Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"Police Academy" - not a Comedy

This won’t be my usual post about nature or ranting about the weather. Well... yes, it is about nature. Human nature.

Have you ever loved a police officer or a soldier? I have. Have you ever wondered why they chose their occupation to defend and protect? I have.

I am observing and photographing my fourth class of police recruits at the academy where I work. The recruits know I’m their photographer and have agreed to allow me to capture their moments in training with photographs. We smile at each other but don’t talk much because I respect their routine as being rigorous. They began as a class of thirty a few weeks ago. Now there are twenty-two and a few more of them won’t graduate in December.

I’ll try to be brief instead of forcing my usual long-winded chatter on you.

Week One:


First formation on August 13. Some of them are prepared for seventeen weeks of Hell. Some are not prepared at all but might make it to the end.


Intimidation is felt by the recruits on day one. Fear. They need support from their families and friends and to form a bond with their classmates.

Seven-foot two Sgt. Moore is a kind and somewhat shy man until he needs to test their physical and emotional strength. His command surprises me. I love working with him and listening to his strong and wonderful singing voice on morning runs. He weeds out the deadwood quickly.


This recruit is hearing things his mother would never say to him… Other commandants and trainers are ruthless, as well. Harsh words prepare them for the streets.



Many of the recruits don’t realize that physical preparation for a few weeks before they begin training would help them. They had warning.


Two weeks ago, I witnessed PT at 7:15 a.m. It was already eighty-five degrees and humid.


Stretching and getting ready for a grueling workout.


The PT lasted over an hour and they were directed to run one-half mile, do twelve push-ups, run one-half mile, do twelve sit-ups, and they repeated the test at least twelve times. I wanted to lay down for a nap. They help each other with encouraging words if they have the breath to give…



Watching “Johnson” struggle was hard for me. I didn’t want to speak to her because I thought I’d be over-stepping my boundaries as a photographer. But I did anyway. She heard me say very softly, “Go, Johnson! Go, and finish!” And she did. She came in last but made it.


They learn from experts in areas of domestic violence, gang awareness, legalities, martial arts, hazmat, meth awareness, juvenile crimes, weapons, Spanish for law enforcement, driving, and much more. Our basic law enforcement training is regarded as superior at agencies in the surrounding counties.


Reporting for class after showers.


They smile! Yeah!


They’re prepared physically, emotionally, and academically. Academics and testing takes a toll on them when they are so physically exhausted.


I’ve met over one hundred police officers at the college during their state-mandated classes and in-service trainings. What I’ve noticed is that they have exceptional people skills and are wonderful folks. Oh sure, 5% of the entire population are a-holes. They are everywhere. I love the police officers. They care. And, if I find myself on a NC interstate speeding, maybe my trooper friend, Officer Willie, would give me a break? :o)

Sorry for another long-winded post. I'm just so proud of them.


Susan Gets Native said...

"She heard me say very softly, “Go, Johnson! Go, and finish!” And she did."
Mary, you make me melt into a big puddle of sparkly goo.
I loves me some police officers, too.

smilnsigh said...

Thank you! This is a wonderful entry.

{whose father was in the NY State Police. So long ago, that he rode a horse in his earlier career, up in the North country. -smile-}

Beth said...

I really love these pics when you have a class of recruits on campus...thanks for the insightful pics. You take these well, Mary - you aren't just a flower, fish and bird girl. Keep it up. I like your people pictures.

Thanks for bringing some honor to those who deserve it. I hope they get to see your post.

Anonymous said...

We don't always need to post about nature! Wonderful post and perfect series of photos that you captured! I always wondered if the academy was really like this or they just showed what they thought it would be like on TV!

KGMom said...

No need to apologize at all--I loved this post. Most informative, and the photos keep telling the story.
And it doesn't hurt to remind all of us that those who are public servants work hard to get where they are.
They deserve our support and respect.

RuthieJ said...

Great post, Mary! Looks like you have great reason to be proud.

Law enforcement is a tough profession and certainly not something I could ever do.

Unknown said...

Mary you have one big heart. you should be proud and shout it out.
My baby sister (14 years younger than me) is a PA State trooper. She went through some really grueling times at the academy. She is now a detective.
WE are proud of her. She even was the personal guard of Punxatony Phill the ground hog on Feb 2. We had a good laugh over that one.

Alyssa said...

That was a really enjoyable and interesting post, Mary. I had no idea what police officers go through to train. What a fine group of people and I'm proud of them too. It does take a special type of person to become a good police officer and you've surely captured that. A very nice tribute to them.I'll bet they'd love to read your blog.

Jayne said...

Thanks for sharing their story and their struggle to do a job which they are given far too little respect Mary. I am sure they appreciate you just as much as you do them.

possumlady said...

Great post Mary! They look like good people. Living in a community that is sometimes cynical of authority, including police, I've volunteered for my neighborhood watch and have met on numerous times with our local police. They are always very respectful and truly want to help and serve us.

thailandchani said...

That was an interesting set of pictures... just watching those kids (and they really are kids! :) go through such grueling training! Wow!



Dirty Fingernails said...

LOL I am not afraid of them... Shoot that looks like everyday work in the ER to me.. LOL The pictures of their faces is priceless. And yes I have had terrible GA drought, i just have a high water bill.

dguzman said...

Wow, great post! I hope when I go into a crime lab, it will be as a scientist, not a cop. I'd never make it through that academy!

Q said...

Dear Mary,
They love you too! Like Susan, "Go Johnson! Go, and finish!" put me in a puddle...
My friend's son went through the L.A. P.D. Acadamy a couple of years ago. She told me how difficult the training was. Honoring their work and being encouraging is gracefullness in action.
You are more graceful than a swan my dear.
Today, as I go about in my city, I will think of those that patrol and the work they went through and the dangers they face daily.
Thank you for the human story.

Anonymous said...

Got some great shots, Mary, that really tell of the effort these recruits have to give in their training.

~Red Tin Heart~ said...

Mary great pictures. I love the whole thing. xo nita

JeanMac said...

Thanks, Mary. A real study when you search their faces. Wonderful pics, as usual.

NatureWoman said...

What a great post Mary! Yes, I've always wondered what makes a person decide to become a police officer, and then to stick with it. I love police officers, for sure! Having had several dealings with them (being on the right side of the law) I am even more impressed with them after watching them do their thing.

Mary said...

This is amazing. I respect all police officers cus I could never do the job they have to do. Great post Mary

cestoady said...

Wonderful set of photos that helps us to appreciate what it takes to help us keep peace and order -- without such dedicated people we all would be in a real fix.

Cathy said...

Wow, Mary. Wow. You did one fine job here. It just makes me so proud of the young men and women who serve.

Julie Zickefoose said...

I love these pictures and the commentary that goes with them. My favorite is the guy grimacing in pain as he does push-ups. Beautiful.
Do you think of yourself as a photographer? Because you are, you are.

Mary said...

Julie - me, a photographer? Yeah. I like it. But I need to get down on my hands and knees more often...not easy when wearing office attire. Thanks.

Sandi McBride said...

I found you through Mary at Mary Mary Fairly Contrary. As a retired Law Enforcement Officer she knew I'd find your post interesting. I cried. I lost one of my Brothers in Blue, John Crawley when he was murdered by the husband of the woman he was escorting home from Family Court. The coward killed both John and his own wife. He swore he wouldn't be taken alive. Union County (NC) officers held him to it. Yes ma'am, I love all my Brothers and Sisters in Blue (or khaki or whatever colour their uniform might be.) I am married to a career Navy man, so the Military is close to my heart as well. Keep doing a job that you love, I'll hold you in my prayers at night, too. Oh, and by the way...atta girl!!!

Unknown said...

Thank you mary! I"m going to the PA State Police Academy and I have posted your pics everywhere on my desktop as motivation. I wish I had someone like you whispering to me during my grueling 6 months.

Mary said...

Hi B,

I'm glad you enjoyed this entry. I have several more I can share with you if you would like to read them! e-mail me at

maryferr at carolina dot rr dot com

and I'll send you the links.

Good luck with your training and know there WILL BE someone whispering encouragement when you need it...