A LEO IN TODAY'S AGE: THE WHY, WHAT AND HOW BEHIND BEING A LEO - Part 2

By Bryan Veliz

02/06/2018

Our last discussion focused on the 'why' behind being a LEO. In case you were trapped in a blackhole somewhere and missed that article, click my expert bio and it is listed at the bottom. After having evaluated your reasons behind becoming a LEO, it is crucial you analyze the steps necessary to accomplish such a goal… what exactly will it take to achieve this milestone? Let's jump right into Lesson #2, shall we? This next step will set the tone from here on out, and that is: you're going to need patience and a strong will to push forward. You must persevere and do as best you can throughout the entire process. I'm not going to sugar coat it for you; the process of becoming a LEO can often be difficult, tedious and time consuming. The days of simply applying, passing a simple background and going through a brief academy are long gone. Various agencies across the nation have very similar hiring requirements (along with the application process) before joining an agency. Most agencies will require you to pass a written and a physical fitness test before proceeding to the next step-the physical aspect is of high importance, therefore it is necessary to adopt a fitness regime and maintain such. The following step is usually in the form of an extensive background check. Hence, Lesson #3; be honest on your background application. If you "neglect" or "fail" to be upfront, that will usually stop your process dead in its tracks, preventing you from moving forward and hindering your possibilities for future hire. Once your background check is clear, however, you can expect to complete an oral board interview as well as a polygraph test. We have not yet touched on the topic of the academy and what that all entails (requirements, and what it takes for successful completion), but before we move on, I feel it is only fitting to provide you with a brief insight into my process prior to starting the academy. The reason I say you need patience and a strong will to push forward is the simple fact that you may fail your first time taking an entrance exam (or any part of the process for that matter). As for me, that was the case on the written exam. I had to wait a whole 6 months before I could apply and re-test. However, I did not let that stop me; I continued to stay in shape and prepare as much I could for the exam.

My story is not that much different from others I know.

Six months later, there I was, sitting in a cold office filled with other applicants awaiting test results. No words were being spoken; the only audible sound was that of a clock in the background ticking away as we waited for results that would impact our lives. A few minutes later the test proctor came in and provided us with our results. As I sat there anxious, I said a quick prayer again, flipped the white piece of paper which would either contain my doom or joy-I had passed. I immediately experienced feelings of relief. Phew. By now you are probably thinking, "That's it? That's not bad at all." You would be correct in assuming that. I continued my way through the process, but unfortunately was knocked out of the hiring process once more during the polygraph portion. Anyone who has taken a polygraph test can attest to how mentally challenging it can be. There I was again, stuck waiting another 3 months before could go through the whole process again. Fast forward a bit; I went through the process yet again, made it all the way through and received a job offer. My story is not that much different from others I know. Some passed on the first go-around and for others it's taken them 5+ years. I endured self-doubt more than I care to admit; I was tempted to think "Is this for me?" and thought of countless "What Ifs?" Could I have let those setbacks be major regrets in my life like so many others have? Sure, but that would have meant taking the easy way out. I knew my Why and held onto that no matter what. It is often said that the difficult roads in life often lead to the greatest accomplishments; that could not be more true.

The Academy, Pressed Uniforms & PT...

Each academy is [generally] run differently across the board. Some adhere to a strict military boot-camp style, while others are little more lax. This also depends on the agency you are with-state or federal programs vary. As for me, I attended a Monday thru Friday style academy (08:00-17:00) with occasional weekend training events. There we all were one Monday morning, in our newly pressed cadet uniforms, eager to begin our journey in the academy. The Sheriff and Chief came into the training room to congratulate us and inspire us for the road ahead. Shortly after, the instructors began yelling at us, telling us to line up outside for PT. My immediate thoughts were "Well here we go." The rest of the day encompassed countless miles of running and PT, or physical training. We lost two members that same day; they had opted out due to the rigorous training they had not been prepared for. The remainder of the six-month academy consisted of constant studies of various laws, weekly tests and daily PT (mornings and evenings). The academy itself was mentally straining due to studying and preparing for the tests; you were only allowed to fail twice-anything after that was reason enough for dismissal. Needless to say, standards were tough and unyielding; expectations were just as unforgiving. The academy itself helped to form comradery, a brotherhood. Most of us would convene on a regular basis, studying and discussing our own challenges within our small circle. I knew that if I wanted to pass the academy, state exam and the field training officer (FTO) program, I was going to have to devote every ounce of myself to it. For that 6-month period I remained dedicated to my studies, refraining from social activities as to not ruin my chances of graduating. It paid off as I was awarded the Valedictorian award at graduating ceremony. Which till this day, some question…I was always asleep in class (osmosis is a thing).

I knew that if I wanted to pass the academy, state exam and the field training officer (FTO) program, I was going to have to devote every ounce of myself to it.

After passing the academy and state exam, it was time for the real test to begin on the streets. My FTO program was another 6 months long and consisted of ride- alongs with a certified FTO Trainer who would evaluate my every move and decision making skills when handling calls for service. This is essentially the academy version 2.0. Whatever we didn't learn in the academy, we learned from our trainer, and what we did learn we implemented. The FTO program is one of the few rites of passage that officers must successfully complete; this will dictate if you become a police officer or not. Period. Hopefully, by now, you have a better idea of what it's going to take to become a LEO. This is not meant to discourage you in any way. Most recruiters out there will not be upfront with you in that aspect, which is why I decided to share my story and experiences. If you can remember you're why through it all, be willing to give it your all, and persevere regardless of the challenges you will face, I can promise you this: one day you will be right here with the rest of us, holding the line. Stay tuned for more.


Article By Bryan Veliz
Law Enforcement, Shooting
A law enforcement officer who is dedicated to not only making his students better, but himself by attending the best training he can find.

Comments

FreidaM
As former LEO I see so many changes in the game. The speed with which the technologies are evolving is mind blowing. When you look at the field today, those guys are fighting a whole different battle out there. I am truely interested to read more from you about how the modern LEO has had to adapt to those threats and technologies used against us.
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Sp_oneill
There is a nationwide problem of recruitment and retention of police officers. My department has had difficulty identifying and hiring qualified candidates and keeping them. Currently we have (6) open positions and only (14) applicants and only (4) where asked to return for the next round of interviews. I read one new article the states the attrition rate for police officers is as high as 14%.
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Heaterdude
This line really hit me, "I can promise you this: one day you will be right here with the rest of us, holding the line." It puts me at ease a little more reading your experience of not making it in the first time and it also gives me hope and motivation to keep trying to join that thin blue line. Great read, thanks!
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