to spit shine! When I started the academy, I had no idea what the standard for boot shining was. I had never been taught how to spit shine and really didn't know how they were supposed to look. It's more of a skill than you think. Learning on the fly can cause extra stress during the academy. Spend the hours learning how to perfect the spit shine now instead of on the nights you could be studying. Avoid getting yelled at by your R.T.O. and make yourself an asset to the rest of your classmates who don't know how.

Learn how to properly press a uniform. Jump on YouTube or hit up your military buddies to start learning the basics of drill. Take a writing class if you're weak in that area. Study grammar! Report writing class will not have time to fix your writing deficiencies. They are supposed to concentrate on teaching you how to write police reports, not helping you play catch up because you didn't pay attention to grammar rules in elementary school.

Get your life in order. You will not, or at least you should not, have the time to take care of major car or home repairs, move to a new apartment, deal with finance issues, have that surgery you've been putting off, the list can go on and on. When you start the academy and have the goal of excellence in mind and not just getting through to graduation, you don't want to have extra stressors in your life that don't need to be there. Some things you just don't have control of, but square away the things you can take care of now.

If you already have been offered a job with an agency or you know which agencies you're going to apply with, start doing ride-alongs with them. This gives you some great exposure to the job and you have the opportunity to pick the brain of an officer or deputy who possibly attended the academy you will be going to. Just keep in mind that academies change. A 25-year veteran can give you invaluable advice about the career, but likely has no idea how to prepare for the academy you're getting ready for. Even those who attended just a few years ago may not be familiar with the most recent changes at their alma mater. So get some good advice, but be ready to make adjustments if things have changed.

Luck favors the prepared. If you have the time now, but choose to put it all off until you have to, you're starting a pattern that will follow you for the rest of your life until you change. Why not make that change now and start a pattern of always being on top of things for the rest of your life?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

PT!!

Writing about Physical Training (PT) first isn't my way of saying it's the most important aspect of the academy. In fact, I have seen many a recruit enter the academy believing that since they are in phenomenal shape that the academy will be a breeze. They can PT all day long, but they struggle miserably in other areas. The reason I am including this topic so early on is that it is one aspect of the academy where preparation can and should be started immediately.

So what can you expect? How good of shape do you really need to be in? The answer really depends on which academy you attend. The academy I attended concentrated HEAVILY on long distance running. I think I can count the number of non-running PT sessions on one hand. The only question we ever needed answered was, "Are we running 6 miles to the north today or to the south?" At the academy where I am currently assigned, we do a long distance run for PT maybe once every other week or so. Our PT sessions concentrate more on full body workouts, core strength exercises and sprints. Most PT programs in the state will be adopting a program similar to ours soon enough, as the Lifetime Fitness program is being redesigned by POST to move more toward these ballistic style workouts. Apparently we do more sprinting after suspects in this job than jogging after them for 6 miles. Who knew? Regardless of which PT program your academy runs, if you prepare yourself, you will do well in even the most difficult programs. If it turns out to be an easier program, you'll be a rockstar.

Mistake #1 is to show up on the first day of the academy with the hopes that the academy staff will whip you into shape. This doesn't work because the majority of the recruits show up on the first day in great shape already. You will be the one lagging behind the class on runs and getting yelled at to get off your knees while the class is doing push-ups. You will also be fighting to stay awake to study at night because you're so exhausted from the workouts and you will suffer academically. Show up in the best shape of your life. You will perform better in other areas of the academy and the PT program will do what it's designed to do without killing you.

By this time, many of you are familiar with the physical agility tests different agencies put applicants through. These can consist of a dummy drag, wall climb, 500 yard run, a 99-yard obstacle course, and various other tests agencies decide to use. If you aren't familiar, look it up online. Many agencies publish exactly what their physical tests consist of on their website, or you can call and ask. In my opinion, you could almost roll off the couch, wipe the potato chip crumbs off your shirt and pass these tests in flip flops. This makes it even that much more sad when applicants show up to this test during the hiring process, get light headed and throw up from exhaustion.

Most academies supplement the standard POST agility tests with additional physical testing for the recruits. These are usually a more true test of your overall fitness. Pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups and a mile and a half run are common exercises recruits are tested on in addition to the mandated tests. Sit-ups and push-ups are often tested by how many you can do in one minute. If you can do at least 50 sit-ups in a minute and 50-push-ups in a minute, you should be fine in this area. Recruits with above average fitness get up into the 70's and 80's with sit-ups and push-ups. Pull-ups are sometimes timed, but usually you are just tested on your max reps without stopping. 20 pull-ups is a great goal before the academy starts. Over 20 pull-ups is excellent. As far as the mile and a half run, there are some rabbit recruits who can run it in under 9 minutes. This is a great time and I suggest doing what you can to get there, but it is not a common achievement. An acceptable time would be down around 10-11 minutes. That being said, don't get your time down to 10 minutes and stop. Keep training hard and get your time down as low as you can!

I am not going to include specific workouts in this post, but I will tell you that your workouts need to vary. Don't just go to the gym and hit the weights. Don't just go out and run until you drop, five days a week. You need to achieve a balance between strength, cardio and endurance. When you run, include hill runs, sprints, as well as long distances. Make sure you include a lot of core exercises. Your core is such an important aspect of your overall physical conditioning and should not be neglected. Every week or so, take a day of rest and then test yourself to see how you're progressing. If you aren't improving, you aren't working hard enough. Try any of the popular workout programs out there like P90X, Crossfit, or Insanity. Log onto the Internet and try different workouts you find on YouTube. Whatever you do...WORK HARD.

There is always the recruit who shows up terribly out of shape and tries to downplay it by telling us, "But I lost 40 lbs. before the beginning of the academy." Great job. I applaud your accomplishment, but that doesn't make the fact that you are in horrible shape go away. An obese person could stop eating ice cream every night and walk one mile a day and lose 40 lbs. in short order. Just because you are in better shape than before does not mean you are in great shape. Set higher goals for yourself. If you can't get into great shape by the time the academy starts, then maybe you should hold off on applying until you can get yourself there. When you enter this career, your life ceases to be just about you. The lives of the public, your partners, your partners' families and your own family count on your physical ability to do this job. Sometimes you have to make a mature decision and put your own needs aside. If you can't make that commitment, maybe you should take more time to prepare yourself and apply next year.

Usually the biggest hurdle for people in regard to PT is themselves. A recruit might try three times to do a set of twenty push-ups during a PT session and crumble to their knees after only ten. Then an instructor or an R.T.O. stands next to them and motivates them to keep going and not quit and they can miraculously complete all 20 push-ups. Why does this happen? Most people have a false sense of where their physical limits are. It takes someone forcing you to go beyond those limits to learn where your true limits are. When you can push yourself to your true limits on your own, you will get the most out of your PT sessions.

STOP EATING CRAP!! Start taking nutrition seriously. Stop eating fast food and microwaving frozen pizza pockets. Cut out the unnecessary sugars. Take a nutrition class. At the very least get on the Internet and start educating yourself on the right way to eat. There is plenty of information out there. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. The reason this Learning Domain is called Lifetime Fitness, is because it is something we should instill in ourselves forever, and not just during our time at the academy. This job is physically demanding and adds a lot of stress into our lives. Proper diet and exercise will keep it from taking too many years off of our life.

This is such a broad subject and I couldn't possibly cover all of the aspects in one post. I will break things down in greater detail in future posts, but the point I want to get across right now is to start getting yourself into shape. Whatever you decide to do, give it maximum effort. Don't cheat yourself. If you do, you will wish you hadn't by the end of week one of the academy.

Email me if with any questions. I have no problem offering advice on nutrition and exercise. I'm not an expert, but I have learned quite a bit and am willing to share what I know.

Motivate yourself and get to work!