For the past couple of years, I maintained a full-time job at a law firm and was also a full-time student. I got an inside look on the life of an attorney and it only reaffirmed my drive to get out of my sedentary job and serve and protect the community first-hand. I have always had a passion for helping others, seeing the good in the bad, and being a voice to those who are not strong enough to defend their own. I value Lakewood’s mission to serve the community with intelligence, integrity, and initiative and am honored to have been selected as a part of the team.
I thought that knowing no one would pose difficulties for me. I quickly realized to my delight that I was surrounded by a group of people who were just like me. We all share similar passions, senses of humor and hobbies. Most importantly, we share the innate, effortless desire to help others. Within the first few days I was already spending time outside of work with my new fellow recruits and have since made so many friends. The academy is made up of several other departments aside from Lakewood, but our respective agencies are irrelevant as a whole. We are all here for the same purpose. “One team, one fight,” our chosen motto, is aligned with the spirit and mentality of our group.
The first weeks of the academy are all classroom based: 8 hours of lecture, 5 days a week. Some (well...maybe more than just some) have called it “Death by PowerPoint.” So many of our instructors bring their humor and experience into the classroom, which makes each day’s lesson more refreshing. After all, these days in the classroom serve as the foundation for our entire career. Also, we’ve made a weekly award for “Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time” given the amount of comical blurts fellow recruits make during class; it makes each day entertaining.
I think I speak for everyone when I say our brains are fried at the end of each week. You can see the drooping eyelids and avid coffee drinkers doubling their dosage by mid-morning on Fridays. At first, I wasn’t sure how it was possible to be so mentally exhausted from simply sitting all day. After realizing that we’re being “fed from a fire hose” with seemingly infinite heaps of information categorized as “important” and “more important” it starts to make sense. I find that when I finally get home and can slump over on the couch, it just ends up giving me time to reflect on the fact that every minute I spend relaxing is actually just a minute that I’m taking away from studying what could be the end-all-be-all test that takes place each Monday. If you score less than an 80% on four tests throughout the course of the academy, you’re out. No pressure, right?
Just like we learned the “Lesser of evils” defense in Colorado’s criminal code, the same translates into daily life. Shine my boots now, or wash and iron my pants? Study geography, or study for the test? Make lunch for tomorrow or go to the gym so I can avoid making a fool of myself in PT? Discipline at its finest, and invaluable lessons all of us must adhere to in order to be exceptional in this profession. The art of weighing options goes on, only to get more complicated as skills such as firearms training approach. To add to the stress, I’ve seemingly fallen into the position of class scribe and weekly study guide writer. Skills that I previously deemed as irrelevant and useless at the law firm have been actually been paramount in studying. One of my fellow recruits jokingly suggested I stop sharing my weekly notes just to see the reactions of distress and dismay from the others.
Several groups of us get together each weekend to study. We challenge each other’s understanding of the weekly material by creating scenarios and whipping out our law bibles to combat one another with different aspects of the criminal statutes. Some recruits are blessed with photographic memories, but me? I work best with mnemonics, raps, things said with an accent, answers disguised in a joke or funny scenario- I think you get the point, pretty much anything that will get it to ‘stick’. I often find myself trying to hold back laughter during the tests when a question comes up that leaves me visualizing a scenario my study group made up to help remember elements of a crime.
In our group, we make light of the material and always come out feeling more prepared- that is until the stress builds up Monday morning where we all question whether we are actually prepared. During formation on test days to ease our anxiety, one of the academy staff members has made a habit of asking the class which rapper sang certain rap lyrics. He enjoys watching us recruits sweat as he walks down the rows calling individuals to attention. He receives a lot of “I don’t know sir” responses. I’m waiting for the day when we receive a ‘team building’ (group discipline) exercise for not knowing a rapper, such as running down the street to check if the light pole is still there.
All in all, I am grateful and so excited to be where I am. Trading the sun and my desk for the snow and the law was the greatest decision I’ve made. Nearly 5 weeks down and 15 to go, my fellow recruits haven’t let the positive energy die down. I mean it when I say I couldn’t have wished for a better team; we keep each other accountable, preparing one another for the real-life job that is not so far around the corner. It is evident that we all take the task at hand seriously and want to excel. We are just recruits now, but through the forthcoming weeks we will develop the skills and mindset needed to be certified peace officers, brothers and sisters in blue.